Mobile-first indexing means Google predominantly uses the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking your website. Is your website optimised for mobile? Let’s find out.

How did we get here?

Historically, Google’s algorithm primarily indexed the desktop version of a page’s content when evaluating the relevance of a page to a user’s query. Since the majority of users now access Google Search with a mobile device, Google’s algorithm will now crawl and index pages with a Mobile-First Indexing method.

This has been tested since its announcement in 2016 and is now officially live. Desktop-first or desktop-indexing will no longer occur in preference of Mobile-First Indexing. Google has clearly stated that there is no alternative or separate indexing model.

So what happens when your site is indexed?

Mobile-First Indexing is the process by which search engines organise information before a search to enable super-fast responses to queries. A bot will search through individual pages for keywords and topics in order to identify relevant information.

This information will include the parity of text, links, images, and videos, as well as structured data and other metadata. An index ranking is then given to your site based on the information that is collected.

Google’s mobile-first indexing best practices

To make sure that your users have an optimal experience, Google has released a set of best practices for Mobile-First Indexing.

Make sure Googlebot can access and render your content, this can be done by:

  • Using the same meta robot tags on both the mobile and desktop sites
  • Don’t lazy-load primary content upon user interactions
  • Let Google crawl resources

Make sure that content is the same on desktop and mobile

  • Mobile content should websites should contain the same content as the desktop site
  • Use the same clear and meaningful headings

Check structured content

  • Mobile and desktop sites should have the same structured data
  • Use correct URLs in structured data

Put the same metadata on both versions of your site

  • This includes the meta title and meta description

Check the placement of your ads

Check visual content

  • Use high-quality images
  • Don’t use URLs that change every time the page loads for images
  • Make sure that the mobile site has the same alt text for images as the desktop site
  • Make sure that the mobile page content quality is as good as the desktop page

Check videos

So what does Mobile-First Indexing mean for you? Here are a few tips! 

Analyse Google crawling and errors

This can be done through Search Console’s “Mobile Usability” test to easily identify which errors are affecting your site and what pages they are occurring on.

Using a responsive web design

A responsive web design is a modern design approach that means having a website that is designed to render pages across a variety of devices and windows or screen sizes. Ideally, all sites should be designed with a mobile-first approach.

Use identical content on every device

This not only includes on-page content like headings, videos and images but also metadata and structured content.

Optimise mobile page load time

Mobile speed can be checked either through PageSpeed Insights or Lighthouse.

Is it the same as having a mobile-friendly site?

Whilst having a mobile friendly-site doesn’t automatically mean your site is going to be indexed positively, it definitely helps. Google offers a free tool for users to check whether or not their website is mobile-friendly. Run the test to find out!