It’s been a few years now that Google started working on mobile-first indexing – Google’s crawling of the web using a smartphone Googlebot.
Full Mobile Indexing from September 2020
Google’s analysis shows that most sites shown in search results are good to go for mobile-first indexing and 70% of those shown in their search results have already shifted over to being mobile-friendly.
To simplify the search results they have announed they will be switching to mobile-first indexing for all websites starting September 2020. In the meantime, they will continue moving sites to mobile-first indexing when as their systems recognize that they’re ready.
When the switch to full mobile-first indexing is implemented, it will see an increase in Googlebot’s crawling, while there index is updated for your site’s mobile version. Depending on the domain, this change will take some time.
Afterwards, they will still occasionally crawl with the traditional desktop Googlebot, but most crawling for Search will be done with their mobile smartphone user-agent. The exact user-agent name used will match the Chromium version used for rendering.
There are multiple ways to check for mobile-first indexin, one of which is Search Console,. The status is shown on the settings page, as well as in the URL Inspection Tool, when checking a specific URL with regards to its most recent crawling.
Google has posted guidance on making websites work well for mobile-first indexing and it continues to be relevant, for new and existing sites. In particular, it is recommend making sure that the content shown is the same (including text, images, videos, links), and that meta data (titles and descriptions, robots meta tags) and all structured data is the same.
It’s good to double-check these when a website is launched or significantly redesigned. In the URL Testing Tools you can easily check both desktop and mobile versions directly. If you use other tools to analyze your website, such as crawlers or monitoring tools, use a mobile user-agent if you want to match what Google Search sees.
While Google say they will continue to support various ways of making mobile websites, it is recommend using a responsive web design for new websites and not using separate mobile URLs (often called “m-dot”) .
Mobile-first indexing has come a long way
It’s great to see how the web has evolved from desktop to mobile, and how webmasters have helped to allow crawling & indexing to match how users interact with the web!
Google’s John Mueller, Developer Advocate, Google Zurich, said they appreciate all the work over the years, which has helped to make this transition fairly smooth.
He also commented that they will continue to monitor and evaluate these changes carefully and if you have any questions, to drop by their Webmaster forums or public events to raise any issues or improvements.