Understanding Mobile-First indexing:Tips to Optimize a Website

Are you here to learn about mobile-first indexing in SEO? If so, you’ve landed right. Let’s get started!

Did you know that mobile devices account for more than half of all web traffic? Yes, that’s right! Since their invention, mobile devices have grown in popularity and have become an integral part of everyday life. Since then, most users have used and continue to use mobile devices to search for their queries, which is why mobile devices have been an important part of Google’s ranking system.

In 2015, Google released Mobilegeddon, which made the website’s mobile-friendliness a notable ranking factor, then in 2018, Google released the speed update, which made the mobile speed a valuable ranking factor; and then in 2019, Google announced the Mobile-first indexing update, which was intended to give mobile versions of websites more value over their desktop versions.

Google releases new algorithms and updates on a regular basis in order to provide its users with the best browsing experience possible. And Mobile-first indexing was one of those important updates. Considering the importance of mobile devices, it is not surprising that Google has made mobile-first indexing a priority. This has changed the SEO world significantly and has forced website owners to adapt to a mobile-first approach.

In this blog, we’ll go over mobile-first indexing and all the important details you must know about it. So, without digressing, let’s begin!

What is Google’s mobile-first indexing in SEO? 

Google’s mobile-first indexing is a notable Google algorithm update released by Google. With the release of this update, it prioritized mobile versions of websites over their desktop counterparts. Prior to its release, Google used the desktop versions of websites to index and rank on search results. After that, Google predominantly uses the mobile version of websites to index and rank in search results.

In simpler terms, it means that Google mainly crawls and indexes the website’s mobile version first and uses that information to rank the website in search results.

When was Google Mobile-first indexing released?

At the end of 2017, Google mentioned that it would slowly start the rollout of mobile-first indexing, and then in July 2019, Google announced that the new sites from the mentioned date would be indexed on the basis of Mobile-first indexing and the websites created prior to the date would be notified via Google search console. 

Later, in March 2020, Google announced its plans to officially move all the websites over to mobile-first indexing.

However, the rise of covid 19 delayed the process and pushed the date to March 2021. In March 2021, Google announced that mobile-first indexing would become the default for all new websites.

How does Mobile-first indexing work in SEO?

Usually, most websites have desktop and mobile versions. Initially, when Google indexed a website, it used the desktop version to index and rank websites on search results. Now, since the release of the mobile-first indexing update, Google has used the mobile version of a website first to rank websites in search results instead of its desktop version.

So, if your website has both desktop and mobile versions, Google will use the mobile version to crawl, index, and rank on search engines.  

It’s also essential to keep in mind that Google did not create a separate mobile-first index but used the original single index while prioritizing the mobile versions over the desktop ones.

How Has Mobile-First Indexing Impacted the SEO World?

Mobile-first indexing has significantly impacted the SEO world. This update has changed the way Google evaluates websites for search engine rankings, and website owners and SEO experts have had to adjust their strategies to meet the requirements of mobile-first indexing in order to gain a higher ranking in search results. Websites that were not mobile-friendly or responsive witnessed a drop in their search engine rankings. 

Differentiating Mobile-First Indexing and Mobile Usability in SEO

Formally, people believed that mobile usability and mobile-first indexing were the same things. Later, it was cleared by Google’s John Mueller that mobile-first indexing and mobile usability are completely separate things. Mobile-first indexing refers to how Google indexes and ranks a website, while mobile usability refers to how easy it is for users to navigate and use a website on a mobile device. Mobile usability includes factors such as responsive design, fast loading times, and easy-to-use navigation.

He mentioned that your website can or can not be optimized for mobile usability, but it still may have content that is required for mobile-first indexing.

This means that your website would be indexed by the crawlers even if it is not mobile-friendly. 

However, this doesn’t lower the importance of mobile-friendliness. Your website ranking will still be affected if you offer a poor user experience on your site. Therefore, ensure to take both mobile-first indexing and mobile-friendliness in mind while optimizing your website for mobile devices.  

How to Check Your Website for Mobile First Indexing?

To check if your website is being indexed for mobile-first, you can use Google Search Console. Perform URL inspection for the URL of any of your webpage in Google Search Console and see its coverage results.

The result will display “crawled as” along with the date, time, crawling, and indexing titles. Notice that the “crawled as” shows the Googlebot smartphone. This indicates how Google is indexing your webpage, which is mobile-first indexing here.  

How to check your website’s mobile-friendliness?

You can also check your website’s mobile usability using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool. This tool will check your website’s mobile version and suggest whether your website is mobile users or not. If not, it would provide suggestions on any issues that you need to address to improve your website’s mobile usability.

You can also use the Google search console to assess your website’s mobile usability under the “enhancement” menu. This also highlights the errors that need your attention.

How to Optimize a Website for Mobile-First Indexing in SEO

To optimize a website for mobile-first indexing, website owners must ensure that their website’s mobile version is as user-friendly as their desktop version. Some key factors to consider when optimizing for mobile-first indexing include the following. You can also see Google’s official document on mobile-first indexing.

1. Create a Responsive design.

Ensure to create a mobile-friendly website using responsive web design. Responsive design means that the website should be designed to adapt to different screen sizes, ensuring that it is easy to use on all devices. This will help you enhance the user experience on your site and is essential for optimizing your website for mobile-first indexing.

2. Make your content accessible to Google.

Your website’s mobile content must be easily accessible to Google so that it can render it successfully. For this, make sure you use the same robots meta tags on both your mobile and desktop versions so that it can easily crawl and index your web pages, avoid using lazy loads of primary content, and let crawlers crawl your resources.

3. Use the same content on mobile and desktop versions.

The next important tip is to make sure that both your website versions, mobile and desktop, contain the same content so that both versions can rank for similar keywords. 

Having different or less content on the mobile version can have a significant impact on your search ranking, as Google can’t understand your content the way it used to previously, and you may witness a drop in your search rankings. In addition, Google suggested using similar and meaningful headings on your mobile versions as your desktop counterpart to better optimize your website for mobile-first indexing.

4. Optimize your structured data.

If you use structured data on your website, make sure that it is present for both mobile and desktop versions of your site. Also, ensure that the URLs you are using in your structured data are correct and updated.

5. Use similar metadata on both versions

The next tip for optimizing your website for mobile-first indexing is to use similar metadata, i.e., the meta title and meta description, on both mobile and desktop versions of your website.

6. Optimize the placement of your ads on mobile devices.

Ads can significantly hamper the user experience of your website on mobile devices. Thus, ensure to follow the best ad practices on mobile devices to provide a satisfactory user experience and to optimize your website for mobile-first indexing.

7. Optimize the visual content of your website.

In order to optimize your website for mobile-first indexing, ensure to optimize the visual content of your site, i.e., images and videos. Make sure to follow the image and video bests practices to optimize your website visuals. Use the high-quality, supported format and well-optimized images and videos to help better understand search engines about your visuals. Also, it enables them to load quickly, providing an engaging and satisfactory user experience.

8. Optimize the mobile page loading speed.

The page loading speed on mobile devices is another valuable factor that can help you optimize your website for mobile-first indexing. Site speed has always been an important ranking factor. Therefore, ensure to follow the best practices to optimize the page loading speed on mobile devices. Consider caching your web pages, minifying your site’s code, limiting redirects, and optimizing images and videos.  

9. Check your hreflang and canonical tags.

Ensure to check your website’s hreflang tags and canonical tags to see whether they are properly implemented on both your mobile and desktop versions.

10. Monitor mobile errors

An important task that you must perform on a regular basis is to keep an eye out for mobile errors. This will help you discover and resolve the errors timely. For this, monitor the Google Search Console’s core web vitals and mobile usability report to identify and fix mobile-first indexing errors and help your website grow uninterruptedly.

Have you optimized your website for mobile-first indexing?

Mobile-first indexing has been a game-changer in the SEO world. Google’s decision to prioritize mobile versions of websites has forced website owners to rethink their SEO strategies and optimize their websites for mobile devices in order to gain a higher ranking on SERPs. Here we’ve gone over the details of mobile-first indexing to help you better understand this. By understanding the importance of mobile-first indexing and optimizing your websites accordingly, you can ensure that your website ranks well in Google’s search engine results pages. Overlooking the update can be a big mistake that can significantly hamper your search appearance. So, prioritize mobile-first indexing in your SEO strategy if you haven’t done it till now and give your website a significant boost!

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