Mobile-First Indexing Updates and Best Practices

Do you know the global smartphone users increased by 40% from the Year 2016 to the Year 2020? Based on Statista stats the number of smartphone users will increase from 2.5 billion in 2016 to 3.8 billion in 2021. In the Year 2016, Google experienced most of the searchers were coming from mobile devices. So Google started the experiment with mobile-first indexing.

What is Mobile-first Indexing?

As Google mainly uses, crawls with smartphone agent, the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking. So it’s called mobile-first indexing by Google itself.

Mobile-first Indexing Updates Since 2016

  • Updates on 04-November-2016
    • Google noticed most of the people were searching from mobile devices.
    • So to make its search results more useful, Google begun experiments to make its index mobile-first.
  • Updates on 18-December-2017
    • Webmasters will see significantly increased crawling by Smartphone Googlebot, and the snippets in the search results.
    • Google will start to evaluate sites independently on their readiness for mobile-first indexing and transitioning them when ready.
  • Updates on 26-March-2018
    • Google started migrating sites that follow the best practices for mobile-first indexing.
  • Updates on 19-December-2018
    • Google announced that now it will index mobile-first for over half of the pages shown in search results globally.
    • Google confirmed about moving websites to mobile-first indexing, with a notification message in search console, once tests assure that those websites are ready.
    • If structured markup is available in the desktop versions then it should also be available in mobile version webpages as Google will crawl the mobile version.
    • Images should have alt-text in the mobile version of webpages.
  • Updates on 28-May-2019
    • Google announced mobile-first indexing will be enabled by default for all new, previously unknown, to Google Search, websites.
  • Updates on 05-March-2020
    • Google announced about switching to mobile-first indexing for all websites starting September 2020.
  • Updates on 22-July-2020
    • Due to Covid-19 uncertainty in the Year 2020, Google announced to extend the timeframe for switching to a mobile-first index for all websites from September 2020 to the end of March 2021. This announcement was through Google Search Central blog.

Best Practices

  1. Primary Content – Your mobile website should contain the same content as your desktop website. This way Google can crawl and index your mobile version without missing any content.
  2. Clear Headings – You should use the same headings, clear and meaningful, on your desktop and mobile websites. This helps Google to understand your content in the same way instead of any differences in mobile as compared to the desktop website.
  3. Structured Data – Your mobile and desktop websites should have the same structured data as Breadcrumb, Logo, FAQ.
  4. Metadata Information– Your webpages should have the same title tag and meta description in both mobile and desktop version URLs.
  5. Alt text for Images – You should use the same descriptive alt text for images on both desktop and mobile websites.
  6. High-Quality Images – You should use clear and sharp images. Prefer to leverage the latest image types like WebP in your mobile and desktop websites.
  7. Video Content – Add video in a supported format and use the same structured data on desktop and mobile websites. Place the video in an easy-to-find position on the page when viewed on a mobile device to avoid extra scrolling by users to see the video.
  8. Mobile-friendly Ads – If you have ads on your website then you should consider providing a good user experience by placing ads in a way which don’t harm mobile webpage rankings. You can consider Better Ads Standards as recommended by Google too.
  9. Webpages Status Code – Your website should have the same status code for a desktop and mobile version of a webpage. In this way, webpages will be indexed successfully by search engines.
  10. Avoid Fragment URLs – You should avoid any fragmented URL in the mobile version of your website. Fragmented URLs are the URLs with # which makes it a dynamic page that is not indexed successfully.

The best way to make your website ready for the mobile-first index is to make your website responsive as in this case your website’s URL, primary content, and all other implementations remain common for both mobile and desktop.

Regular Mobile-Friendly Test

Though there is no direct relation between the mobile-first index and mobile-friendly test. But still, if Google first crawls and indexes the mobile version of your website then it’s good to regularly do the mobile-friendly test of your website which makes crawling of your website better in addition to good user experience.

Mobile-Friendly Test Example

You should also consider these best practices to make your website mobile-friendly.

Summary

If you want all the primary content and SEO implementations to be crawled successfully by Google then you should make sure that your mobile website is easy to access by crawlers. And content should remain the same on both your desktop and mobile websites.

So we all should be ready for mobile-first index as we are approaching to March 2021 when Google will enable mobile-first indexing for all websites in search.

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