By Nikia Sayre, Director of SEO Strategy.
Updated July 22, 2020

Google announced on its blog that its final, full switch to Mobile First requirements will be postponed from September 2020 to March 2021. But even though the deadline is delayed, the urgency should not be.

As background, you should know that people conduct more Google searches on mobile devices now, than desktops. Historically, Google’s website rankings were based on the content of your desktop version. In 2016, Google started switching to mobile-first indexing. The search giant had previously set a September 2020 deadline to make the comprehensive switch complete but postponed it because of the public health crisis.

So, if your mobile website lacks the same rich, robust content as your desktop version, you may be in trouble. Mobile-first indexing will be the standard into the future.

“This change means that mobile websites will be crawled and indexed by Google by default. So Google may skip over any important information that’s only visible on your desktop version,” said Edwin Acevedo, SEO & Analytics Lead, TruStar Marketing. “Websites that aren’t mobile-first won’t be punished, but you do need to make sure you are ready to have a mobile website with the rich content you had on your desktop version. You only hurt yourself if you don’t make sure you’re ready.”

Preparing for Mobile-first Indexing and Best Practices

To Google, the term mobile typically describes Apple, Android and Windows smartphones. Mobile and desktop browsers are similar. The mobile screen size is obviously smaller and most of the time, the default orientation is vertical.

To get ready for mobile-first and to ensure your users – and potential customers – have the best experience, check out these 2 recommendations:

Have responsive web design: It doesn’t matter what ‘on the go’ device someone is using, a responsive web design can render the same website but display it differently based on the size of the screen. This is considered the easiest way to get ready.

Have a dynamic serving website: Dynamic serving websites use the same URL, regardless of device type, but generate different versions of HTML and thus, different looks for the site based on what is known about the user’s browser.

Submit any changes to Google by verifying your site ownership on Search Console. Here are 7 more strategies Google recommends to fine tune your mobile site for mobile-first indexing:

● Desktop and mobile content must be the same. If it’s not, it’s time to do some updating. Make sure you use the same headlines on both sites, also.

● If you have structured data, make sure it’s the same on both sites. Train the Data Highlighter on your mobile site, if you use it.

● The metadata (descriptive title and meta description) should be the same on both versions.

● Check your ad placement for the best user experience and don’t put them at the top of the page.

● Make sure the images and videos you use are high quality and saved in a supported format. Use the same alt text for images and same structured data for videos on both sites.

● Don’t use URLs that change every time the page loads an image or video. If you use constantly-changing URLs, Google can’t process or index your site properly.

Scaling down the desktop version of your website to fit on a mobile device is not enough with mobile-first indexing. No one wants to have to zoom, pinch or scroll to find the information they need on a particular site – they’ll just go somewhere else.

So, if you don’t have a mobile version of your website – get one. If you do have a mobile site, but the content doesn’t match the desktop version – it’s time to change that and make sure they mirror each other. It will be worth it when your content starts showing up where it needs to.

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