In March of 2018, Google started ranking websites using their mobile-first indexing algorithm. By the end of 2018, Google had indexed about one-half of all websites using the new index. With over 60% of online searches now conducted using mobile devices, Google shows results that are mobile friendly first. John Muller, a Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, explains that indexing the last 50% will be harder because the websites are not ready. The website owners must take steps to prepare their websites for mobile-first indexing. Learn how to prepare your website for Google Mobile Search.
Non-matching website versions
The largest indexing issue occurs when the mobile version of a website does not match the desktop version. The difference can be in the content, the links, the structured data, and in other areas. Some websites use a different URL (i.e. example.com vs m.example.com) for serving up web pages. Others strip out desktop content when visitors access a website using a mobile device. All of these issues cause the Googlebot to think that the web pages are different. Google will show visitors the page they think is the most relevant. When Google adds in the PageSpeed ranking, visitors may not be seeing the results you want them to see.
Serve the same version
The best way to fix this issue is to ensure that your website serves up the same version for both desktop and mobile visitors. We use a two-pronged approach for fixing mobile-first issues. The first approach uses a responsive CSS framework (such as Bootstrap) to design a mobile-friendly website. The second approach is to use WordPress coupled with a responsive theme to serve up content. Key to both approaches is to use the same content across all device sizes. We use these approaches because we only have to create the content once. Bootstrap and WordPress determine how to format the content for the correct device.
Use progressive enhancement
Using either approach, it is easy to control the resulting display through CSS and media queries. For example, if the web server detects a visitor using a tablet, then the content is correctly formatted for a tablet-sized screen. Both platforms start with a mobile-first layout and progressively enhances to match larger screens. This means that your website is always ready for mobile-first indexing.
Don’t confuse Google
If the Googlebot determines that your website is not mobile-friendly, or is confused due to web page differences, Google will not include the website as a mobile-friendly website. The Googlebot will continue crawling your website and will start showing the mobile-friendly version once the issues outlined above are corrected. Google informs website owners through their Search Console which issues are creating a challenge. If you don’t have a Google Search Console for your website, ask your web developer to set one up. Also, if your website is not mobile-friendly, ask your web developer to make it ready for mobile-first indexing. Help your website by ensuring that it is ready for Google Mobile Search.
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