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Everything You Should Know About Google’s Mobile-First Indexing

Everything You Should Know About Google's Mobile-First Indexing

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Posted on: Friday February 26, 2021

Reading Time: 17 minutes

We live in a time where people use mobiles for everything. Certainly, they are more likely to use their smartphone to access your website or content. Mobile searches have long taken over the desktop searches; Google started working on mobile-first indexing in 2016, and there are many details to know about the same.


While you may be expecting better reach and performance from your website, it’s important to realize the best ways of getting things done. Overall these years, Google shared various updates from time to time to help digital marketing companies in Dubai and worldwide prepare their websites accordingly. We thought to compile a list of facts and essentials to prepare for mobile-first indexing and help you know how it works.


What Is Mobile-First Indexing? 


It isn’t surprising that mobile phones are being used more than ever, and they are probably not going anywhere. Considering reports from the past few years, more than 60% of searches occurred through mobile devices. It means that the website’s mobile version must be given more preference for a ranking which Google does through mobile-first indexing. It’s quite an easy concept to understand. According to mobile-first indexing Google predominantly uses the mobile version of your website for ranking.


With smartphones taking over the use and demand of desktops, Google had to change its algorithm to use the desktop version of a website to determine its relevance based on a search query. In a nutshell, you are required to present a responsive version of your website for mobile users. If your website’s desktop and mobile versions are different, you may need to make a few changes. If your website still lacks the mobile-friendly version, you may see a negative impact on search rankings for all platforms.


Check out the below video showing the website developed by Pro Web, which serves all criteria required for Mobile-First Indexing:-



Some Important Things To Know About Google’s Mobile-First Indexing


Google’s mobile-first indexing should be understood well by an SEO agency in Dubai to improve your website’s organic visibility. As you read further, you may notice that it’s quite easy to adapt to the mobile-first situation.


Some Important Things To Know About Google's Mobile-First Indexing


1. There Is Only One Index


This is one of the most common misunderstandings among those people who know less about the industry. However, it’s something you need to know first. With the announcement of the mobile-first index, many thought that Google has two different indexes for mobiles and desktops. That’s not true. Mobile-first indexing only means that Google will prioritize the mobile version of your website for ranking on SERPs and indexing.


It was clarified that according to this concept, the URL of the mobile version of a website would be indexed. If you have different URLs for the mobile version and desktop version Google will show them accordingly to mobile and desktop users. However, only the URL for the mobile version will be indexed.


2. You Cannot Force It; Neither Can You Opt-Out


At the beginning of 2018, Google announced that it would expand the rollout for mobile-first indexing and asked website owners to be prepared. This means mobile-first indexing did not apply to many websites then. Later in August 2019, it was said that the remaining websites would be eventually moved over to mobile-first indexing, and there’s nothing that will make it happen earlier.


Google decides to move over your website to mobile-first indexing on the basis of its structure, images, videos, text, links, and metadata. While instructing about how it works, John Mueller indicated that too much use of JavaScript might prevent the website from being listed under mobile-first indexing. Using app interstitials to replace the homepage of the website may also not be appropriate. Webmasters are notified when a website is ready for mobile-first indexing.


Like you cannot manually opt-in for mobile-first indexing, there’s no way to opt-out of it. Moreover, most websites won’t be affected or need to change if you have a dynamic website with the same content and markup for mobile and desktop.


3. Default Application Of Mobile-First Indexing For New Websites


All websites that were introduced to Google search after July 1, 2019, have been enlisted for mobile-first indexing by default. After all these years of using a smartphone Googlebot for crawling the web, it was concluded that new websites are ready for mobile-first indexing. Therefore, for the websites developed after July 2019, the Google console shows no notification to the webmasters about their website being ready for mobile-first indexing.


4. Similar Experience On Mobile And Desktop


In January 2020, while listing the mobile-first indexing best practices, much emphasis was laid on offering identical experiences on mobile and desktop versions of websites. While there can be issues because of attempting to hide various desktop elements on the mobile, mentioned-below are some implications of what’s exactly meant by a similar experience.


  • Googlebot should be able to access and render the desktop and mobile page resources and content.
  • The mobile site should have the same content as the desktop site.
  • Headings and meta robots tags used on the mobile and desktop site should be the same.
  • There should be the same structured data for mobile and desktop sites.


Digital marketing companies in Dubai should understand that intentionally using less content on mobile versions can decrease traffic. This is because Google won’t be able to access as much information as it could earlier. Therefore, at least primary content should be the same on both mobile and desktop sites.


5. Understand The Difference Between Mobile Usability And Mobile-First Indexing


Do not confuse mobile usability and mobile-first indexing to be the same thing. Even when your website does not qualify for mobile usability, it can be enrolled for mobile-first indexing. Mobile usability is a completely different concern; it only indicates that your website has a valid URL and has nothing to do with mobile-first indexing.


Even if the webpages are not usable on a mobile, they can be enabled for mobile-first indexing. Therefore, Google’s mobile usability test cannot be used as a signal for a website’s readiness for mobile-first indexing.


Mueller explained it through an example of using PDF on desktop and mobile. Although accessing a PDF on mobile navigation would be terrible, links may be hard to click; the text may be difficult to read; the content will still be there, and indexing can still be done.


Google’s Date Sheet For Mobile-First Indexing 


For a quick recap of Google’s activities regarding mobile-first indexing, this date sheet would help you.


  • November 4, 2016: Google announced that it was experimenting with mobile-first indexing.
  • December 18, 2017: It was declared that sites would be evaluated for their readiness and eventually rolled out for mobile-first indexing.
  • March 26, 2018: Rolling for mobile-first indexing will be expanded.
  • December 19, 2018: As a site moves over to mobile-first indexing, the website owners are notified through Google Search Console.
  • May 28, 2019: Mobile-first indexing will be the default for all new websites, starting from July 1, 2019.
  • March 2020: Over 70% of crawled sites listed for mobile-first indexing it’s expected to reach 100% by September 2020.
  • July 2020: 100% mobile-first indexing postponed due to Coronavirus outbreak which is now expected to be complete by March 2021. 


Mobile-First Indexing Best Practices And Updates As Declared By Google  


To ensure that all websites enhance users’ experience, Google released a list of best mobile-first indexing practices. Most of this information may be already known, as Google has mentioned them several times earlier for different purposes. Along with the guidelines for offering the same experience on mobile and desktop sites, here are some best practices you should consider:-


  • Google should be able to see lazy-loaded content and crawl your resources.
  • Ads should not hinder user experience on mobiles.
  • Same metadata should be used on desktop and mobile sites.
  • Use a supported format of images and videos on mobile and make sure that they are high quality.
  • Make sure that the same alt text is used for desktop and mobile sites.
  • Avoid using images or video URLs that change every time the page loads.


Apart from these guidelines, Google has a separate list of guidelines for different URLs. Here are some of those guidelines:-


  • The error page status should be the same on mobile and desktop.
  • Avoid using fragmented URLs in the mobile site.
  • Desktop pages should be similar/equivalent to mobile pages.
  • Both mobile and desktop sites should be verified in the Search Console.
  • Ensure that mobile sites are able to handle increased crawl rate.
  • Check for hreflang links on different mobile URLs.
  • The robot.txt directives should be the same on desktop and mobile sites.


You should check out Google’s best practices documents to know about some common errors you will need to deal with. It will help your websites in attaining better ranking or making them ready for mobile-first indexing.


Summing Up


As an SEO agency in Dubai, you must know all the important details about mobile-first indexing. When you know what to do and why it is done, it will become a lot easier. You would always want to offer the best experience to users irrespective of the devices they use. While mobile-first indexing does just that, learning the necessary guidelines and planning strategies accordingly would help you in the long run.