You may’ve heard about “mobile-first indexing” in several SEO Blogs. If you use Google Search Console, you may have received an email about “mobile-first indexing”. If you are not sure what is “mobile-first indexing”, I will explain it to you. I will also tell you how to optimize your website to get better results.
The term “Mobile-first indexing” explains itself. It just means that the mobile version of your pages will be the starting point for Google in their index and Google will use it to determine rankings. That means Google bots will open the mobile version of web pages to analyze and evaluate.
The experiment on mobile mobile-first indexing began in 2016. Google first announced the official use of mobile-first indexing back in March 2018 but not all websites were affected. Now Google has confirmed that by September 2020, it will start using mobile-first indexing for all websites. Google never used a separate index for desktop and mobile pages.
After mobile-first indexing, Google will primarily use the mobile version of the webpage for indexing. You cannot ask Google to still evaluate desktop pages, it means there is no way to opt-out. If your website was published after July 1, 2019, Google has been using the mobile-first indexing on it by default.
What Does Google Consider “Mobile”?
Before we talk about the best practices for Mobile-First Indexing, it is really important to understand what devices Google considers as “Mobile”. According to Google, Mobiles mean mobile devices or smartphones such as devices running on Android, iPhone, or Windows Phone. Tablets are not considered mobile devices.
I have already told you what is mobile-first indexing. Google will use the mobile version of web pages to crawl, index and evaluate. So, you should focus on mobile pages. If you are using separate mobile and desktop pages, you should focus more on desktop pages. If Google fails to crawl mobile pages or you have been showing less content on mobile pages, your website is at risk.
If you are using a responsive theme, you do not need to think much. Responsive themes show the same content in its desktop and mobile versions. But you need to make sure your theme is showing content properly on mobile devices and the website is fast enough.
Here are a few practices you need to follow to get the best out of it.
Make sure Googlebot can access your content
It is really important. Most of the developers focus on just desktop versions of the page and they hardly care about the mobile version of pages. They just see if the content is available on the mobile pages. But you should also check if your mobile pages are using the same meta robots tags as in desktop. If you are using lazy-load in mobile pages to load content, make sure Google can see that content.
Use same content in desktop and mobile pages
Some themes or CMS show less or restricted content on mobile pages. Now after “mobile-first indexing” Google will be using mobile pages to crawl, index and evaluate, it is important to show all the content on mobile pages because content on mobile pages will be the ranking factor. If you have been showing less or restricted content, update mobile pages.
When I am talking about the content, make sure your images also have the same ALT as in desktop pages. If you have videos on the page, make sure it is also available on the mobile version of pages.
Not just content, but meta tags should also be the same. If you use OpenGraph tags, Twitter cards, and other social metadata, it should be included on the mobile versions of pages along with desktop versions.
Make sure both mobile and desktop pages have the same structured data
If you have been using structured data like Breadcrumb, Product, and VideoObject, make sure you are using it in both desktop and mobile devices. Everything should work fine on mobile pages.
Even if Google wants people to use AMP pages for the faster web, it will not use AMP as a mobile page but will prefer to index the mobile version of the non-AMP page.
Now the website’s speed is really important. If you have fast loading web pages, it will perform better on mobile and desktop search results. The page speed and load time are important in ranking. SO optimize your theme for faster load time.
Also see: How to Speed up WordPress Blog
If you have content of your pages in multiple languages and are using rel=hreflang, make sure these are also in mobile pages. You should also check that rel=hreflang on mobile pages should point to the mobile version of different countries or language variants. Desktop pages should point to desktop versions of mobile and desktop pages are different.
If you have a link to Sitemap from desktop pages, make sure you have a link to it from the mobile pages. Also, check if sitemaps are accessible from mobile pages,
Search Console verification
If you are serving mobile pages from a subdomain, make sure you have verified the mobile version in Google Search console.
Now webmasters will have to make mobile-first strategy in SEO. It is also important because mobile internet usage is high and most of the websites are getting more than 70% of traffic from mobile devices. Now after mobile-first indexing is enabled, all SEO experts should make a mobile-first strategy. Optimize your website for long trail queries, Local search queries, How do I queries and Personal Searches. Personal searches have grown recently. As per data, searches for “__ for me” have grown 60% in the past 2 years. You can use SEMRush to improve your content strategy
Load time is now more important
The load time of web pages is now more important. Even if you are using AMP, you should make sure your non-amp mobile pages are fast and optimize for mobile devices. Google’s aim behind this mobile-first indexing is to make the web more mobile-friendly.
Boost user experience
In mobile-first indexing, experience on mobile devices is also important. So, you should focus on not just content or speed but also on user experience. If a user visits your mobile site and leaves it within a few seconds, it is a sign that your website is not as engaging and doesn’t have valuable content. It gives a negative point to your website. So make sure your website has good user experience on mobile pages.
If you are using WordPress with a responsive theme, you do not need to worry much. For people who are using separate mobile pages, custom made websites or using any other CMS much think about it seriously. They should check if their mobile pages are proper and follow Google guidelines.
Here are the answers to some common questions about mobile-first indexing.
A. Yes, it is live but not for all websites. Google has confirmed that it will be live for all the websites by 2020.
A. Mobile-first indexing means that Google will be using the mobile pages to index and determine the ranking. Google will use mobile pages to determine rankings in most of the cases, but not in all cases. There could be some circumstances where the desktop version will be used to determine the ranking.
It is also important to note that ranking uses many factors that include mobile-friendliness, website speed, and other signals. So, focus on everything including content.
A. If there is no mobile version of the website, you shouldn’t be worried. Google will now access your desktop version of pages using mobile Googlebot to access the content and ranking. So, optimize your website for mobile devices.
A. No, Google will not stream them differently. But it will be important how to implement it. If you have a separate mobile site, make sure it has the same content as in the desktop version of the pages. In responsive pages, content is already the same in both desktop and mobile pages.