How Mobile-First Indexing Really Affects Your Ranking

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In today’s always-connected society, mobile computing devices dominate the landscape. These devices, such as smartphones and tablets, allow people to retrieve information wherever they may be – whether they are searching for a local restaurant, booking an airline ticket, or learning about the world around them. The power and ubiquity of these devices cannot be ignored, and in digital marketing for insurance companies, providing customers with mobile-friendly solutions is the key to success.

As the world’s largest search engine, Google has responded to the demands of mobile users, announcing that it would launch a mobile-first index. This index will favor mobile-optimized websites in search results over those developed for desktop computing environments. But what does mobile-first indexing really mean, and how will it affect a given website’s ranking in search results? In this guide, we’ll take a look at how mobile indexing works, what it can do for search engine rankings, and what it means for digital marketing professionals.

Mobile-First Indexing: The Basics

Beginning in 2017, Google began to share information about a revolutionary indexing strategy: mobile-first indexing. In simple terms, this means that the search engine will tend to favor those websites that have added mobile-friendly features like responsive design, mobile-optimized functionality, and local search metadata over websites originally designed for desktop search environments. The search engine giant began to roll out this new index in December of the same year as part of its algorithm update, and will continue to do so throughout the following year, particularly in March, 2018. Almost overnight, certain market sectors saw subtle shifts in search engine results page (SERP) rankings. Market sectors like the automotive resources, legal information providers, and reference sites saw substantial volatility in their rankings; these three sectors had not implemented mobile-friendly features to the same extent as other industries. Within weeks, other industries saw changes in ranking, including businesses in the hobbies and leisure category, home and gardening information resources, and the telecom industry.

Google has indicated that for now, sites without mobile-friendly features would not be penalized, but in the future may see dramatic changes in how these web properties rank in search results. Still, shifting SERPs among many industries highlights the need for digital marketing professionals to take this indexing evolution seriously, encouraging them to add or revise website features to make them more accessible to mobile computing users.

How Does the Mobile-First Index Affect a Website’s Search Ranking?

Digital marketers around the world scrambled to understand the ramifications of Google’s mobile-first indexing announcement. Part of the problem in understanding this search engine shift is the confusion between site indexing and site ranking. Site indexing is the concept of reading web page information and storing details about that information, while site ranking uses the collected information to determine if a given website matches user search criteria – in short, recommending a given website that meets the user’s query.

Google’s original intent of the mobile-friendly index was not one of penalizing desktop-optimized websites, but rather to gather and deliver content to search users. While this index is a significant departure from previous algorithm and search environment changes, it is important to understand that the index is not separate from Google’s main index; one single index is still used to deliver results to search users – mobile-first, not mobile-only. Additionally, Google made it clear to webmasters and digital marketers that there is no ranking advantage to be had by websites gathered by the mobile-first index compared to websites that have not yet been indexed by the new feature. For sites that only have desktop content or those that have not added mobile-friendly features, those sites will continue to appear in search results.

However, one critical piece of the puzzle in digital marketing for insurance companies and other industry sectors is that slow-loading site content may have negative impacts in SERPs. Fast-loading content is one of the many features that make a given website mobile-friendly. Much remains to be seen as to how mobile-first indexing will influence the search space and its coveted rankings, but for now, digital marketers must take steps to optimize websites for mobile users. The long-term ramifications of mobile-first indexing in securing great rankings may depend on it.

About Agency Tsunami

Agency Tsunami is the digital marketing division of Neilson Marketing Services, who has provided the insurance distribution sector with innovative marketing and communication solutions for over twenty-five years. With our Agency Tsunami program, we have implemented an integrated marketing strategy that includes optimized, professional websites supported by high-quality SEO and Social Media for hundreds of insurance retailers and wholesalers. Our goal is to help your insurance business perform and generate new opportunities. Give us a call at (800) 736-9741 to learn more about how we can do that for you.

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