From marketing to design, the complexities of mobile advertising can be daunting. With so many platforms and devices to market on, it’s hard to know where your ads are appearing — or what they might look like!
Mobile is a term that is used to describe any device that can be used for communication. It can either be a phone or tablet. Apps are also called mobile apps, which are designed specifically for use on these devices.
For some time, Google has been working on mobile-first indexing, which was created in response to a significant change in how people search (and browse) the web, as well as the growing usage of mobile devices in almost every aspect of our lives.
We are, without a doubt, living and working in a fully mobile-first world.
In 2016, Google made the first statement that they were shifting their algorithms away from looking at the desktop version of a site and toward a mobile-first strategy.
Google stated at the time that:
The majority of people nowadays use a mobile device to search on Google. However, our ranking engines still examine the content of a page’s desktop version to determine its relevance to the user. Because our algorithms do not evaluate the actual page that a mobile searcher sees, this might create complications when the mobile page has less material than the desktop version.
However, between 2016 and present, Google has made a nearly complete move to mobile-first indexing.
Google will have shifted ALL webpages from desktop-first to mobile-first indexing by March 2021, after a transitional phase in which sites were moved over when its systems identified that they were ready.
New websites established after July 2019 were automatically indexed as mobile-first, while some older sites have yet to be updated.
While many of you may have had your sites scanned by a smartphone Googlebot for some time, it is now something that every SEO and digital marketer should be aware of.
Google will become 100 percent mobile-first in the coming months, so make sure you grasp what that implies and how to optimize for it.
And in this tutorial, we’ll show you how to achieve exactly that, focusing on:
Mobile is here to stay, with a whopping 63 percent of US search traffic coming from a mobile device as of 2019. This implies that the mobile version of a website should be prioritized, and Google recognizes this through mobile-first indexing.
While it may seem complicated, mobile-first indexing is really rather easy to grasp.
It is referred to by Google itself as follows:
Google employs the mobile version of the material for indexing and ranking, which is known as mobile-first indexing.
Googlebot formerly relied on a website’s desktop version to judge a page’s relevancy to a search query, but this has recently changed to mobile variations.
And for many organizations, this won’t be a problem since the mobile site is just a responsive version of the desktop site with no modifications to the information supplied. However, there are certain things to consider if a website has multiple desktop and mobile versions.
If you’re one of the few firms without a mobile-friendly website (unfortunately, there are still a few of them out there), you may anticipate a drop in your search ranks across both mobile and desktop searches.
A well-designed mobile-friendly website may result in a significant rise in organic exposure.
Even if you don’t believe it’s a big deal, it’s still a good idea to know what mobile-first indexing is and how it works, as well as the considerations you’ll need to make not only now, but also in the future.
According to a 2019 survey, “just 13% of websites manage to maintain the exact same position across devices,” demonstrating the necessity of optimizing your site’s mobile experience and search engine friendliness.
In basic words, mobile-first indexing implies that Google’s algorithms rank your pages in the SERPs based on content from your mobile site.
All SEOs should be well-versed in the concept of mobile-first indexing.
Once you’ve grasped a few essential facts and understand how they may affect your site’s organic exposure, you’ll find it rather simple to change your own methods to operate mobile-first.
Here are nine things you should know about mobile-first indexing so you can inspect your site for bugs and address any that are currently there.
While most websites have switched to mobile-first indexing, it will be a few months before Google evaluates and ranks your site’s mobile version.
If your site has already been converted to mobile-first, you should have received a message from Google Search Console. If you missed it, haven’t seen one yet, or just want to validate that you’re using mobile-first indexing, there’s a simple method to do so.
Enter this URL into the text box at the top of your screen to perform a URL inspection for one of your site’s pages in Search Console.
Once the results are shown, you will notice the “coverage” results for the URL you entered:
Have you noticed that it was crawled under the name “Googlebot smartphone”? This is a fast and simple method to observe how Google crawls your site, which in this instance is mobile-first.
It’s important to understand that once you’ve switched to mobile-first indexing, there’s no turning back. There is no way to unsubscribe. You haven’t been able to opt-in manually either.
And this implies that while designing and building your site, preparing content, and considering how your site appears to consumers on mobile devices, you must think mobile-first.
But don’t get too worked up. The majority of sites will not need considerable upgrades.
“If you have a responsive site or a dynamic serving site where the core content and markup is comparable across mobile and desktop, you shouldn’t have to modify anything,” Google previously said.
Have these discussions with your engineers and designers, making sure they understand the necessity of thinking about how mobile-first indexing affects their way of working and what they should and shouldn’t be doing.
Similarly, don’t be hesitant to object to modifications that can lead your site’s mobile version to deviate from the desktop version in terms of content.
There is nothing you can do to alter the fact that mobile-first indexing is here to stay. If your company has yet to adopt a mobile-first mindset, now is the moment to do so.
One of the most popular misunderstandings after Google’s announcement of mobile-first indexing in 2016 was that the company had two indexes: a mobile index and a desktop index.
But that isn’t the case; there is only one index, and mobile-first indexing refers to the Googlebot that crawls and indexes your site, not the Google index of web pages. Moving to mobile-first indexing is unlikely to have any effect on websites that have similar content on their mobile and desktop pages.
Google used to crawl your desktop site first, treating your mobile site as an alternative version if you had one (rather than a responsive design). The mobile version of your site is now the main version.
And here’s where things get complicated: if you have a different mobile site, consumers will see these URLs in the SERPs.
There is, however, just one index.
Using Google’s mobile-friendly test tool, you can simply and rapidly assess the mobile-friendliness of your website.
Enter the URL of a web page to find any problems with mobile usability.
While mobile-usability and mobile-first indexing aren’t the same thing, it’s crucial to know how Google crawls your mobile versions.
The page passes the mobile-friendly test in this case, however it raises a number of page loading concerns that should be investigated further.
Blocked resources are a special problem to be aware of, as Google explains: “If a blocked resource is crucial, it might have a significant impact on how Google sees the page.” A blocked huge picture, for example, might make a website look mobile-friendly when it isn’t, or a blocked CSS file can cause erroneous font styles to be applied (for example, too small for a device).
This has an impact on your page’s mobile usability score as well as Google’s ability to crawl it. Important sites should not be restricted from Googlebot by robots.txt and should be widely accessible.”
You may also check your site’s mobile usability by going to the corresponding tab in Search Console’s “enhancements” menu, which will show you any mistakes that need to be fixed.
Designers and developers are increasingly focusing their efforts on a site’s mobile UX, which is fantastic.
However, the difficulty is that many desktop components are hidden when a website is viewed on a mobile device, which may create all kinds of complications with mobile-first indexing.
A website should give the same experience on mobile and desktop platforms, according to Google, which is particularly crucial when it comes to content. Their mobile-first indexing rules are as follows:
If your mobile site has less material than your desktop site, you should consider changing it so that the major content matches that of your desktop site. The mobile site is responsible for almost all indexing on your site.
It doesn’t get much more obvious than that.
But, as a caveat, this suggestion is accompanied with a warning:
While it may be tempting for designers to increase mobile accessibility by reducing information, this might lead to traffic loss.
Rather than concealing or eliminating material, we propose taking the time to educate all stakeholders engaged in a site and demonstrate why it is necessary to concentrate on making it more user-friendly for mobile visitors.
Another reason why SEO should be included into a company’s larger website team is so that these decisions may be addressed before it’s too late.
However, despite its importance, there is more to consider than simply your content.
The following are some key aspects to keep in mind when it comes to maintaining consistency across mobile and desktop sites:
- Data that is organized
- Tags for robots in meta
- Placement of advertisements
- Photographs and videos
To prevent difficulties caused by mobile-first indexing, it’s critical to maintain these components consistent across mobile and desktop platforms.
While certain aspects of Google’s algorithm remain secret, the search engine provides lots of information to assist webmasters and SEOs understand mobile-first indexing. Google has issued a comprehensive guide on mobile-first indexing best practices “to ensure that your customers enjoy the optimal experience.”
This is an excellent resource for any marketer seeking to grasp the concept of mobile-first indexing.
The book specifically assists you in comprehending best-practices in the areas of:
- Assuring Googlebot has access to and can display your material
- ensuring that information is consistent across desktop and mobile
- Checking your Data that is organized
- Using the same information on both your site’s versions
- Examining the location of your advertisements
- examining the visual material
- Separate URLs: Additional Best Practices
- Identifying and resolving mobile-first challenges
Take the time to read it and refer to it if you have any problems with your mobile site or the transition.
One thing to keep in mind is that mobile-first indexing and mobile usability are not synonymous.
Even though your website has challenges with mobile usability, it may have been changed to mobile-first indexing.
And, as Google’s John Mueller has already stated:
“A site may or may not be mobile-friendly, but it may still include all of the material required for mobile-first indexing.”
Take, for example, a PDF file, which would be very difficult to explore on a mobile device. The links will be difficult to click, and the text will be difficult to read. However, all of the text remains, which we could properly index using mobile-first indexing.”
This simply implies that the Googlebot on a smartphone may and will crawl sites that are not considered mobile-friendly. That isn’t to say that a page’s mobile usability has no impact on your site’s mobile rankings.
If you provide a terrible user experience, hide material or photos, or have other mobile concerns, this may all have an impact on your page’s potential to rank.
It gets back to the issue of optimizing for your people, not only Googlebot, that is frequently stated.
Focus your efforts on providing the best possible experience for your site’s visitors while taking into consideration the factors we know Google is considering with mobile-first indexing, and you should be OK.
Nobody likes to spend time on a sluggish website. In reality, people continue to want quicker websites, and site performance remains a critical ranking element.
In 2017, Google’s Gary Illyes acknowledged that page speed is included into mobile-first indexing during a discussion regarding mobile-first indexing at SMX. The truth is that a sluggish page speed is more likely to be a detriment to a site’s ranking potential than a benefit.
Make sure you optimize for users, not just search engines, once again.
Slow page speeds may have a negative influence on bounce rates, the amount of time people spend on your site, and your conversion rate, so taking the effort to improve your loading times can pay off in a variety of ways.
The SEMrush Site Audit tool, notably the site performance report, may be used to examine your site’s speed and associated problems.
The final but certainly not least critical topic to understand is how to properly and efficiently manage mobile-first indexing when you have different mobile and desktop pages.
While distinct mobile and desktop versions are becoming less prevalent due to the surge in popularity of responsive sites, there are still certain sites that run separate mobile and desktop versions.
So, how do you manage them to avoid being penalized by mobile-first indexing?
Keep the following points in mind:
- Ensure that the rel=canonical and rel=alternate components are accurately implemented across the mobile and desktop versions of your site.
- Check that the robots.txt file in both versions does not prevent important areas of your site from being crawled. Check to see whether your mobile site is restricting crawlers in particular.
- Check the implementation of rel=hreflang to ensure that desktop URLs lead to desktop URLs and mobile URLs refer to mobile URLs.
- To get access to all of your data, alerts, and messages, set up and validate both versions of your site in Google Search Console.
- Make sure your desktop pages correlate to mobile pages on your site. Pages are sometimes left out of a mobile version, although these pages would not appear in Google’s index if mobile-first indexing was used.
Separate URLs are not recommended by Google as a site structure since they are difficult to build and manage. In 2020, a responsive site is suggested, but if it is not feasible for any reason, be sure to thoroughly test the two versions to avoid any complications.
Mobile-first indexing may be frightening, particularly to those who recall mobilegeddon in 2015, but the fact is that if you are already providing an excellent mobile experience and ensuring that your content is consistent across desktop and mobile devices, you have nothing to fear.
However, mobile-first indexing is here to stay, and the more you can explain what it means to your designers, developers, and other members of your team, the simpler it will be to implement the suggested best practices before they become a problem.
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