Search engine optimization (SEO) is about to change in 2021. With Google’s mobile-first indexing update planned for March 2021, all desktop-only websites – and images or assets of a desktop-only website – will be completely removed from the Google index.
Thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones and tablets, Google will only use the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking. Before we look at some of the best practices for mobile-first indexing, though, let’s clear any possible ambiguities about the update and what it means.
- Mobile-first indexing is the default right now, and has been for some time. Any website that is new to the internet or Google Search as of July 1, 2019 will primarily use the mobile version of the website for indexing.
- The mobile first and desktop index are identical. There’s no new indexing process – the update means that Google will use the mobile version of a website for indexing and ranking instead of the desktop version.
- They have no choice. As a website owner, you cannot unsubscribe from the update. Google’s goal is to move all websites to mobile-first indexing and it is up to the website owners to prepare and adhere to it.
What are the best practices for mobile-first indexing?
Now that you have a better understanding of mobile-first indexing and its implications, let’s discuss some of the best practices you can implement now to ensure a smooth sailing March 2021.
1. Implement responsive web design
If you haven’t already, it’s time to join the 70 percent of mobile-optimized websites. You can achieve this with responsive web design. A responsive website ensures that regardless of device or screen size, users always see an optimized version of the website.
A responsive website is beneficial because of its flexibility. Responsive web design eliminates the need for website owners to create multiple versions of their websites to adapt to different devices.
If you already have a responsive web design, mobile-first indexing shouldn’t have a material impact on your website’s performance on search engine results pages (SERPs). In fact, Google has stated that responsive websites that use dynamic serving correctly don’t need to make any changes at all.
2. Make sure that Googlebot can access your mobile website
Googlebot is Google’s web crawler software and needs to be able to access and render your content. Allow Googlebot to check your website’s resources and make sure your mobile website has different URLs than your desktop website. Also, be sure to check to see if an forbidden statement is blocking the URL.
To make sure your site ranks, you need to use identical meta-robot tags on your mobile and desktop sites. Various meta-robot tags can prevent Google from crawling and indexing your page if your website is enabled for mobile-first indexing.
Finally, make sure that you are not using lazy loading for primary content. Lazy loading is an optimization technique that delays the loading of content that is neither visible nor critical. Note that Googlebot will refuse to load content that requires user interaction to load, such as: B. Tap or click.
3. Keep your site the same on all desktop and mobile versions
Users should not be penalized for using a tablet or smartphone instead of a desktop. Your desktop site should have exactly the same content as your mobile site. If your mobile website currently has less or different content, you may want to update it.
Take a closer look at your headings as you compare your content between the two versions of your website. Keep your headings consistent and make sure they are aesthetically pleasing on the mobile version of your website.
Because of this, as a website owner, you need to make sure that you get the same experience on both versions of your website. Consistency across both versions of your website is one of the best ways to give your visitors a consistent experience that engages them.
4. Analyze your structured data
Once you’ve decided how to structure your data, you need to make sure that it exists on your mobile and desktop sites and that they both have the same structured data.
You also need to ensure that the URLs in the mobile structured data versions are updated to the mobile URLs.
5. Review your ad placements
Ads can affect the ranking of your mobile pages if you don’t know exactly where you are placing them. If you’re showing your ads on a mobile device, read the Better Ads Standard and make sure it meets the criteria.
6. Pay attention to your visual content
Each image or video on the mobile version of your website has its own list of best practices. When it comes to images, you need to provide your user with high quality images in a supported format. Make sure you only include images that are high enough resolution and won’t look too small on a smaller screen.
For images and videos, try not to use URLs that change as the images load on a page. If the URLs keep changing, Google will not be able to process and index your images correctly.
Video content needs to be easy to find on a mobile device and in a supported format and relevant tags. You don’t want to put a video too far down on the page so that users have to scroll endlessly. The tried and tested method for structured data also applies here. You want to keep this data the same on the mobile and desktop versions of your website.
Things change quickly. Today, most of the people who are online prefer to access the Internet on their mobile devices rather than on a computer. This is due to the ease and convenience that mobile devices offer. Google’s decision to move to mobile-first indexing is an incredible way to respond and it shows just how much we rely on mobile.
If your website is not yet optimized for mobile and desktop users, now is the time to do it.