On July 21st, Google announced their plans to enable mobile-first indexing for all sites from March 2021. This was originally planned for September 2020, but in light of the ongoing pandemic, this timeframe was extended. This is to allow website owners to better optimise their sites in preparation for this change.
The new development shouldn’t impact the majority of sites. Google already carries out mobile-first indexing on most currently crawled sites. If you and your site aren’t ready for mobile-first indexing, here is a run down of the main issues to fix in order to best prepare for the change.
Mobile-first indexing means that Googlebot will only read the content of your mobile site. This means you should ensure all content and resources should be accessible via mobile. You should also keep the following in mind:
Make sure your mobile and desktop sites use the same robots meta tags.
Googlebot doesn’t trigger some user interactions, such as clicking and typing. You should lazy load content and images automatically in order for content to be indexed.
As some resources including style scripts and images have different URLs on mobile sites to desktop, ensure your robots.txt is configured to not disallow these URLs.
As mobile content will be the only content taken into account with mobile-first indexing. You should take the time to update the content on your mobile site. This ensures the primary content is visible – especially if your mobile site has less content than your desktop site.
Pay particular attention to your heading tags. Ensure these are consistent across the mobile and desktop site to avoid Google misreading your page. This could also negatively impact your site’s visibility. As general best practice, you should also make sure they are clear and relevant so Google can properly understand the page.
You should ensure the images and videos on your mobile site are properly optimised, with consistent URLs across mobile and desktop. Some other best practices to follow are:
Ensure alt attributes are clear and meaningful, which properly describes the image.
Desktop sites that use schema on their videos, should keep this consistent across the mobile site. This is so video indexing systems are able to understand the video and display in search results accordingly.
On a smaller screened device, you should take extra care with the placement of videos and images. Consider placing them in an easy-to-find position on the page which doesn’t require users to scroll too far down the page.
For more information about mobile-first indexing or for help making your site mobile first, get in touch with the SEO team at Colewood.