Mobile-first indexing means that Google Search is shifting how it index and rank website content from the desktop to the mobile version of websites.
We’re in a mobile era. It’s been over five years since the number of mobile searches overtook the number of desktop searches. It makes sense for Google to index and rank content based on the mobile pages since more people will see the mobile versions.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to check if Google has already switched your site to mobile-first indexing, and how to prepare if they haven’t.
Are Your Website on Mobile-First Indexing?
Google announced the shift to mobile-first indexing in 2016. Since then, they’ve slowly been rolling it out to more and more sites. By March 2021, Google aims to have rolled out mobile-first indexing for every site. In other words, their index will be mobile-only.
What is Mobile-First Indexing Detailed Timeline?
1) November 2016 — Mobile-first indexing announced and being tested on some sites.
2) March 2018 — Mobile-first indexing being rolled out.
3) December 2018 – Over 50% of crawled sites now on mobile-first indexing.
4) July 2019 – Mobile-first indexing by default for new sites.
5) March 2020 — Over 70% of crawled sites now on Mobile-first indexing. They also announced mobile-first indexing would be used on 100% of sites by September 2020.
6) July 2020 – Coronavirus delays 100% mobile-first indexing to March 2021.
7) March 2021 – Tentative launch of 100% mobile-first indexing.
According to the most recent information we have from Google in March 2020, 70% of sites have already switched to mobile-first indexing.
You can check if you’re in that 70% with Google Search Console. Just go to “Settings” where they identify the crawler in the “About” section and tell you if and when your website switched to mobile indexing.
If you’re still on the desktop index, it might be because you have a separate mobile (m‑dot) website or a complex website. Either way, you’re likely in for some troubles ahead and need to prepare accordingly.
How to Prepare to Mobile First Indexing?
Let’s be doubly clear: Google doesn’t have a separate mobile and desktop index. There’s one index, and Google is slowly switching to indexing the mobile versions of sites instead of desktop versions. This can be an issue because content that isn’t seen on your mobile version will not be counted after Google switches you to mobile-first indexing.
As mentioned above, this isn’t usually a problem for responsive sites, but it can be an issue for complex websites or those using the old m‑dot sites (e.g., m.website.com).
Let’s run through some of the things you may need to check to have a smooth transition.