SEO and Mobile-First Indexing

Google has been working for a couple of years on mobile-first indexing. This was implemented across new sites that were never indexed on July 1, 2019, and then applied to all other sites around September 2020.

Mobile-First Indexing

Search engine optimization (SEO) has been around for over 20 years. There is no exact or official story for when it started, but we do know that it was around the time the first website was created or when the first web search engine was launched.

According to moz.com, “SEO is the practice of enhancing the quantity and quality of traffic to a website through organic search engine results.”

There are several search engines out there, but the most popular is Google, with over 70% of the search market share (Hubspot, The Top 7 Search Engines, Ranked by Popularity)

The idea behind SEO is using keywords, tags, links, and content that stand out for the Google search engine to enhance a website’s ranking.

The idea behind SEO is using keywords, tags, links, and content that stand out for the Google search engine to enhance a website’s ranking.

Today, Google determines a website rank based on the results of the algorithm and information generated by “spiders” that crawl the web. Being ranked on the top of a search page shows how relevant the page is to the search query. But the formula and algorithms are ever-changing as Google strives to improve its search engine results. At the end of the day, success comes down to a user’s experience on the search engine, and this is what Google is always striving to improve.

Search engines work through three primary functions (Moz, The Beginner’s Guide to SEO):

  1. Crawling: Scouring the internet for content and looking over the code/content for each URL they find.
  2. Indexing: Storing and organizing the content found during the crawling process. Once a page is in the index, it is in the running to be displayed as a result to relevant queries.
  3. Ranking: Providing the pieces of content that will best answer a searcher’s query, which means that results are ordered by most relevant to least relevant.

Google has been working for a couple of years on mobile-first indexing. This was implemented across new sites that were never indexed on July 1, 2019, and then applied to all other sites around September 2020.

Mobile-first indexing means that Google will be focusing on crawling and ranking websites based on the mobile versions of the content. Historically, the indexing process was focused on the desktop version of the content. Since there is a higher number of users accessing Google’s search engine through their mobile devices, Googlebot now primarily crawls and indexes pages with the smartphone agent. This makes sense when it comes to user experience, as we have a higher number of users searching through their phones.

When it comes to optimizations through mobile or desktop, they are similar, but there are a few recommendations to keep in mind when we are thinking of mobile-first:

  • Make sure that the content, metadata, and structured data are the same across desktop and mobile. These can be checked through this URL testing tool – this tool can help you easily check both mobile and desktop versions simultaneously.
  • Use mobile-responsive web design principles.
  • Make sure to follow image and video best practices.
  • Make sure Google can see your mobile content:
    • Use the same robot meta tags on mobile that you are using on desktop.
    • Cease lazy-loading (this is more likely to happen for mobile than desktop). Avoid loading based on user interactions such as swiping, clicking, or typing – follow lazy-loading best practices.
    • Be aware of what you block. Sometimes resources have different URLs when it comes to mobile and desktop or are served on different hosts. Test this robots.txt file tool to see if a resource is being blocked and how to resolve it.

SEO is always changing, but we believe that it is happening to improve our experiences online. With so much content and so many websites, Google is tweaking its engine to better serve us and help us find what we are looking for. The heavier focus on mobile indexing is pushing companies to make sure that the mobile version of their site is Google friendly, which is no longer an option but a necessity for enhancing their ranking.

Click here for additional mobile-first indexing best practices from Google Search Central. If you have specific questions or need guidance, please reach out to us at media@donlonagency.com.

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