Google’s Mobile First Indexing | Lesson 34/34 | SEMrush Academy

Learn what not to overlook when it comes to structured data, AMP, JavaScript SEO, and mobile-first indexing.
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0:05 Google’s Mobile First Indexing approach
0:45 Google’s challenges
1:32 Changes
2:35 Site and content parity are crucial
2:46 What to do if you have a separate mobile site
3:47 You can verify with your log files
3:59 Tips

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Mobile first indexing is about Google preferring and organising cross-device content in a way that can be easily queried from and displayed on a lot of different devices.

So what can happen is, that if you start searching on Google, you will use a mobile device, but when you end up clicking on something that serves a desktop page it’s a very bad user experience.

There are big challenges for Google regarding mobile first indexing. Google has never had to swap over an entire index to something new, and doing it without experimentation would be impossible. Sites should not be hurt or lose out significantly in the process. Therefore large scale indexing experiments will be conducted. That is what Gary Illyes said at SMX in Seattle last year.

It is super important for Google to figure out the signals of an 18-year-old desktop. Generally, how can this be used for the mobile web? E.g. the link graph is different and totally messed up – because mobile subdomain almost never has external inbound links. How are Google to make this work? Just flipping won’t do it.

In the future, your rankings will be entirely based on your mobile website. We will have only one index. Not a desktop or mobile index, just one and the same. For desktop-only sites, indexing stays the same. However crawling will be done by using a mobile user agent. Google will index mobile content; if, and only if, you don’t have that, will they index desktop content – no one will fall out entirely.

There are lots of different but very common mobile design elements – accordions, tab switches, carousels, etc – Google is going to assign them the same value as non-hidden content. It is not like on a desktop where you should be very careful to hide something behind for example read more buttons. It is totally fine on mobile as long as the content is straight away available in the source code; so no delayed JS loading is possible.

Site- and content-parity is absolutely crucial. Make sure that desktop and mobile are in sync regarding content and annotations, as well as indexation directives, etc. If you have a separate mobile site, make sure it has all the indexation rules, but also covers simple things like ensuring that images are available, that it has rel-canonicals, hreflang and everything else present.

All of this is way easier to do if you are on a responsive site, as in this case it is all the same markup and you do not have to do things twice.

But if you are on www as well as on a m. setup, make sure that those sites are in sync. If you have less content on the mobile site, that will mean that Google can’t rank you for the stuff that is missing. If there is content that covers an important topic on desktop but it is not available on mobile, chances are that you will be losing out.

Google is going to inform you in GSC if your site has been switched over, so there are mobile first indexing notifications that will tell you that mobile first indexing has been enabled for that specific domain.

If you are curious, you can verify it with your log files as well. You can see in your log files if Googlebot for Smartphone is overtaking Googlebot desktop.

Let’s finish this off with some tips on mobile first indexing to make sure that you are not losing out with this one:

Understand your mobile setup and its pros & cons. What are you using it for and why? If it is responsive, you should generally be good to go. If you are on dynamic serving, Include the vary: user agent HTTP header. Identify and serve the relevant web version to the right user agent. If you have an independent mobile website, implement rel alternate and canonical tags between mobile and desktop URLs.
Revise your keywords and keyword targeting. Are the keywords still the right ones? Are people searching for something different if they are on a mobile journey?
Make sure that the site is mobile friendly. Easy test: verify yourself using built-in Chrome DevTools (Ctrl+Shift+I). Then you can switch to responsive, and you will see if your site generally looks OK.

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