Google’s Mobile-First Indexing Update

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Google announced that by September 2020 all websites will be crawled and indexed via mobile-first indexing. Mobile-first indexing has been in the works since 2016. About 70% of the websites shown in search have already been switched over to mobile-first indexing, according to Google. This change isn’t a huge surprise to most, but it may be something that could affect older or out-of-date sites.

What does this mean?

Google Webmasters tweeted an excellent explanation of what is about to happen, “Mobile-First Indexing at Google is becoming the default later this year. Googlebot is leaving its desktop behind, and using a phone, like most of our users.”

This basically means that the means in which the Googlebots are going to be looking at your site is through a cell phone. This is going to be an improvement to our search results as users since 52.6% of website traffic worldwide is on mobile devices. 

How do you know when your site has been indexed with mobile-first indexing?

Within Google Search Console, you can check for mobile-first indexing in two places. The status can be found on the settings page as well as in the URL Inspection Tool. If your site has already been indexed with mobile-first indexing, it will be noted in these areas. 

If your site hasn’t been indexed with mobile-first indexing yet, you should receive a notice from Google with more information. Some of the notices could contain an issue detected. Here is a screenshot of a notice:

Google Mobile First Indexing Notice

On an analytics note, if your site hasn’t been mobile-first indexed yet, Googlebots may be all over your website soon. Google said “When we switch a domain to mobile-first indexing, it will see an increase in Googlebot’s crawling, while we update our index to your site’s mobile version. Depending on the domain, this change can take some time.” 

How to know if your site is mobile-ready?

There are a lot of different factors that go into mobile-usability. Google’s guidance on making websites work well for mobile-first indexing stays relevant for exiting and soon to be websites.

Google says, “In particular, we recommend making sure that the content shown is the same (including text, images, videos, links), and that metadata (titles and descriptions, robots meta tags) and all structured data is the same. It’s good to double-check these when a website is launched or significantly redesigned.”

Here are a few tools to utilize to check your site’s mobile health:

  • A tool that is within your Google Search Console is Google’s URL Inspection Tool. This tool provides you with Google’s indexed version of a specific page. This information could include structural data errors, AMP errors, or if Google ran into issues indexing that page.
  • Another tool within Google Search Console is the Mobile Usability Report. While the other tools within this list are just for specific URLs within your website, this report is for the whole site. It will give you a summary of what pages are valid and what pages are in error with mobile usability. 
  • A general overview tool is Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool. This tool is a simple way to see a specific URL’s performance across all devices. Once the test is complete, it will provide you with a list of any mobile usability problems that it finds.
  • Another great tool to utilize is Google’s PageSpeed Insights. This tool shows you the speed of your website on mobile and desktop. After the test is complete, it gives you a score and suggests various fixes depending on the severity of the issues found. 

Now what?

At the end of the day, this all comes down to user experience. If you’ve run any of these tests on your own and don’t know how to fix it (or have no idea what any of it means), you are not alone. This is where we come in. 

If you are finding yourself needing a website overhaul or need advice on whether or not your site is mobile-first index ready, please give us a call.

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