In 2017, Google announced that they would start rolling out Mobile-First Indexing and not everyone cared!
In 2018, Google re-emphasized, and the web started to panic.
In 2019, Google confirmed that it’s rolled out to a bigger portion of the web and the SEO and Developer community started taking it seriously.
In 2020, Google announced that it will be applicable to 100% web from September 2020 and everyone is freaking out.
But, wait a minute….what is Mobile-First Indexing and why does it matter a lot to every website?
Let’s first understand Google’s old crawling process. When Googlebot (name of Google’s crawler) used to crawl the web earlier, the Desktop version of the site used to be the primary version for crawling and indexing.
However, now, as most of the searches happen from a Mobile device, Google has decided to use the Mobile version of a site as the primary version for crawling and indexing. This is called Mobile-First Indexing (MFI).
It’s called mobile-first and not mobile-only, which means that if a website doesn’t have a mobile-friendly version then Desktop content can still be indexed but who in this world would like to have a Mobile Unfriendly website?
We still went ahead and asked John Muller from Google about websites that intentionally have more content on Desktop than Mobile, mainly because their target audience uses Desktop.
Below is what Google responded,
“We will ignore any & all content on the desktop site if we index the mobile version. We will only index the mobile version.”
Now that doesn’t look good! Especially for the sites that do not have a mobile-friendly experience yet.
So, the questions are:
- How would webmasters know if their site qualifies (or not) for the Mobile-First Indexing?
- What should the webmasters do once they qualify for MFI?
- Should webmasters be worried if they don’t qualify for MFI?
- How to qualify for Mobile-First Indexing?
- What are some of the Mobile-First Indexing best practices?
Through this blog, we intend to provide some clarity to webmasters to be able to continue maintaining organic ranking once Google completely switches to a 100% Mobile-First index starting September 2020.
How to check if a website qualifies for the Mobile-First Indexing?
You can check if your site qualifies for Mobile-First Indexing by checking your messages or Google Search Console. If you have received a message like below, your site has been switched over to MFI.
Alternatively, you can check the Settings tab in the Google Search Console to identify your primary indexing crawler.
How to qualify for Mobile-First Indexing?
Depending on whether you have a responsive site or separate URLs for Mobile and Desktop, below are the best practices to be able to serve a Mobile-Friendly experience:
- Make sure to have “same content” on Mobile VS Desktop
- Ensure that the content is being rendered by Google
- Use same meta robots tags on both devices
- Do not use interaction-based lazy-load
- Make sure all resources are crawlable on both Desktop and Mobile
- Use same structured data on both versions
- Ensure that URLs in Mobile structured data must point out to mobile URLs
- Use same meta tags [title, description] across both experiences
- Use high-quality images and correct image format
- Use persistent images URLs
- Implement same alt text for mobile/Desktop images
- Always use supported video formats
- Do not place the video in the bottom of the page i.e. outside a comfortable viewport
- Avoid using fragment URLs for Mobile
- Verify both versions on Search Console
- Same robots.txt directives
- Use correct Canonical and Hreflang implementation
What if a site is not qualified for Mobile-First Indexing?
This means Google still has not found parity between Mobile and Desktop content (above checklist). It also means that once MFI is the default for all the sites in September, site owners can expect traffic loss after this switch, since Google can’t get as much information from your page as before.
Tools that developers need to fix Mobile issues:
Though there are many out there, we recommend using the below tools to debug and get help fixing Mobile Usability and parity issues to be able to continuously maintain rankings after MFI switch in September.
- In-house built Mobile-First Indexing validator tool at Merkle
- Google’s Mobile-Friendly Testing tool
- Google’s Structured Data testing tool
- View Rendered Source Plugin
- And of course, Google’s developer guide on MFI best practices
Need help with the Mobile-First Indexing Audit?
Are you still looking to find our specific issues on your site to help sustain web rankings after September’s MFI switch?
Request a free audit and we will get back to you with a detailed analysis of your current Mobile platform performance.