The Adverse Effects of Mobile-First Indexing on Link Graph

link graph

Nearly half the world’s population is currently using mobile phones. Research suggests that as of January 2018, the world has nearly 3.7 billion unique mobile users. This trend along with the implementation of new IoT technologies will only force the overall increase in the number of devices across the planet. As business-minded individuals, it is important that we change the way how our websites interact with the mobile devices. Having a dedicated website interface optimized for the mobile devices is the first step in the right direction.

The same research also suggests that over half the total global internet traffic comes from the mobile internet. Taking this trend into account, Google has now introduced the new mobile-first indexing for its search results. This new way of aligning its search results will affect the overall link graph for several websites across the globe.

The Cost to Internal and External Links

We all know the importance of backlinks on a website interface for search engine optimization. More backlinks directly translate to a more reliable website for the search engine, thereby a higher rank. The mobile version of a website is basically a stripped down desktop version of the same. The mobile interface is completely different for mobile optimized websites since we cannot expect the web developers to fit an equal amount of data on both the desktop and mobile interface.

The size of the screen and readability are two main reasons why web developers do not overload the content on a mobile-optimized version of the website. When they strip down the overall content on the website on mobiles, they are forced to strip down the total number of external as well as internal links. A website that has over 100 different internal and external links on the desktop version might have only 20 total links on the mobile version.

What Does Mobile-First Indexing Do?

mobile first

Let’s take a small example here.

Let’s say that you have a website that features 20 links on its mobile version and a 100 links on the desktop version. Now, with the mobile-first indexing policy, when the Google search bots crawl your website, they will first go through its mobile version and register the number of links. After doing this once, they will move on to the desktop version of the website and register the number of links on it.

Now, if the website of your competitors has 25 links on the mobile version and 50 links on the desktop version, Google will most likely put it on a higher rank. Although the overall number of links on this website is half the number of links on your website, Google’s mobile-first indexing will give it more preference.

The Challenge that Lies Ahead

The biggest challenge that the web developers face is that they need to somehow optimize the overall number of links on the mobile interface. They need to keep either an equal or more number of links on the mobile version of the website compared to its desktop version. With less amount of content to play with, this is an extremely challenging feat for the web developers.

So Why Not Increase the Amount of Content?


So, if we want to increase the number of links on the mobile versions of the website, we can simply increase the amount of content on it, right? Wrong! The mobile interface will offer an extremely limited amount of space for websites to play with. Any significant amount of increase will only hamper the readability and user experience of the audience. This will again affect your website’s ranking since Google takes the readability metrics into account while ranking websites.

So What Should We Do?

Balancing is the key. The concept of balancing is simple, but the implementation is just way too tough. A web developer needs to sacrifice a bit of readability to increase the number of links while sacrificing the overall number of links to increase the readability statistics.

Studies show that the overall number of links will most likely be more on the desktop version of the website on any given day. So, the web developer has the unique challenge of modifying the content in such a manner that it can retain most of its links on the mobile interface. This challenge gives rise to another big problem.

Management of the ratio of promotional and informational content.

Stripping down any given website on the internet will reveal that most links that you will find in the content come from its promotional aspects. You will rarely find links that come through the completely informational part of the content (unless you are writing an article, which in turn does not directly impact your business). The challenge here is that you cannot stuff your content with tonnes of promotional content. The informational content is what helps you rank better. A complete focus on the promotional aspects will only hamper your rankings in a negative way.

So, the web developers are left with only one choice. They need to balance the promotional and informational aspects of the content in such a manner that the ratio between them is higher on the mobile versions of the website. You can understand the best practice that will take both readability and rankings into account with the following equations:

● If for the Mobile Versions of the Website – Promotional Content / Informational Content = A
● And If for the Desktop Versions of the Website – Promotional Content / Informational Content = B
● Then, A > B

The Worst-case Scenarios


To make sure that we have covered all bases effectively, we need to prepare for the worst case scenarios well in advance. Here are 3 worst-case scenarios that you should avoid at all costs.

  • Not Have a Mobile-Friendly Version for the Website

If you do not have a dedicated mobile version for the website, you are on the sure path to failure. All the top websites of the world are quickly optimizing both versions for their websites. In fact, several web developers focus more on the optimization of the mobile version over the desktop version.

When you do not have a dedicated mobile version of the website, the Google bots will consider the number of links on your website zero, while indexing it with the mobile-first policy. With a zero on your mark sheet, you can safely assume that your rank will be the lowest in the class.

  • Stuff Keywords and Promotional Content on the Website

While you are stripping down the content of the desktop version of the website, make sure that you tone down the informational and promotional aspects differently. Having more promotional content will help you with an increased chance of link retention. However, the importance of retention of links should not overtake the importance of readability of the content. In fact, you should prepare yourself to lose a few links to retain the readability statistics on the mobile interface. Stuffing the mobile content with promotional aspects will only do more harm than good.

  • Keep Equal Amount of Data on Mobile and Desktop Versions of the Website

Ideally, you should have the same amount of content on the mobile and desktop versions of the website to retain the same link density. However, this is not practical in real life since the readability of content will suffer a massive hit on the mobile interface. Under such circumstances, your audience might have to scroll through an extremely long page or deal with minuscule fonts to look for the relevant content on your website. Either way, your content will not derive the desired results.

The Best Practices – A Small Recap

Follow these practices to prepare your website for the mobile-first indexing policy.

  • Have a Dedicated Mobile Version for the Website

With the dedicated mobile version, you will make sure that your mark sheet does not receive a big zero from the Google search bots once they start crawling your website.

  • Reduce the Amount of Information on the Mobile Version

By reducing the amount of content for the mobile version of the website you directly increase its readability.

  • Do Not Stuff Too Much Promotional Content

Increasing the amount of promotional content on the mobile version of the website is natural to retain links. However, do not shy away from retaining the readability of the website at the expense of losing a few links.

  • Lay Equal Emphasis on Links and Readability

Having a balanced approach while dealing with the number of links and readability will help you make the best of your website on the mobile interface.

  • Increase Fluidity of Navigation on Website

Optimize the navigation pane of the website on the mobile interface so that you can redirect your audience to a new webpage for the relevant content. Instead, of completely removing a major chunk of the content, you can reorganize it into different web pages.

Mobile-first indexing will most likely hit your website adversely if you do not focus on the best practices in an optimum manner. If you want your website to perform flawlessly on both the mobile and desktop interface, you need to invest a considerable amount of resources in the back end development.

The Adverse Effects of Mobile-First Indexing on Link Graph
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