Mobile-First Index: What It Is & Why It Is Important

Being regular users, people are not wondering how every site is compatible with their mobile devices. They are simply used to solve all of their questions on the go. However, this convenience has appeared not only due to increased demand but also due to one of Google’s algorithms. On Nov. 4, 2016, the release of a new algorithm was announced. It’s called mobile-first indexing. Since that time, the priority has been given to the sites that are optimized for mobile devices.

Statistically, it’s expected that by 2021, 3.8 billion users across the world will be using their smartphones for any Internet activity. Compared to the figure for the year 2016, which was 2.5 billion, the decision of Google to focus on mobile users is logical.

Thus, the algorithm of mobile first indexing has imposed new requirements on resources that should be well-optimized for mobile users. If they succeed, their platforms will be ranked higher in the SERP, which is a good advantage, isn’t it? It’s also important to note that for the sites with adaptive design, there is no separate algorithm. Search bots will crawl the mobile version by default, if it’s absent, the desktop one will be crawled.

What Does This All Mean for Site Owners:

  • If your platform has got equal mobile and desktop versions, the probability is high that this algorithm won’t influence its ranking at all.
  • If a mobile version is considerably different from a desktop one, this may negatively influence the site ranking.
  • The availability of an adaptive design will give an advantage to the site.
  • Important: no platform can refuse from the indexation. The only solution is to adapt the site to the requirements of the search system.

How Much Time Is Left?

Google itself cannot clearly state when the transition will be over. More than 70% of the platforms have already been indexed. After the process of indexing is over and a complete transition to the mobile-first index, crawling of sites will be carried out by mobile user-agents. However, sometimes desktop versions will still be crawled.

Therefore, it’s impossible to predict how much time is left. Owners of web platforms have only one solution — to check if their sites are ready for mobile-first indexing by Google. To prepare for the transition, there are several steps to be taken:

  1. For platforms with mobile and desktop versions, it is crucial that all the content of these versions is the same. It is also applicable to the meta titles and descriptions of pages. The latter can be a bit shorter for the mobile versions, however, keywords should be the same. If previously, your platform was mostly focused on the desktop version, it’s time to adapt its mobile counterpart. For this reason, sites with adaptive design have an advantage.
  2. Semantic markup and URL have to be identical for both versions.
  3. If the language markup rel=hreflang is used, it’s necessary to make sure that the links follow the same version. In other words, it’s not allowed the desktop version links the mobile one and vice versa.
  4. Make sure that Open Graph and other social media markups are well-adjusted for both versions.
  5. Mobile pages should have the Sitemap with the robots.txt file — this should be checked.
  6. Ensure that the utility App Indexing is correctly set for mobile and desktop versions alike.
  7. If the mobile counterpart of your site is located on the subdomain, it is important to make sure that the server storage capacity is large enough to cope with the load caused by bots in the process of crawling.
  8. For sites with adaptive design, it is important to verify if the loading speed is not higher than 3 seconds and if all the content is correctly displayed on mobile devices.

Is Your Site Indexed?

After the indexation is carried out by Google, a site owner gets an automatic notification. However, if there is no notification, it’s possible to use the Google mobile site checker available in the Search Console. Checking if the site has already been indexed is an important step of the technical site audit that can be carried out with the help of a technical SEO checklist with the help of which all the possible errors can be discovered.

What About New Sites?

Starting from July 2019, mobile-first indexing will be enabled by default for the new domains. It means that newly-developed resources should take into account the peculiarities of this algorithm, namely:

  • Mobile users dislike clicking on numerous categories and subcategories, therefore, their number should be kept as low as possible.
  • If you want your site to have an adaptive design, take into account the touchscreen peculiarities, the visual elements should be convenient for it.
  • Make sure that all the guidelines of the search engine are met when the mobile version of the site is developed. Remember, its content has to be the same as on the desktop version.

Should Content Be Changed?

The fact that people use their mobile devices has influenced queries that are typed in the search bar or even spoken. Due to the increasing popularity of voice assistants, search requests are naturally spoken, as well as personalized requests are becoming more and more spread. Therefore, SEO specialists should make sure that the content on their site can provide responses to these users’ queries.

Final Word

The contemporary world is changing fast, imposing new requirements on business owners who would like to make money. To achieve this goal, it’s necessary to satisfy the demands of users, as well as of the search engine. Therefore, mobile-first indexing cannot be avoided.

If your site has not been yet indexed, there is time to fix any possible issues. Take the above steps, carefully read the guidelines from Google, wait for the notification, and check the Search Console from time to time. Devoting your attention to the mobile version, you will contribute to the future of your site and, thus, business.

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