Google’s Mobile-First Indexing And What You Need To Know

Mobile-First Indexing has been on Google’s agenda since 2016 and its staged implementation has seen all new websites fall under the new indexation from July last year and the complete migration of legacy sites by September 2020 . 

Google’s move to using the mobile version of a website for indexing instead of the desktop version isn’t really a surprise considering mobile usage has been on the increase year on year. According to Statista recent statistics indicate that:

  • 60% of Google searches are done on a mobile. 
  • 65% of Google Ad clicks are from mobile devices.

The Rise In Mobile Usage

Mobile phones have become an integral feature of most peoples’ lives and are the main go-to choice of device for browsing the internet. Their popularity is no doubt due to the increased sophistication of software, their convenience, plus they are personal and intuitive, which makes a mobile extremely user friendly. Google’s move towards mobile-first for indexing instead of using the desktop version of a website reflects this change in browsing habits. This change in direction has led to the new indexing system being rolled out over the past 4 years.

Has Your Website Been Switched?

You can’t opt-in or opt-out of mobile-first indexing, your site will be switched in accordance with Google’s rollout and website readiness so unfortunately, you have no control over this. At this late stage of the implementation it is most likely your site has been migrated however Google will determine readiness based on their algorithmic criteria which takes into consideration website aspects such as, videos, links, text, structured data and metadata.

If you are unsure if your website has been switched go to Google’s Search Console a message will appear like the one below, informing you of the date it was migrated. This was the message we received for our website, bearing in mind migration is still being rolled out for legacy sites, ours was one of the early ones.

Mobile-First Indexing Migration Notification

What Should I do About Mobile-First Indexing?

Google Best Practices and Preparing Your Site

Making sure you fulfill Googlebot criteria will help counteract a ranking dip that some legacy websites have experienced when migrated. This shouldn’t happen if your mobile site is exactly the same as your desktop version and Google can crawl it easily.  This dip is likely to happen if your current mobile site doesn’t have best practice factors in place. These help identify what your pages are about and provide the bot with the information it needs in order to provide an index of your site.  Don’t be overly concerned, you will be informed by Google of any indexing issues, however it’s best to sort out the problems before you get a notice. 

 To help you out, here are some of Google’s recommendations:   

  • Mobile sites should have the same content as the desktop. Serving less content on a mobile version may lead to a drop in traffic because Google can’t gain as much information from the page. 
  • Headings on the mobile should be the same as the desktop. 
  • Structured data and metadata should be the same on both sites.
  • Make sure image URLs are the same on both devices
  • Videos – don’t use URLs that change every time it loads
  • Content that doesn’t load until and action is made such as a click or swipe will not be indexed. These need to be ungated.

A Few Common Questions About Mobile-First Indexing

Is it the same as mobile usability?

 Mobile-first indexing and mobile usability are not the same and quite different. Mobile usability, friendliness and responsive layouts are not a prerequisite for mobile-first indexing.  Mobile-first indexes pages based on the content that is provided on a mobile device, in order to understand your site and how it’s structured. It’s not concerned with for example whether the text is too small, or clickable elements are too close, it’s more about page and ultimately site identification.

What if I don’t have a mobile version of my website?

If you don’t have a mobile version then Google will still index your site but there may be a drop in search ranking because mobile-friendly sites will be given preference. This does seem a little harsh however looking at it from Google’s perspective, they perceive from online usage data that the best user experience will be from a mobile device. Their algorithm and crawler are therefore set up for mobile not desktop. With this in mind, the best way to ensure effective indexation is to create a mobile version of your website.

If you would like to know more about how to improve your website for search, mobile indexing or have any other optimisation questions you would like to ask then please get in touch, our contact details are here 

Sales and Marketing Alignment Blog

Increase Growth Through Effective Sales and Marketing Alignment

Google Business Profile Set Up Blog

Google Business Profile: Improving Local Search Results

Internal Website Links and SEO

Website Internal Linking: For Improved SEO

AI For Analytics and Data Driven Decisions

Using AI For Analytics And Data Driven Decisions