Mobile-First Indexing Best Practices

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It is an obvious fact that smartphones are overtaking desktops and laptops in terms of usage. According to Broadband Search, 52.2% of all internet traffic came from mobile phones. Naturally, the need for the mobile-optimised web pages is increasing. As a result, it would be counterproductive for Google to serve desktop-oriented pages to mobile users. So, Google has been experimenting with its index since 2017 to serve mobile users with mobile optimised web pages. Google’s mobile-first indexing is a part of this experiment.

What Is Mobile-First Indexing?

When a new web page or blog is added to a website, the webpage has to be indexed by Google in order for that page to appear on the search results. How does Google index web pages? The automated bots of Google crawl the said web page. Now, traditionally these bots were desktop bots, meaning, the user agent of the bots was desktop-oriented. Desktop bots used to index desktop-oriented versions of the website. As a result, people were more likely to see the desktop version of the web page even if a person used a mobile phone (although the website can use tools to detect mobile users to serve mobile-friendly sites). Now with mobile-first indexing, the mobile version of the website is primarily indexed and served to the users.

Questions and the Answers

You might be wondering, if your website is having unique URLs for desktop and mobile as well, will the desktop users be shown the mobile version of the URL too?

No, But the indexed content would be the mobile version.

Is there any opt-out or opt-in for this mobile-first indexing?

The answer is no. It is up to Google’s system that takes into account the website’s responsiveness, CSS and JS present, the HTML structure etc to decide if the website will be crawled by Google’s Smartphone bot.

Suppose, your website is crawled by Google’s Smartphone Bot, but your website is not mobile-friendly. Does that mean that your website will not be indexed?

No, your website will be indexed, but your ranking will get hurt.

Mobile-First Indexing Best Practices:

  • The easiest way to make your website mobile friendly is to use responsive themes and web design. That way, you don’t have to modify HTML codes or use altogether different URLs. Responsive web pages adapt to the screen size of the users.
  • If you are tech-savvy or if you can hire web design experts, you can use different HTML code for the mobile version of the website. That way, you can customise your web pages for mobile users.
  • Google recommends not to use too resource-heavy Javascript or CSS so that mobile users can access the web page at a decent speed. Google also recommends not to use video formats that are unplayable on mobile phones.
  • Your website must signal the presence of mobile optimised web pages and URLs to Google.
  • Google crawlers need to get access to every module of your website – CSS, JavaScript, Ads, images. If Google Bot does not get access to any of the modules, it will think that the website or webpage is not optimized for mobile.
  • Some mobile versions of the web pages do not have the same content as the original desktop version. This can hurt the SEO, as less information means fewer keywords.
  • Google recommends to place ads at the bottom of the mobile-friendly page and not at the top.

Potential Challenges

Mobile-first indexing poses some challenges in front of the webmasters. If you have a website that is fairly old, chances are, it is quite hard to implement themes or modify the design to make way for mobile-friendliness. As a result, you might have to modify the code of the website from scratch.


Developing a mobile-friendly version of the website requires considerable HTML and web design knowledge. You either have to spend time learning new things or spend money to hire web design experts. 

Mobile-first indexing creates suspense when it comes to SEO. Nobody knows how a site is going to perform once it gets switched to mobile-first indexing. 

Bottomline

Mobile-first indexing is not a matter of ‘if.’ It’s a matter of when. In fact, all the new sites that have popped up from July 2019 are indexed using Google’s Smartphone bots. And in September 2020, the mobile-first indexing will happen for all websites new and old. Websites must evolve to accommodate the changing web usage pattern. Evolution is the keyword.

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