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WEO Media

Google Mobile First Initiative


What is Google's Mobile First Initiative?
Posted on 2/3/2021 by Cory Roletto, WEO Media Partner/Owner
Graphic of Google's Mobile First Initiative showing the switch from desktop specific, to desktop plus mobile, to mobile first from WEO MediaMobile First is a multi-year series of ranking algorithm changes to shift focus from desktop computers to mobile devices. For the past five years, the volume of search on mobile devices has exceeded desktop traffic, so this move does make sense. The final transition is called Mobile First Indexing which will be complete in March 2021. This will complete the transition from desktop to mobile algorithms

Desktop Algorithm > Desktop Algorithm & Mobile Algorithm (2016) > Mobile Algorithm (March 2021)

At the highest-level Google intent is twofold.
1.  Make It Easier for Google: Google split mobile and desktop search into two separate algorithms back in 2016. This rewarded those who spent time to customize the user experience on desktop and mobile separately. Although good in theory, it took significant effort to maintain. Consolidating back down to one algorithm is just less work.
2.  Focus on Mobile Search: With mobile search volume exceeding desktop and the desire to move to one algorithm, shifting to the mobile algorithm made the most sense.

This is a departure from past algorithm changes which primarily focused on improving user experience. Mobile First indexing is more about efficiency and reduced complexity for Google's own operations.

Scope of Mobile First


Website design technology and code changes significantly about every two years, most of which is driven by the screen size and resolution of devices, as well as Google’s agenda. Since April 21, 2015, when Google introduced "Mobile Friendly" tests1 into their algorithm, dedicated mobile websites have proven to be the best for user experience and conversion. They were concise, easier to navigate, quicker, and provided the information a person searching on a mobile device desired more readily.

Google's Mobile First initiative is massive. It is a total reversal from their original preference for dedicated mobile sites. Website designers and SEO agencies will need to ensure their websites don't fall into irrelevance by meeting Google's mobile expectations. According to Google, by March 2021 their algorithm will only consider content on the mobile website for ranking. It will ignore any content that only shows up on the desktop version of a website2. However, content is still king so the more unique content on a website the better. Gone are the days of being more concise or customizing content for a better mobile experience. Now you need to show everything on mobile!

What This Could Mean for You


If you have a fully responsive website with no customization for mobile, then you will probably be just fine. If there has been some customization on your website you may need to remove media calls that exclude content on mobile versus desktop and confirm the website still formats correctly.

If you have a dedicated mobile website, then you probably will need to rebuild the entire website ASAP.

If you have a desktop only website, then it will be completely dropped from Google's index.3 So, if you care about being found in a Google search you will need to build a new website ASAP.

Next Steps


If you don't know the details of your mobile website, then you should ask your website designer or SEO agency. Another option is to have WEO Media analyze your current website (send email to info@weomedia.com). Time is of the essence if changes need to be made, especially if you need to move away from a dedicated mobile or desktop only website.

Constant Innovation


At WEO Media we pay close attention to the long-term direction of Google, making efforts to communicate when a change in direction is needed. We were a front runner in dedicated mobile site design in 2015, and a driver of secure websites when it started playing a role in Google's algorithm. For mobile first, we transitioned to only offering fully responsive designs three years ago and communicated for over a year the need to transition away from dedicated mobile sites as soon as possible.

1Google Search Central - https://developers.google.com/search/blog/2015/04/rolling-out-mobile-friendly-update
2Digivate - https://www.digivate.com/blog/mobile/responsive-web-design-dedicated-mobile-site-or-mobile-app/
3Search Engine Journal - https://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-mobile-index-news-from-pubcon-virtual-2020/384111/
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