Mobile-first indexing was announced by Google in 2016. Since that time there have been a number of developments and updates.
What is Mobile-First Indexing?
According to Google Developers, mobile-first indexing means:
“Google predominantly uses the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking. … Since the majority of users now access Google Search with a mobile device, Googlebot primarily crawls and indexes pages with the smartphone agent going forward.”
Here is a quick summary of the 5 things you should know about how mobile-first indexing works and how to prepare.
1. Google uses the mobile version of your site for indexing.
Google does not have a separate mobile-first index. This means that Google uses the URL of the mobile-friendly version of your site for ranking and indexing purposes. If you have a separate mobile URL and desktop URL, Google will show the mobile URL to mobile users, and the desktop URL to desktop users, but in both cases the indexed content will be the mobile version.
2. The move to mobile-first indexing will take time, but it will eventually apply to everyone.
Even if your website has not yet moved to mobile-first indexing, ultimately it will. There is no way to find out exactly when this will happen, and there is no way to opt out. Google determines the readiness of a website for mobile-first indexing based on the proper consistency of text, links, images, and videos, as well as structured data and other metadata. If your website was launched after July 1, 2019, by default mobile-first indexing is enabled.
3. Mobile websites should provide the same experience as the desktop site.
According to Google best practices, it is important to provide an identical experience on mobile and desktop. If less content is served on the mobile site, Google will not be able to obtain as much information from the page as it did when the desktop version was used. That can mean a drop in rankings.
Make sure that Google can access and render all mobile and desktop page content, and make sure that content is the same. Be sure to use the same meta tags and headings on both sites. Both sites should also have the same structured data.
4. Understand that mobile usability Is not the same as mobile-first indexing.
It is important to make the distinction between mobile usability and mobile-first indexing. They are not the same thing. This means that pages can be enabled for mobile-first indexing, even if they are not optimized for a mobile device. Google’s mobile usability test shouldn’t be used as an indicator that your website is ready for mobile-first indexing.
5. Review Google mobile-first indexing best practices and watch for updates.
The best way to optimize your site for mobile-first indexing is to follow Google’s recommendations. Google has published a page on mobile-first indexing best practices as part of its Developer’s Guide.
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