Why Mobile-First Indexing is Critical for SEO Success and How to Ensure Your Website Is Ready

Since its first announcement way back in 2016, Google has been in the process of rolling out Mobile-First Indexing to all websites. Back then, Google’s algorithm would rank a website based on the content and structure of its desktop version, but with Mobile-First Indexing, the algorithm will prioritize the mobile version of a website when evaluating it for rankings.


This is in response to how mobile devices have become an integral part of our lives. More people are using their smartphones and tablets to access the internet than ever before. Therefore, it is essential for businesses to make sure their website is optimized for mobile users if they want to stay competitive in the digital marketplace.


So how does one go about ensuring that their website is ready for Mobile-First Indexing?


In this blog post, we will discuss why mobile-first indexing matters and how to ensure your business website is ready with some key strategies and best practices from Google itself.


A featured image of a professional who's designing their mobile website


What is Mobile-First Indexing and How It Became the Default For Mobile Users

Mobile-first indexing is as straightforward as it can get; it means that the Google search will will prioritize the mobile version of your website when crawling and indexing it for its search engine results. This is because, as discussed earlier, more people are using their mobile device to access the internet, with more than 60% of people around the world browsing the internet with their mobile devices.


However, do keep in mind that this algorithm shift is not solely focused on mobile devices. Even if a website lacks a mobile-friendly version, the desktop site can still be indexed. However, the absence of a mobile-friendly experience can have a negative impact on their SEO. Conversely, a website with a superior mobile experience has the potential to receive a rankings boost, even for desktop searchers.


Will there be separate indexing for mobile and desktop sites?

Contrary to popular misconception, this transition does not entail separate indexing for mobile pages and desktop versions. Instead, it emphasizes the use of the mobile version as the primary reference point for indexing, while still considering the desktop page.


This unified indexing approach ensures that websites are evaluated based on their mobile performance while maintaining compatibility with desktop devices. The approach acknowledges that users increasingly rely on mobile devices to access the internet, and therefore, it is imperative to evaluate websites based on their mobile performance. However, it is important to note that the desktop version of a website still holds relevance in the indexing process.


The primary objective of mobile-first indexing is to encourage website owners to optimize their mobile versions for optimal performance and usability. mobile-friendly websites responsive web design, fast loading speeds, and intuitive navigation, are more likely to receive favorable rankings in search results.


Current State of the Mobile-first Transition

Google has been progressively adopting mobile-first indexing since its initial launch in 2016. Over time, they have expanded their implementation to encompass a broader range of websites. The team has even announced that all websites created after July 2019 would be indexed using the mobile-first approach by default, emphasizing the importance of mobile optimization from the outset.


The timeline for Google’s mobile-first indexing implementation highlights the urgency for website owners to adapt their sites to this evolving standard. By ensuring your website is mobile-friendly and optimized for mobile-first indexing, you can improve your SEO performance and increase organic traffic.


Unsure if you’re website is prepared for Mobile-First Indexing?

Recognize that the shift towards mobile-first indexing is a gradual process, and we’re still in the transition despite it kicking off almost 5 years ago. As such, it is natural to feel overwhelmed with the prospect of optimizing your website for mobile users.


Google’s best practices guidelines suggest that if your website employs a responsive design or maintains uniformity across its desktop and mobile versions, then major changes may not be necessary.


With that, here are some of the things that you can take action on to ensure your website is optimized for mobile-first indexing:


Check if your website is on mobile-first indexing

Yes, you can do that. Google Search Console allows users to check if their website or mobile url has been indexed under the mobile-first indexing approach.


To do that, simply:

  1. Go to Search Console and enter your business URL
  2. Under the “Coverage” tab, select the “Index Coverage” option. This will provide you with a detailed overview of your website’s mobile-first indexing status.
  3. Under the “crawl” subsection, you’ll find “Googlebot smartphone” right after the crawl as. This is the easiest indication that your website has been switched to mobile-first indexing.


Make sure UX is the same for both versions

Regardless of whether your website has a responsive design or separate mobile/desktop versions, it is essential that the user experience remains consistent across devices. As noted by Google themselves, Almost all indexing on your site comes from the mobile site.” Hence why you need to consider updating the mobile version of your business equivalent to your desktop site.


Aside from content and media files, there are other considerations to be made. Here’s a list of examples:

  • Structured data
  • Metadata
  • social metadata
  • Server capacity
  • Media sitemaps
  • Search Console verification
  • Hreflang


Having a consistent user experience across devices would be beneficial, especially from an SEO perspective, as it ensures that Googlebot will not have a difficult time indexing your content. This increases the chances of your website appearing in search engine rankings with minimal effort.


Test for mobile-friendliness

Google’s Mobile-Friendly test tool is the best way to assess your website’s mobile performance. Simply enter your URL and get a straightforward report on how well your website works for mobile users.


The report will include pass/fail results for various criteria such as font size, viewport settings, and clickable elements. It also allows you to receive a preview of how your website looks on mobile devices. Knowing the exact issues plaguing your site can help you improve its mobile-friendliness and thus make it easier for Googlebot to index.


The Best Practices for Mobile-First Indexing

While understanding the algorithm and its changes and updates can look daunting, Google has never been shy to share best practices and recommendations for mobile-first indexing. In fact, they have an entire section dedicated just to that.


Here are some of the recommendations that Google shares for optimal mobile-first indexing:

  1. Making sure that Googlebot can access and render your content: This involves ensuring that your mobile website is crawlable and the content can be rendered properly by Google’s web crawling bot.
  2. Checking your structured data: Structured data helps search engines understand the content and context of your website. Verify that your structured data is implemented correctly on both desktop and mobile versions of your site to ensure consistency in indexing and display of rich search results.
  3. Troubleshooting mobile-first issues: As mobile-first indexing prioritizes the mobile version of your site, it is important to regularly monitor and troubleshoot any issues specific to the mobile experience. This involves identifying and addressing mobile usability issues, optimizing page speed, and addressing any mobile-specific errors.
  4. Putting the same metadata on both versions of your site: Metadata, such as meta titles and descriptions, provides important information to search engines about the content of your web pages. As mentioned above, it is crucial to have consistent metadata across both the desktop and mobile versions of your site to ensure accurate indexing and display of search results on various devices.


We encourage you to read and understand the guidelines in full and familiarize yourself with the changes and updates for mobile-first indexing.


Final thought

Mobile-first indexing is a necessary step in SEO, and it’s important to understand how this affects your website. With an understanding of Google’s best practices and recommendations, you will be able to ensure that your site remains correctly indexed on both desktop computers and mobile devices, allowing your content to reach the maximum number of users.


Furthermore. investing in mobile design and performance is a surefire way to increase user engagement and website traffic, which can result in improved rankings. Keep this in mind when assessing the importance of mobile-first indexing for your website!


With a little bit of effort and planning, you will be able to make sure that your website is ready for this important shift.