All the Basics Knowledge of Google’s Mobile-First Indexing!
There was a lot of information published after the announcement of Google relating to its Mobile-First indexing back in 2016.
In all these years, Google explained the audience with all the relevant information and updates regarding the use and working of mobile-first indexing.
By the end of this article, you will learn all the basics knowledge of Google’s mobile-first indexing.
No Option of a Separate Index for Mobile:
This is the point everyone is aware of besides other things.
Many people in the search community find this point as a common term, but those who aren’t related to this community are pretty confused.
Google has mentioned that a separate mobile-first index won’t be there, just to avoid any type of haphazard or misunderstand.
What this means is that Google has a key focus on the mobile version of the webpage and all the rankings and indexing are made as per this version.
Back in 2018, Google, while talking about the mobile-first indexing, made it clear that the URL mobile version of your website is now being indexed.
If your website has both mobile and desktop versions, Google ensures that the mobile users see the mobile URL and the desktop users see the desktop URL.
But still, the indexed content means the mobile version of your website.
You Cannot Go into the Mobile-First Indexing and You Cannot Decide to Move Out:
The end of 2017 made Google to slowly introduce the mobile-first indexing. And when the March 2018 set in, Google asked websites to prepare for the mobile-first indexing as this was going to start expanding the rollout.
Not all the websites to this date are enabled for mobile-first indexing, and people could start chaos, but in August 2019 John Mueller assured the website owners that sooner or later they were going to be moved over, so be patient.
Martin Splitt, an employee at Google’s Developer Relations, told everyone that you cannot tell as to when a website is going to move in for mobile-first indexing, and similarly, you cannot do anything to make the process go faster.
As was said earlier, you cannot move into the mobile-first indexing, the same is that you cannot opt-out.
The mobile-first indexing is based on the readiness of the website, that is, the uniformity in the text, links, images, videos, structured data, and other metadata.
Before initiating the mobile-first indexing on a site by Google, the Search Console notifies the webmaster for that.
You can easily suspect that from the conversation of Mueller and Splitt which is like this:
“It can take a while. There’s another question [in the queue] that asks how can I switch to mobile Googlebot. There’s no way to opt-in or out, we’re just progressively changing or moving sites to mobile-first indexing but there’s no way to tell you “oh yeah, next week it’s going to be you.” Be patient. It’ll happen. It’ll be fine.”
News Websites Don’t Need to Try for Mobile-First Indexing:
All the websites published after 1st July 2019 would see mobile-first indexing by default, as it was stated by Google in May 2019. The point was always being cleared that the previous unknown websites to Google Search needed the change by Google.
After that, a long and clear explanation was put forward by Google to the rising question; why would it be by default in new websites?
Google has crawled the web with smartphone Googlebot for many years, so it suggests that new websites are already ready for crawling.
For the websites published before 1st July 2019, this case is not supportive of that as the webmasters fail to receive any notification about the mobile-first indexing via Search Console.
Websites Should Enable the same Experience for Both Mobile and Desktop:
The mobile-first indexing came into practice in January 2020 and there was a strong emphasis on this point by Google; the same experience should be there for mobile and desktop.
To understand deeply what the same experience means, here are the points explained by Matt Southern.
- Having a Googlebot access can deliver the mobile and desktop page content and resources.
- To ensure that both mobile and desktop versions have the same content.
- To ask for the same meta robots tags on the mobile and desktop site.
- Similar headings used in the mobile and desktop site.
- Both should fall under the same structured data.
Google states that if you intentionally put less content on the mobile version of your site as compared to the desktop version, you should prepare for a drop in traffic.
The reason is simple; when this happens, the audience fails to have a greater amount of information from the page as when a desktop version is used.
What webmasters should do, as recommended by Google, is to put the primary content same on both mobile and desktop versions, including the headings.
Mobile Usability is Different for Mobile-First Indexing:
If there is a text crawled into your website by Google, and if the text appears on a mobile device, the website is then highly likely to add up on the mobile-first indexing.
Mueller, in January 2019, explained that a website doesn’t need to pass the mobile usability test, even without that the site can move to the mobile-first indexing. And also the opposite happens; if a website has valid URLs as Search Console’s mobile usability report suggests, it doesn’t give a clue that a website is ready for mobile-first indexing.
There is a difference in mobile usability and the mobile-first indexing as Mueller said. Therefore, there is a chance of some pages being enabled for mobile-first indexing even if they are low on mobile usability.
So, you cannot rely solely on Google’s mobile usability test and Search Console’s mobile usability report for checking whether your website is ready for mobile-first indexing or not.
Some words of the Mueller on this scenario are:
“So, first off, again mobile usability is completely separate from mobile-first indexing.
A site can or cannot be usable from a mobile point of view, but it can still contain all of the content that we need for mobile-first indexing.
An extreme example, if you take something like a PDF file, then on mobile that would be terrible to navigate. The links will be hard to click, the text will be hard to read.
But all of the text is still there, and we could perfectly index that with mobile-first indexing.
Mobile usability is not the same as mobile-first indexing.”
In short, mobile-friendliness and mobile-responsive layouts are not suggestive of mobile-first indexing, because even the pages without mobile version can still work on a mobile device and are capable of indexing.
The Best Practices for Mobile-First Indexing According to Google:
Google also discussed the best practice for mobile-first indexing to enhance the user experience.
Many times the information shared by Google, stated as the best practices are old. However, the list consists of various recommendations and advice of Google reported over the years somewhere else.
As it was stated earlier about creating the same experience in the mobile and desktop version, here is the list of some other best practices:
- To ensure Google can see even that content that loads late.
- To enable Google to crawl into your resources.
- Create the same metadata on both mobile and desktop sites.
- To ensure the ads, being put up, don’t affect the user experience in a bad way.
- The quality of the images on the mobile site should be checked.
- Supported format for images and videos are highly recommended.
- The use of the same alternate text on mobile and desktop site is preferable.
- To ensure the video and image URLs don’t change during page loading in case of the mobile version.
- The videos on the mobile site are to be found and viewed easily.
Google has made a different section for the best practices document which emphasized the use of separate URLs. The following points are extracted from that document.
- The error page status of the mobile site should be similar to that of desktop site’.
- No fragment URLs on the mobile site.
- The desktop pages should be similar to the mobile pages.
- Allow verification of both mobile and desktop sites on the Search Console.
- The hreflang links should b checked on each mobile URL.
- The mobile site should possess the capability of handling an increased crawl rate.
- The robot.txt directives of the mobile site and that of the desktop site should be alike.
Google also has shared the Troubleshooting section along with the best practice document which is definite to check. This contains all the errors that may become a hindrance for a site to go for mobile-first indexing, and also that may cause a drop in the rankings after being enabled for the mobile-first indexing.
A Changelog Option is there on Mobile-First Indexing by Google:
Google has mentioned the changelog in the mobile-first indexing best practices about all the changes that were made in 2016 and after that. The quick points for that are:
- May 28, 2019: Mobile-first indexing is by default present in all the new websites, not in the previous websites unknown to Google Search before July 1st, 2019.
- December 19, 2018: Google notifies the site owners via Search Console when their sites are ready to move into mobile-first indexing.
- March 26, 2018: Mobile-first indexing has started to rise on a broader level.
- December 18, 2017: The sites are evaluated by Google for readiness and checking for when they are ready for mobile-first indexing.
- November 4, 2016: The experiments are put forward by Google for the mobile-first indexing.
It’s better to Stay Updated or Be Unknown:
Now, we can say that mobile-first indexing is a vast topic to talk about, and there are many things going to be released soon.
Keep your site according to the best practices and keep checking its potential through Search Console; all that you can do.