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What is Mobile-First Indexing and How Will It Affect Estate Agents

by Laurence Knopf on 8th May 2018

Keeping track of updates and changes to the way Google works can make your head spin. The truth is, estate agents don’t normally need to follow every twist and turn of Google’s approach to search. The mobile-first indexing change that Google is making, however, is different.

In other words, mobile-first indexing is something you should get an understanding of and then make changes, if required.

To help with this, here is a quick and very general summary of four common website configurations and the potential impact of mobile-first indexing:

• Option 1 – fully responsive website where the mobile version of your website has exactly the same content as the desktop version – zero or very minimal impact, and potentially a positive impact

• Option 2 – responsive website but where some features or content are not displayed on smaller screens – could have some impact

• Option 3 – separate mobile site – potentially a substantial impact

• Option 4 – no mobile site – substantial impact, particularly over the medium and long-term

What is Mobile-First Indexing

Before looking at mobile-first indexing, it is important to first understand how Google works. Google has crawlers which visit your website to find its pages. It then puts those pages into its index.

When a user searches, Google matches that search to pages in its index that best answer the query. This produces a search results page. As you probably already know, it is important that you appear on the first page of a Google search and as close to the top of that page as possible.

Mobile-first indexing is concerned with what Google puts into its index. In the past, its crawlers would have crawled and indexed the desktop version of your website only.

Google is now adapting its approach in response to more people using smartphones to search. Mobile-first indexing is part of this.

Mobile-first indexing simply means Google is now going to prioritise the mobile version of your website over the desktop version. In other words, the mobile version of your website will go into the Google index rather than the desktop version.

This is important for several reasons, but the most important is the priority Google now attaches to the mobile versions of websites. While it will still crawl and index desktop versions of websites, Google now regards mobile as being more important than desktop. Therefore, by not optimising the mobile experience of your website, you could potentially lose traffic from Google.

Here’s a summary. In the past, Google would crawl your desktop site, determine the site’s ranking from that crawl, then check the mobile version to potentially give it a boost. Now, Google is going directly to the mobile version and is using that to determine your site’s ranking on both mobile and desktop.

The Real Reason to Think About Mobile-First Indexing

It is crucial you don’t just think of this issue from Google’s perspective, however. Google’s mobile-first indexing policy might be the catalyst for you taking steps to optimise the mobile version of your website, but there is a more important reason for doing so – the people who use your site.

After all, Google is not implementing mobile-first indexing because it is easier and less hassle. Instead, it is implementing mobile-first indexing because its users have moved to mobile. Remember too that Google’s users are your potential clients – home sellers and landlords.

What Does Mobile-First Indexing Mean to UK Estate Agents?

UK estate agents will be impacted by mobile-first indexing in much the same way that websites in other industries will. That said, when thinking about these issues, you should always consider the importance of the internet to your marketing strategy as an estate agent. In other words, if you want potential landlords and sellers to find you on Google, understanding and acting on mobile-first indexing is important.

This primarily means taking a mobile-first approach to your website. Whether you are getting a new website developed, reviewing the content or design of your existing website, uploading new content, or adding new features, always think about the mobile version first.

You should also make sure the content on the mobile version of your website is the same as the content on desktop. You can achieve this quickly and easily with a responsive website design.

If you have a separate mobile site instead, you should consider moving to a responsive design. If you don’t, you may face difficulties. For example, Google will not index all your content if there is content missing from the mobile page. In addition, the backlinks you have are likely to be to the desktop version while Google is mostly interested in the mobile version.

The Bottom Line

If you don’t have a mobile-friendly website, now is the time to upgrade. Mobile internet use is here to stay which means you must optimise for mobile if you want buyers and sellers to find you on Google.

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