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Mobile-First Indexing - All Your Questions Answered

Mobile-First Indexing - All Your Questions Answered

Google has been shifting towards a mobile-only approach for indexing the content, ranking the indexed content, etc. This exercise started right before 2018. According to Google, 70% of the websites have already shifted into mobile-first indexing.

Mobile-first indexing was supposed to happen in September 2020. Considering the uncertainty the world has faced, the algorithm update is rolling out this month, meaning it's time to ensure your website is mobile optimized and not just mobile-friendly.

Semrush has published a recent study on how mobile and desktop trends have taken shape in recent years. Here are some key findings:

  • In 2020, 66% of all site visits came from mobile devices.
  • Only 17% of websites retained their positions across both mobile and desktop SERPs.
  • 37% of URLs dropped out of the top 10 when the search query was made from mobile.

What are the implications of these trends? How does mobile-first indexing impact your go-to-market strategy?

What Is Mobile-First Indexing?

Let’s start by making sure we’re all on the same page. Google historically looked into the website's desktop version to index content and rank it for relevant search queries from users. After the mobile-first indexing algorithm rolls out, Google will ONLY consider your website's mobile version to index and rank content. They will ignore the desktop version of both existing and new websites.

In the meantime, Google has also started moving sites to mobile-first indexing when their systems recognize that they're ready. Many of you are realizing that Smartphone crawlers have become the default crawler for your site. This can be verified by looking into your Google Search Console/website log files.

How Can I Prepare for Mobile-First Indexing?

Are you running separate websites for desktop and mobile?

https://example.com/ - Desktop Version
https://m.example.com/ - Mobile Version
https://example.mobi/ - Mobile Version

If you follow website structures like above, wait no further! Make a responsive website that enables web pages to render well on a variety of devices, windows, and screen sizes. Having a separate desktop version is not going to help, at least with Google.

Are Your Mobile and Desktop Version Identical?

It is a reason to rejoice! You are not duplicating it; this is what Google recommends websites do. Identical is not just about the content, it also includes navigational links, structured data, metadata, OG tags, XML sitemaps, resources (JS, Video, Images, etc.). Removing one small element (e.g., email opt-in) might not have any significant impacts. However, removing large chunks of content or features, believing it will reduce long mobile layouts and scrolls, may negatively affect your site.

Is It Enough to Have a Responsive Site that Is Identical on Desktop and Mobile?

Not really. Especially when you want to improve performance further. Focus on page speed. Build/improve a website that loads faster and provides a better experience for users and bots. Think of AMP if you have a content-focused website (blog/news portal, etc..). Anticipating Core Web Vital being added to Google's algorithm this Spring, don't forget about the website UX factors!

I Don't Have a Mobile Version of My Desktop Website. What Now?

Google will still index content from the desktop websites if you do not have a mobile version. However, you aren’t likely to compete with mobile-friendly websites, which will negatively impact your organic growth.

How Can I See if My Website Is Ready for Mobile-First Indexing?

Using Parito, a free, thorough mobile-first index validator, you can evaluate a single URL or multiple URLs for mobile vs. desktop HTML, word count, and JS gap.

Wrap Up

Hopefully, your website is already on mobile-first indexing and has nothing to worry about with the next update. If not, you may want to evaluate and fix things while you still have time. Mobile is the new normal, and it's here to stay! Require expert opinion? Reach out, and let's speak. Have questions/additional thoughts? Feel free to jump into the comments section. Let’s discuss/debate.!

March 24, 2021
By Mercy Janaki