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From mobile-first to mobile-only

mobile_first index

The Mobile First Indexing initiative has come a long way since Google announced its plans in 2016. In December 2017, Google began rolling out Mobile First Indexing to a small handful of sites, but did not specified which were part of this first test group.

In late 2018, Google said Mobile First indexing (Mobile First means that the mobile version of a website is considered the primary version when determining page rankings) was being used for more than half of web pages in Google search results. Then, Google announced that Mobile First indexing was going to be the default for all new web domains (all sites that Google didn’t know about) starting July 1, 2019.

Which doesn’t mean that Google has created a separate index for mobile results and those for laptops and desktops. This simply means mobile pages are crawled first and Google falls back to the mobile/desktop version if no phone version is found. This describes how Google crawls and indexes the web, using a mobile experience. If a site does not have a mobile-friendly version, the desktop version may, so far, still be included in Google’s index. However, the lack of a user experience adapted to mobile devices can have a negative impact on the ranking of the site. Conversely, a site with a better smartphone experience can potentially benefit from a better ranking even for Internet users carrying out searches on a desktop computer.

Google explained that the change in how sites are indexed is intended to help “mostly mobile” users (today, nearly 2/3 of searches are done on mobile) to better search the web. Since 2015, the majority of Google users start their searches from mobile devices. It therefore makes sense that search results are obtained from the mobile versions of the website, and not from laptops and desktops.

Mobile loading speed.

Mobile phone indexing isn’t the only way Google is using to meet the needs of the ever-growing number of mobile phone users.

Several years ago, it had already started to improve the ranking of mobile-friendly web pages in searches. Last year, it added a signal that uses page load speed to help determine a page’s ranking in mobile search. As of July 2018, slow loading content has been downgraded.

While many sites today present the same content to users whether they’re on desktop or mobile, those who haven’t yet achieved that parity have a variety of resources to help them get started. Site owners can check if their site is indexed first on mobile by using the URL Inspection tool in Search Console to see when the site was last crawled and indexed. Google also has a slew of material on how to make websites work for mobile-first indexing, and suggests that websites support responsive web design — not separate mobile URLs.

We are happy to see how the web has evolved from a desktop-centric site to a mobile-friendly interface, and now to a site that can be browsed and indexed with a mobile user-agent,” Google said in its May 2019 announcement.

Mobile Only! What’s changing in September 2020?

Google has announced that by September 2020, all sites will be crawled and indexed by Google using Mobile First indexing. NB. : following the pandemic, the date has been postponed to April 2021.

“To simplify, we will be moving to Mobile First indexing for all websites starting in September 2020,” Google said. Most sites have already been indexed and you can check if your site has been indexed by logging into Google Search Console.

“According to our analysis, most sites in search results are ready to be indexed first on mobile, and 70% of sites in our search results have already been indexed,” Google said. So there is a good chance that your site has already switched to Mobile First indexing.

You now have a date, it’s April 2021. If you get a message from Search Console, it’s probably something you need to read and act on. If Google has problems accessing your site with the mobile-crawler, this can have an impact on the indexing and ranking of your web pages in Google.

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