Early this year some webmasters were greeted with this notice in their search console:
“Mobile-first indexing issues detected on site”
This notice might seem alarming at first. But the good news here is if your website gets notified by Google, this means you still have time to adapt your website to Google’s mobile-first standards. You can also make sure you keep your overall SERP visibility.
This is part of their general pursuit to filter websites that they deem not user-friendly and of “low quality”. If in 2021, a website looks like you need to browse with a big screen and mouse pointer, then it translates to a poor user experience on mobile and, therefore, lower-quality content presentation. While their adherence to the AMP protocols is controversial and is frowned upon by some experts, this move still makes general sense.
Consider this: even if what is written is highly relevant and well-phrased, there are common elements that will just add noise and hinder the signal for mobile phone and tablet users:
- The website takes too much time to load because of heavy files, bad server-side handling, and convoluted code (compared to industry standards).
- Website has content patches you need to zoom-in to in order to read it properly.
- Clickable items are not spaced properly for finger tapping usage.
- The website is not secure enough.
All of these and more can ruin the user experience for mobile users. Webmasters that don’t improve their websites to suit industry standards will vanish from mobile SERPs, and eventually from desktop SERPs as well.
A brief mobile-first indexing timeline
Mobile searches currently far outnumber desktop searches. Google has been revamping its search index to suit the ever-increasing mobile usage stats for several years now. Here are the major algo updates made over the years:
April 22, 2015 – Mobile-friendly update, a.k.a “Mobilegeddon”
The first major announcement by Google that the mobile SERP will start to diverge from the desktop search and “mobile-friendly” websites will be favored in ranks on mobile searches. The impacts are small as it’s just the early phase, but savvy webmasters quickly realized they needed to adapt.
We at Pro Rank Tracker would also offer our users the ability to track mobile searches separately from desktop searches before any other SERP trackers on the market did!
May 12, 2016 – Mobile-friendly 2
This was the second big update that would benefit mobile-friendly websites. It would give them a ranking advantage on mobile searches over non-mobile-friendly websites. By this point, it was becoming clear making your website mobile friendly is a basic industry standard.
March 26, 2018 – Mobile-First Index is ON
This is the point where mobile search results became virtually entirely separate from desktop search results, and ‘Mobile-First’ became a common SEO term. This update rollout didn’t affect all websites yet. But our users saw this change very clearly in our SERP tracker even before the announcement was made.
July 9, 2018 – Mobile speed update
Google rolls out the mobile speed update, effectively making website loading speed a ranking factor for mobile search results. At first, very slow loading websites would be negatively impacted, and eventually, fast loading websites would get a ranking advantage. It’s important to note that the industry speed benchmarks keep getting smaller as time goes by. More bandwidth becomes available since internet speed grows, and novel web development practices make loading speeds more efficient. Give our mobile-speed tips article a read, while you are at it.
And you can also read up on all of our mobile-first indexing coverage over the years.
Basically, this means webmasters had several years to adapt to the upcoming changes, and even now, it’s not too late.
How to track desktop and mobile ranks SEPARATELY
We’ve mentioned this countless times in our blog, and we will keep mentioning this until it becomes so basic that it would be pointless to mention. Also, we have users that are new to SEO that are joining all the time, and it’s always a healthy SEO reminder to have.
You MUST make sure you are visible on mobile; otherwise, you might be limiting your ranking potential severely. This is where SERP trackers come into play!
So, let’s get to the basics (without GMB) tracking the desktop and mobile SERPs.
We need to add 3 basic ranking factors for EVERY Keyword+URL that you track. Combined, they make up your real rank:
- Search index types: Desktop, Mobile OS (Android or iOS)*, Mobile device type (smartphone or tablet). You need to monitor visibility for all of them.
- Geo-targeted location: Every search index is populated based on where the user is searching from, especially when it comes to the mobile search index.
- UI language: Search results also differ based on which default language your Google UI is. Not many SERP trackers can handle this requirement!
This is how it’s supposed to look like after you’ve added your URL+keyword correctly for SERP tracking:
If you want the more detailed breakdown of Google layers, you can read all about it here.
*A macro theory about mobile OS and device type ranks
We’ve known for a few years now that Google has been populating their search index based on which mobile OS the user has, and the screen size that they use. No official statements or announcements yet has been made about this.
From a general perspective, it might be a power move of some sort. Having the function to divide search results based on OS leaves Apple in a tight situation and under pressure to stay on good terms with Google. With one swipe, Google can shift search results for everyone in their favor and change the search landscape.
So, if you got notified your website is not up to mobile-first standards, it’s still not too late. You have 6-12 months to get things done and change your website to suit mobile-first indexing requirements.
At the very least, make sure you track both your desktop AND mobile ranks correctly. You will certainly need it in the upcoming months!
Also, subscribe to our blog, and you will get our unique takes and tips on the world of SERP tracking!
About Pro Rank Tracker – the future-proof solution for SERP tracking
We are always monitoring Google and the other search engines and adapt to any change, big or small, that happens. Our users are virtually always getting their accurate ranks regardless of what update hits!
You get the complete rank tracking suit for every SEO need on the market:
- FULL Google ranking coverage (as you saw mentioned above) that includes specific GMB ranks and Local Pack positions.
- Other major search engines: Yahoo!, Bing and Yandex.
- eCommerce product tracking on Amazon’s A9.
- Video marketing tracking on YouTube and Google videos.
- Monthly keyword search volume is included starting from the most basic monthly plan!
- The most comprehensive keyword research method on the market – discover virtually ALL keywords for any niche!
- 100% white label with a bang to impress your clients – more than 11 types of SEO ranking reports with detailed daily graphs.
- The fastest SEO audit report in the industry.
- THREE premium white-label features that will blow your mind – MyRanks, Shared Reports, and Sub Accounts.
- Safeguard your ranks with notifications and triggers:
We also offer by far the BEST bang for your buck: Track the entire top100 search results for every term that you track.
This means you can track 20,000 search results for just 25$ a month.
We also offer the ONLY truly FREE trial on the market with NO subscription traps or credit card needed to activate!
We have full faith in our tech, which is why we offer it with no credit card details needed to activate. But we do ask in return that you don’t set up more than ONE free account.
We want this to be fair for everyone and keep our trial free!