There has been a rapid growth in usage of mobile devices over the last decade. With this extensive use of smartphones, websites are experiencing a huge traffic originating from them. Now the number of the google searches being made from mobile devices is roughly above 50% percent of the total searches. You, ultimately, have no other way except to consider a mobile devices as a major source of your website traffics, which is why the idea of Mobile-first indexing has arrived.

Of course, Google has only one indexing for both desktop and mobile devices. But in mobile-first indexing, websites’ mobile versions become the starting point for what Google includes in their index. Therefore, Google will clearly continue using only one index, instead of having a separate one for mobile version.

What exactly is “mobile-first indexing”?

Mobile-first indexing lets Google use the mobile version of the content for both indexing and ranking predominantly. In this concept of mobile-first indexing, mobile version of the websites becomes the baseline for how Google determines rankings.

Google index previously used the desktop version of a website content while evaluating the relevance of a page to a user's query. As most users now access Google via a mobile device, the index will now primarily use the mobile version of a website’s content going forward.

8 best practices for mobile-first indexing

After more than a year and half of experimentation, Google finally started rolling out its mobile-first indexing, as announced on March 26, 2018. There are some top practices that Google hints in its mobile-first indexing documentation. Let’s find out what you have to do for mobile-first indexing. You are advised to ensure the following best practices upon having a  dynamic serving or separate URLs (or m-dot) site.

  1. Your mobile site should have the same content as your desktop site. If the mobile site has less content than the desktop site, consider updating your mobile site to make sure its primary content is equivalent to your desktop site. The content includes text, images (with alt-attributes), and videos. They should be in the usual crawlable and indexable formats.
  2. Present structured data on both desktop and mobile versions of the site. URLs in the structured data on the mobile versions should be updated to the mobile URLs. Check the Data Highlighter dashboard for extraction errors on a regular basis if you use Data Highlighter.
  3. Be sure to include Metadata on both versions of the site. Make the title and meta description equivalent across all versions.
  4. Verify both versions in Search Console to confirm your access to data and messages for both versions. 
  5. Link separately between mobile and desktop URLs while using rel=hreflang link elements for internationalization.
  6. Since there is a chance of traffic boost, make sure your server has enough capacity to handle the increased crawl rate on the mobile version of your site.
  7. Make sure robots.txt directives work as intended to, for both mobile and desktop versions of your site. The robots.txt file lets site owners control the parts of a website being crawled or not. Use same directives for both mobile and desktop versions in most cases.
  8. Have correct rel=canonical and rel=alternate link elements between your mobile and desktop versions.

Sites with a better mobile experience will potentially receive a rankings boost even for searchers on a desktop. Google says, “Our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site”.Sooner or later, you will eventually have to optimize your site for mobile-first indexing. To make sure you don’t lose potential organic traffic for your site, consider mobile-first indexing.