Update on the Mobile First Index: From
September 2020 March 2021, it will get serious for websites that are not yet mobile-ready.From then on, Google will crawl websites exclusively with the smartphone bot. Now is the right time to panic!*
New update! We got a few more months grace period from Google. On 21.07.20 came the official news on Google Webmaster Central blog that the switch to Mobile First Index will happen only in March 2021. Plenty of time, then, for all those who have so far skillfully ignored the impending mobile-first update – or knew nothing about it.
On the fly:
- What does mobile first even mean?
- What is the Mobile First Index?
- How do I see if my website has been converted to MFI?
- What can I do to get my website ready to go?
- Do I need to worry if I don’t have a mobile website?
Why Mobile First? What does that even mean?
We own smartphones. We are mobile on the road. And we use our technical friends, which we carry with us at all times, to continuously get information from the web.
Smartphone usage in Germany in 2019 speaks for itself:
We consume. And we are frustrated when the website we want something from right now loads slowly. Statistically, after 2 to 3 seconds of being in wait mode, we are so annoyed that we disappear again and seek our luck elsewhere. If the website is not usable at all because it simply looks subterranean on a smartphone, we might not come back at all. The user experience is too bad. And because Google, with 90% market share worldwide, is the search engine that presents us with search results that match our query, they say: Mobile first! Mobile user first! Websites should be usable on smartphones and tablets. Websites that only work on desktop computers are not user-friendly (anymore). Period.
The basis for this is Google’s mission statement: : “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. Combine this with Google’s vision statement “To provide access to the world’s information in one click” and it becomes clear why the mobile-first approach is so important to the search engine giant. Apart from the economic aspect.
That’s why Google reacted back in 2016 and announced the Mobile First Index.
What is the Mobile First Index?
First of all: The “Mobile First Index” or “Mobile Index” is not a separate Google index. As before, there is only one index in which websites are included. What has changed with the update, however, is the method by which websites are now evaluated: Previously, Google used the desktop version of a website to evaluate quality and rankings. With the Mobile First Index, this changes and in the future, the mobile version of the website will be used for evaluation and index coverage.
This means: The crawler, which runs over our websites and collects and evaluates information and then uses this for the ranking in Google, will soon only be the smartphone bot. By the way, this is the Google bot:
Cute looking, isn’t he? But if he thinks a website is not user-friendly, the odds are 1-0 in his favor.
Google announced the official launch of the Mobile First Index in April 2018. However, only a few websites were affected by the changeover for the time being.
The actual rollout of the new indexing method then began in September 2018. We can see whether our own website has already been converted by the notification “Your website has been converted to mobile-first indexing” in Search Console:
In addition, we can see the exact date of the changeover. Very helpful to be able to better classify changes (e.g. traffic, rankings).
Since July 2019, Google now crawls all new pages that were not previously in the index with the smartphone bot by default. Pages that have already been indexed, but which Google believes are not mobile optimized, are currently still crawled with the desktop bot. Grace period, then. And time to act.
How do I see if my website has already been converted to MFI?
Those who have linked their own website to Google Search Console can see here whether the smartphone bot has taken over the crawling.
In index coverage:
What can I do to get my website ready for the Mobile First Index?
If your website is already responsive, you can sit back and relax. Responsive = website adapts to the respective end device, all content is displayed and available on all end devices (smartphone, tablet, desktop).
- Linking the website to Search Console to see the indexing status and detect errors if necessary
- Mobile version and desktop version should not differ in content and provide all content and make it accessible (text, images, videos, links, etc.)
- Structured data should also be implemented in the mobile version
- The pages should load quickly, a test can be done e.g. with the Google tool Test My Site
- Those who use lazy loading for the mobile version should make sure that the main content that is reloading is accessible to Google
- The meta data should be the same in both versions
Here’s Google’s full best practices list for mobile-first indexing.
If my website is not mobile optimized, do I need to worry?
*Don’t panic, but react! Anyone who still does not provide their users with a mobile-ready website after
September 2020 March 2021 can probably expect a severe loss of ranking and visibility in organic search. The motto is “mobile first”! We’ve had just under five years to adapt our websites to the evolution of the mobile-used web. Anyone who has successfully ignored this trend so far should therefore react now at the latest and take the train instead of letting it gallantly whiz by. 😉