Google’s Mobile-First Indexing Rolls Out To All Websites in September 2020: Understanding The Website and SEO Impacts

Google has announced that they will be rolling out their Mobile-first search index to all websites in September 2020.

Google began rolling out Mobile-first indexing to some websites that they considered were ready on March 26, 2018. They will continue moving sites to mobile-first indexing as they consider them to be ready and all remaining websites will be switched over in September 2020.

Since the majority of online searches are now made on mobile devices, the Mobile-first search index is focused on mobile users. The Mobile-first index ensures that a searcher on a mobile device gets directed to the mobile version of a website for a relevant search query. This ensures consistency and a good user experience.

A lot of people are confused about Mobile-first indexing. In this article, I will explain the Mobile-first search index and some frequently asked questions about it.

What is Mobile-First Indexing?

Mobile-first indexing is Google’s crawling and indexing of websites using a smartphone Googlebot. With Mobile-first indexing, Google’s systems will crawl, index and rank the Mobile version of a website to add to their search index. The mobile version of a website will be considered the primary version of the website.

According to Google, 70% of websites have already been moved to their mobile-first search index. They will switch over to mobile-first indexing for all websites in September 2020.

The Mobile-first search index is a big change in the way Google indexes websites for their search index. Their previous search index was desktop-focused. They used to crawl, index and rank the desktop version of a website. The desktop version used to be considered the primary version of the website and the mobile version used to be the alternate version.

With the change to Mobile-first indexing, Google will still have a single search index for both the Mobile and desktop search results. There is not going to be a separate Mobile-first search index.

Why Is Google Changing to a Mobile-First Index?

Google has been adopting a Mobile-first strategy to address the tremendous growth in Mobile.

Here are some statistics on mobile device usage from Google:

  • In 2015, Google announced that the majority of online searches in the USA are made on mobile devices.
  • 4 in 10 users search online on smartphones only.
  • 94% of us browse the web each day. Of which, 71% of us browse the web using our smartphones.
  • 77% of mobile searches will occur at home or at work where desktop computers are also available.
  • 82% of smartphone users search online to find local businesses.

A Mobile-first search index ensures that mobile users have a seamless user experience when searching online on mobile devices.

When we make a search query on a mobile device and are directed to a mobile-friendly website from the search results, we can browse the website without issues. we will not have to pinch, zoom or scroll to read content. This provides a positive user experience to mobile users.

How Will I Know if My Website Has Been Added to The Mobile-First Search Index?

In Google Search Console, there are many ways to check if your site has been added to the Mobile-first search index.
The current status is shown on the Settings page as well as under the URL inspection tool.

Check Mobile-First Indexing Status Under Settings in Google Search Console

  1. Login to Google Search Console
  2. Go to Settings at the bottom of the left menu
  3. Look Under “About” where it will show the Indexing crawler and when or if your site was indexed by the Googlebot Smartphone crawler.

mobile first index search console settings

Check Mobile-First Indexing Status Under the URL Inspection Tool in Google Search Console

  1. Login to Google Search Console
  2. Click on URL Inspection in the left menu
  3. Enter the URL you want to check – like the home page URL
    It brings up information about the URL
  4. Expand the “Coverage” section
    Under “Crawl”, check the “Crawled as” section. This will tell you if your website was indexed by the Googlebot smartphone
  5.  
    mobile first index url inspection
     

    Google also sends site owners notifications that looks like the image below:

    mobile first indexing notification

    What Should I Do if My Site Is Not Added to the Mobile-First Index? How Will It Impact My SEO Rankings?

    According to Google, the Mobile-first indexing is about how they collect information for their search index. There are no search ranking advantages if you are added to the Mobile-first index.

    If you only have a desktop version of your website, your site will still be added to the Mobile-first index and shown on the search results.

    However, Google is encouraging all website owners to make their websites mobile-friendly and fast-loading.

    Google has increasingly focused on a Mobile-first strategy. With “Mobilegeddon” in 2015, mobile-friendly websites were given higher rankings in the Google search index. In July 2018, they introduced a speed update, that helped fast-loading sites rank better in their search index.

    Your website must be mobile-friendly and have responsive design for improved SEO (search engine optimization) rankings. In addition, it should load fast and provide a great user experience. Your website content and images must be optimized for mobile. Images must be small in size. Large images are slow-loading and will negatively impact your SEO rankings.

    Having a mobile-friendly and fast-loading website helps to improve your SEO rankings on the Google search index. If you only have a desktop site, it is time to upgrade to a mobile-friendly and responsive website.

    How Can I Get My Website Prepared for the Mobile-First Index?

    Google is adding all sites to the mobile-first index in September 2020.

    There are several things you can do to ensure that your website is ready for the Mobile-First search index. Here are some tips from Google:

    1. Make sure your website has responsive web design. Google recommends responsive web design. Websites with responsive design have the same content on both the desktop and mobile-versions of the website and they change size based on the user’s device. Responsive websites are prepared for Mobile-first indexing.
    2. Use the same meta robots tag on the mobile site and the desktop site so that Google can index your site.
    3. Make sure Google can crawl your mobile website and you are not blocking any URLs.
    4. Make sure your content (text, links, images, videos) is the same on both the mobile site as well as the desktop site.
    5. Make sure your headings are the same on your mobile site as on your desktop site.
    6. Ensure that the metatags- titles and meta descriptions- are the same across both your mobile and desktop sites.
    7. Use the same structured data across both versions of your site.
    8. Use high-quality images, but not very large images that may take too long to load.
    9. Use the same alt-tags on the images on your mobile site and desktop site.

    For more information check this document on Mobile-first indexing from Google:
    Mobile-First Indexing Best Practices

    Conclusion

    A mobile-first strategy is essential today for digital marketing. The majority of online users are searching the web on mobile devices and that number is only increasing.

    The rollout of the Mobile-First search index by Google to all websites is one more indication of how important Mobile has become. By crawling, indexing and ranking the mobile version of a website as the primary version, Google is ensuring that there is consistency in the search information presented to the mobile user. This makes for a better user experience and a happier user.

    For a business website, it is essential to have a mobile friendly website with responsive design. A mobile-friendly website will help your business to reach the growing number of mobile users, many of whom search only on their smartphones. Mobile-friendly websites also have higher traffic, conversions and leads.

    Having a mobile-friendly website is also important for search engine optimization (SEO) to improve search rankings. Since “Mobilegeddon” in 2015, mobile-friendly websites have had better rankings on Google in competitive search engine listings.

    If your website is not mobile-friendly, it is time to upgrade to a mobile-friendly website. Contact a web developer to upgrade your website to a mobile-friendly and responsive design. You can also contact us at Gold Mango Design to upgrade your website.

    Article First Published: September 13, 2018, Updated: March 9, 2020

    References

    1. Google Webmaster Central Blog, March 26 2018
    2. Google Best Practices for Mobile-First Indexing
    3. Google, Getting your site ready for mobile-first indexing, Dec 18, 2017
    4. Think with Google, How People Use Their Devices: What Marketers Need to Know, September 2016

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    Gold Mango Design LLC. helps small and medium businesses reach more customers with web development and digital marketing. Our digital marketing services include Responsive and Mobile Friendly Web Design, WordPress Web Development, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Google Ads Marketing. Contact us at https://goldmangodesign.com


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