Ready for Mobile-First Indexing? 7 Best Practices Inside
Mobile-first indexing has been discussed for a while, but the switch has officially occurred. This means that time to focus on this change is right now!
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How does mobile-first indexing affect your website?
Mobile-first indexing means that if your site is desktop-only it will no longer be seen on results pages of Google search. This is because Google will scan mobile websites to index web pages. Indexing is the process of Google adding websites to their search engine and when a site is indexed this means that the website will be searchable. Non-indexed websites will not show up in search engines. Any web pages and web content like comments, data, images, videos, can be indexed.
Originally Google planned to switch to mobile-first indexing in September 2020, but this was paused due to the pandemic. Google realized that the global circumstance made it more difficult for websites to move to mobile that had not already done so.
Google finally made the big switch just this month, in March 2021. Now that all websites will be indexed on mobile it is important to make sure that your online presence is adapted so that your content continues to be searchable. If your new content is not indexed due to this shift it will lead to a tremendous drop in organic traffic, which should definitely be avoided!
How does the Switch to Mobile-First Indexing Happen?
Google switched ALL websites from desktop-first to mobile-first indexing, having been through a transitional period of moving sites over when their systems recognized that they were ready to do so.
Any new websites launched after July 2019 automatically went to mobile-first indexing, but some existing sites had yet to be moved over before March 2021.
While websites had been crawled by a smartphone Googlebot for some time, it is something that every SEO, website owner, and digital marketer now needs to be paying close attention to.
John Mueller, a Google developer, explained that the first step in this switch was an increase in Googlebot crawling. The change took some time and he said it could take longer depending on the size of your domain. This shift may still be in progress for many websites.
“Afterwards, we’ll still occasionally crawl with the traditional desktop Googlebot, but most crawling for search will be done with our mobile smartphone user-agent,”
John Mueller, Google Developer
Preparing Your Site for Mobile-First Indexing
How can you protect your website and make sure content is still indexed now that Google has switched to mobile-first indexing?
Firstly, you will want to check the status of your mobile-first indexing in the Google Search Console. Another way is to use the URL Inspection Tool. These tools will alert you if your web content is suitable for mobile indexing.
Mobile-Friendly Vs. Ready for Mobile-First Indexing
In order for Google to move sites over to the mobile-first indexing, the site needs to show identical content on all devices.
If the desktop version of a site’s pages has critical content that’s not shown to users on mobile devices, then the site will not be considered suitable for mobile-first indexing.
“Mobile friendly doesn’t mean it’s suitable for mobile indexing (it could be easy to use on mobile devices, but lack a lot of the content, for example).”
John Mueller, Google Developer
So it is essential that you prepare by making sure your site is not just easy to use on mobile but also features all of the same content as your desktop site!
Use the same meta robots tags on mobile and desktop
Don’t block URLs from crawling on mobile
Use the same exact content on your mobile and desktop site
Have the same structured data on both versions of your site
Follow the best practices for images (high-quality images, supported formats, and alt-text)
Have any ads featured on your desktop site also featured on mobile
Place videos in supported formats at easy-to-find spots on your site
Google offers many other recommendations which you can read more about here.
Indexing is the most essential first step for SEO because without being indexed you can not show up on Google at all. Now that you know all of the best practices for mobile-first indexing you can make sure that your website is prepared for the switch.