Google Indexing is Becoming Mobile-Only

The Googlebot is switching to mobile-first indexing for the whole web. Let’s cover how mobile-first indexing will affect your website and what steps you can take to ensure a smooth transition.
Photo by Sherise

In 2018, Google implemented mobile-first indexing for select websites and slowly continued to expand its reach. Google uses mobile-first indexing to crawl the web and understand a website’s structure and data, with a specific focus on mobile as opposed to desktop. Today, the number of sites crawled via mobile-first has grown to 70% of the web. 

Mobile-First For the Whole Web Coming Soon

Google announced that all sites will be subject to mobile-first indexing by September. For websites that haven’t adopted mobile-first best practices, this announcement is a wake-up call.   Mobile traffic has surpassed desktop, and Google is placing a premium on catering to smaller screens. 

A redirect or a separate mobile URL is not enough. In fact, Google suggests “not using separate mobile URLs (often called “m-dot”) because of issues and confusion we’ve seen over the years, both from search engines and users.” 

Mobile’s Growth and Relevance

It’s been 5 years since mobile surpassed desktop, and there’s little sign of that trend reversing. Smartphone growth has seen strong growth since 2012 and has leveled off, while desktop and laptop sales have declined in the same time span. With that in mind, a focus on mobile is a no-brainer. 

Ways to Succeed with Mobile-First

Fortunately, there are surefire ways to deliver a mobile-first experience to both benefit from Google’s new indexing and to engage users. Here are two options:

  • AMP (formally known as Accelerated Mobile Pages) is a powerful framework that guarantees a mobile-first, frictionless and fast experience. AMP combines UX advantages and sub-second speed to attract mobile audiences. AMP is an open-source framework, spearheaded by Google, that ticks off all the boxes on what it means to be mobile-first.
  • Progressive Web App (PWA) is a radically new way to attract, engage and convert mobile shoppers. Your website becomes your native app and delivers an experience that users love and Google rewards.

Adopting a mobile-first approach delivers, as our clients measure continued gains.

Some of our clients see mobile representing 80% of their search traffic. By improving page-load speed, making navigation easier for mobile users, implementing content delivery networks, and more, these sites not only have content parity with desktop, but offer an experience curated specifically for mobile. And with upgrades, such as AMP and PWA, clients are realizing dramatic growth. For the first time, clients are seeing conversions and revenue from mobile rival that of desktop.

What does all this mean?

If you have a good mobile site, you should be fine. There are always ways to improve your mobile site to help Google’s mobile-first index know what you have to offer, such as proper site structure and easily identifiable rich data. And really, if you have a good mobile site, odds are you’re one of the 70% that Google has already switched to mobile-first indexing.

However, if you haven’t made the switch to include a better mobile offering, you’ve got a few months to ensure your site is ready. Google shared their guidance in the blog post:

Our guidance on making all websites work well for mobile-first indexing continues to be relevant, for new and existing sites. In particular, we recommend making sure that the content shown is the same (including text, images, videos, links), and that meta data (titles and descriptions, robots meta tags) and all structured data is the same. It’s good to double-check these when a website is launched or significantly redesigned. In the URL Testing Tools you can easily check both desktop and mobile versions directly. If you use other tools to analyze your website, such as crawlers or monitoring tools, use a mobile user-agent if you want to match what Google Search sees.