The internet is going mobile-centric. Not only is Google trying to return more accurate search results for searchers on mobile, but the search engine now aims to prioritise the ranking of websites that perform best on mobile devices, too. And now, on top of this, Google wants all sites on the web to have mobile-first indexing, too.
What does this mean? What is mobile-first indexing, and what does it have to do with Google’s other past algorithmic updates? How do you know if your site has mobile-first indexing, and what should you do if it doesn’t?
What is mobile-first indexing?
First of all, let’s clarify what mobile-first indexing means. As the name suggests, mobile-first indexing means that Google will index the mobile version of your site first for ranking and indexing purposes.
Initially, Google planned to index new websites on a mobile-first basis on July 1st, 2019. When they were finally switched over, older websites would be notified through Search Console.
However, in March 2020, Google announced their plan to move all websites over to mobile-first indexing. So, of course, COVID-19 moved this deadline back to March 2021. However, by this stage, Google managed to move 70% of websites to mobile-first indexing.
When is the mobile-first indexing update happening?
Yes, the completion date of Google’s mobile-first indexing project has moved around since it was first announced. That said, the last announced deadline was March 2021. With about 70% of websites already moved to mobile-first indexing, Google has probably reached this deadline.
How can I get my site ready for mobile-first indexing?
Google will automatically begin to index your site on a mobile-first basis on this date, so there’s nothing you have to do in this regard. However, it is worth checking whether your site is optimised for mobile.
Check that your content is the same on mobile and desktop
Make sure the mobile version of your site features the same content as your desktop site. One tip from Google is to check the headers on your mobile site and desktop site match. Also, if you intentionally have less content on a mobile page than on the desktop version, you should expect to lose some traffic when the page gets indexed.
Check that Googlebot can render and access your content
For Googlebot to access your content correctly, you’ll need to check a few things:
- Google requires the ability to see any lazy-loaded content
- You can’t block specific URLs with the disallow directive
- You must use the same meta tags for crawling both versions of your site. Don’t worry too much – this is the default setting on most sites unless someone has configured it otherwise on purpose
Try Google’s additional recommendations
Google has some other advice for mobile-first optimisation:
- Follow image SEO best practices with the images on your site
- When you display ads on mobile devices, follow the Better Ads Standard
- Have the same metadata on both mobile and desktop versions of your site
- If you use separate URLs for some pages’ mobile and desktop versions, try verifying those pages in Search Console. Make sure these URLs aren’t fragmented
- Check the videos on your site and follow the video best practices
Take a look at your structured data
Make sure any structured data you use is present on both versions of your site. Also, check that your structured data uses the correct URLs. Finally, train Data Highlighter on your mobile site if you use it.
Keep on top of mobile errors
Of course, Google doesn’t expect you to know how many factors you’re optimised for. However, Google does want you to check the Search Console regularly. In addition, they want you to look out for mobile errors that arise and to try to fix those errors when they appear.
To do this, you must first claim your site in Search Console. Then, you need to submit a sitemap.
After this, you can look at the Mobile Usability and Coverage reports to find the errors that might impact mobile performance.
If necessary, you could hire an expert to run a technical SEO audit on your site. This can help you find missing meta tags and structured data, oversized images and more.
Is my site prepared for mobile-first indexing?
Even if you don’t know whether your site is ready for mobile-first indexing, you’ve already considered how Google sees your website. But if you follow our top 5 tips, you should be good to go.
A site with good content still wins when everything else needs fixing. So, look at your site’s content and consider whether it meets your audience’s needs if you’re still worried about your SEO.
If all else fails, you can always contact an expert at Amire for a thorough overhaul!