It's official from March 2021, web content on Google will no longer be visited by the desktop-user agent. Is your website ready for the update?
What is indexing on Google?
Every time you perform a search on Google, you will receive a list of website results that Google deems most relevant to your search. The order in which these links are presented to you is determined by Google's algorithm for indexing websites. Google's bots regularly crawl, scan and evaluate the relevance of a site's content, to present you with the results that best match your query.
Why mobile first?
Google bots initially crawled the desktop version of a web page, but with the rise of mobile usage, Google is questioning and changing the way it crawls content. Sometimes websites display different information on their desktop and mobile versions, often with less content on the mobile version, in an attempt to optimize the content for the smaller screen size. However, as mobile usage continues to outpace desktop, Google wants the internet to be more mobile-centric.
Mobile-first indexing: A long history
Google first announced that it had begun the process of transitioning its indexing from desktop to mobile, as most users at the time were already searching from a mobile device. The announcement explained that the "algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site's content to rank pages on that site," giving website owners fair warning to begin the mobile optimization process.
Mobile-first indexing was enabled by default for all new websites. At this point, Google would also monitor and evaluate existing pages and move them to mobile-first indexing when they were ready. The mobile indexing status of your website can be checked with the URL inspection tool.
Google has announced that it will be moving to mobile-only indexing starting in September 2020. At the time of this announcement, it was reported that 70 % of the sites listed in Google's search results had already been moved to the new system.
In the depths of the Coronavirus pandemic, Google has extended its mobile-first indexing schedule from September 2020 to the end of March 2021, giving sites more time to prepare for the change.
How can I prepare for change?
Mobile-first indexing means that Google will only get information about your site from the mobile version to determine indexing and ranking. Therefore, it is essential that Google bot can see the full content and resources of your site (desktop-only sites will be removed from the index). It is important to note that Google Search will continue to display the most appropriate URL for users (whether it is a desktop or mobile URL).
Google has provided a detailed guide to help sites optimize their mobile operability. Here are some important considerations:
- If you have structured data on your site, make sure it is present on both versions of your site so that Google bot can see all your content
- Put the same metadata on both versions of your site
- Adhere to the Better Ads standard when displaying ads on mobile devices
- Make sure the images on your mobile site follow best practices for images (important: make sure all images on your mobile site have a descriptive tag)
- Make sure the videos on your mobile site follow video best practices
- If your site has separate URLs for desktop and mobile versions of a page :
Be sure to use structured tags for both the desktop and mobile versions.
Use the robots.txt test tool to verify that your mobile version is accessible to Google bot.