The mobile first index is a ranking factor that was rolled out by the Masters of Google in 2016. To understand what it is, and how it affects your site, you need to understand plain, old-fashioned indexing.
Indexing just means organizing data, and that’s what Google does to rank websites on its search engine. Of course, it is far more complicated than this but then again everything to do with SEO can seem complicated.
Indexing: Organizing mobile and desktop versions
At one point, there were just websites. You got them on computers (fancy) instead of having to get them mailed to your door. I think it was Homer Simpson who famously announced that you could now get the Internet on computers. So, that solved a lot of problems. No more mailing pictures of my food!
As devices became more sophisticated, it became obvious that a lot of websites were too much for tiny screens. Even though the screens got better (seriously, though, some smartphones don’t even fit in my pocket…).
So, enter mobile sites: website optimized and fiddled with specially to appear on smartphone and mobile device screens. Nice.
Search engines continued to index desktop sites. They soon realized they also needed to index mobile sites. So, mobile indexing came into being. Now, you had mobile and desktop indexing: you had to pretty much make sure the SEO was up to standard on both sites, or you risked missing out on a lot of juicy traffic. As time went by, mobile became more and more important. These days, mobile traffic has overtaken desktop traffic.
The Masters of Google therefore decided to roll out mobile-first indexing. This simply means that only the mobile version of a site is indexed. To hell with the desktops. SEOs now have to make sure that sites are optimized for mobile, but must still look nice on desktops devices. Which brings me to this conclusion…
We just have ‘websites’ again
Seriously. It’s gone full circle: websites must now able to appear on every Internet-faring device imaginable. In my opinion, it has made SEO a little easier. Technology is and has been changing so fast that this is a small mercy to ensure that the ball keeps rolling.
Yes, there was (and still is) a massive hullaballoo about mobile versus/desktop and everyone scrambling to ensure that their sites are in top order. In reality, however, it just means that websites are essentially the same, albeit slicker and more mobile.