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What is Mobile-first indexing in Google?
What is Mobile-first indexing in Google?

What is mobile-first indexing and how can I make sure my website stays in the top results in Google?

Written by Charles
Updated over a week ago

1. What is Mobile-first indexing?

Mobile-first indexing means Google primarily uses the mobile version of the website when it comes to the ranking of the website and indexing.

In November 2016, Google announced the beginning of the process to make their index mobile-first. Since most of the searches are made and have been made primarily by smartphones or mobile devices, it is only normal that Google thought this would be a better way to make sure websites are mobile friendly and, therefore, the experience of the smartphone user is improved.

The process has been ongoing since 2016, and already had a few stages, but not all websites have been moved.

Some issues such as problems with robots meta tags, loading times, content and an increase in the images and videos are one of the reasons why the switch is going slower, so Google removed the deadline and there is no final date when the sites have to be moved to mobile-first indexing.

It is not yet mandatory to have a mobile version of pages be listed in Google, but Google recommends it strongly, and all site owners are informed in the Google Search Console about the status of the website and when the site has been switched to mobile-first indexing.

As Google stated:

“Our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site's content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data,

and to show snippets from those pages in our results. Of course, while our index will be built from mobile documents, we're going to continue to build a great search experience for all users, whether they come from mobile or desktop devices”.

2. What Changes do I need to make to my website?

The process of switching to Mobile-first indexing as said is not yet completed and there is no definite date for it. However, it is recommended that you have a mobile-friendly version of your website. Making changes to your website can take a bit of time, and it can also cause temporary traffic loss while your site transitions to mobile-first indexing.

That is why we bring you the best practices that will help you stay on top of Google’s results:

  • Make sure you have a responsive design. This means that your website has a mobile version that adapts the content to the screen of a mobile device in order to make it more enjoyable for the mobile user.

  • Make sure that Googlebot can access and render your content. Use the same meta robots tags both on desktop and mobile. You can use the robots.txt testing tool to verify that your mobile version is accessible by Googlebot.

  • Make sure the content is the same on desktop and mobile. There shouldn’t be more content on the desktop site than on your mobile site. Also, use the same headings. If it is not this way, you can expect some traffic loss since Google won’t get as much information from your page as before.

  • Check your structured data so your mobile and desktop sites have the same. The structured data is what Google Search uses to crawl your website and understand its content. You can use the structured data testing tool to type both URLs (Desktop and mobile versions) to make sure everything is correct.

  • Check that both versions have the same metadata: meta titles and meta descriptions.

  • Check visual content:

    • Images: use high-quality images (not too small or with low resolution). Make sure URLs don’t change and use the same alt text for images on desktop and mobile sites and use a supported format.

    • Videos: don’t use URLs that change for your videos; use supported formats and the same structured data for your videos both on desktop and mobile. Also, place the video in a position that’s easy to find and visualize for mobile users.

  • Load speed. The time frame your website takes to load the content is still a crucial factor that will determine your bounce rate (visitors that leave your page) and in the end how much traffic and revenues you’ll have. As of now, the optimal load speed on mobile phones should be under 3 seconds. To help you find out and optimize the elements that can increase the load speed of your site’s mobile version you can check these free tools: PageSpeed Insights, Lighthouse or AMP page experience guide.

For more detailed information about Google’s best practices on mobile-first, click here.

As there are more factors to take into consideration when optimizing your website’s mobile version, don’t hesitate to check out this article with tips that can help you improve the mobile-friendly version of your website.

Take note that you can check your mobile indexing with Google Search Console. The status is shown on the settings page, as well as in the URL Inspection Tool when checking a specific URL with regards to its most recent crawling.

For any further questions, please contact our support team, we are happy to help you. Any questions about other topics? We have more articles on other topics

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