Mobile-first indexing – what it is and how to prepare your web pages for it

The vast majority of people are using a mobile device when searching for something on Google. To keep up with the changed behavior and to make search results more useful for users, Google has started experimenting with mobile-first indexing.

What is mobile-first indexing and why is it relevant for all website owners? It all boils down to getting your website visible on the top of the page of search results. If you currently have less content on your mobile pages compared to desktop pages, only the content on your mobile page will appear in Google’s search results. Which pages appear in the search results and in what order is decided by ranking systems.

Ranking systems of Google retrieve data from the page content to evaluate its relevance to the user. Issues might appear if the mobile page has less content than the desktop page. For instance, if a table is visible on the desktop page but is not visible on the mobile page, it will not be found in Google searches when mobile-first indexing is used.

Although Google’s search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, algorithms will eventually use the mobile version of a site’s content as a primary source of information. That searched information is then used to rank pages from that site and to show snippets from those pages in the search results. Of course, while the index will be built from mobile web pages, Google will continue to provide a great search experience for all users, whether they use mobile or desktop devices.

The initial plan was to enable mobile-first indexing in September 2020 but, due to these uncertain times, Google decided to extend the timeframe to the end of March 2021.

Below are a few recommendations to help you to prepare as we move towards mobile-focused indexing:

  • If you have a responsive site or a dynamic serving site where the primary content and markup is equivalent across mobile and desktop, you should not have to change anything.
  • If you have a site configuration where the primary content and markup is different across mobile and desktop, you should consider making some changes to your site:
    • Make sure to serve structured markup for both the desktop and mobile version.
      Sites can verify the equivalence of their structured markup across desktop and mobile by typing the URLs of both versions into the Structured Data Testing Tool and comparing the output.
      When adding structured data to a mobile site, avoid adding large amounts of markup that is not relevant to the specific information content of each document.
    • Use the robots.txt testing tool to verify that your mobile version is accessible to Googlebot.
    • Sites do not have to make changes to their canonical links; Google will continue to use these links as guides to serve the appropriate results to a user searching on desktop or mobile devices.
  • If you are a site owner who has only verified your desktop site in Search Console, please add and verify your mobile version.
  • If you only have a desktop site, Google will continue to index your desktop site just fine, even if Google are using a mobile user agent to view your site.

Not only are mobile friendly pages an important factor to consider when building your website, but also Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an essential thing to consider when producing content for your web pages, especially if you want search engine users to see your website on top of the search results.

If you have any questions or need support in making your web pages mobile friendly, feel free to contact us – info@tallcon.fi or +358 40 6633 400 – we are happy to help you optimize your website.

This post is also available in: Swedish Finnish

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