Advice from Google: How to Get Ready for Mobile-First Index

Perspective / Dec 21, 2017
Sally - Lucca Alla Moda
by Sally Baker Digital Marketing Manager

If you’re seeing an increase in your log files for Smartphone Googlebot activity, it might mean that your website is now officially in Google’s mobile-first index.
graphic design in rockford - google mobile first index

Back in 2016, we knew Google was preparing for a new mobile-first index. Industry news over the following year has projected that full rollout to be in 2018. With only a few days left in 2017, it’s hard to believe this rollout is almost here. Google will not give a specific date or timeframe on when their mobile-first index will officially launch. However, signs in Google Search Console and other website tracking tools are showing new activity that is possibly telling us they’re almost ready.

If you look on Google’s Webmaster Blog, you’ll see more and more advice about how sites can get ready for the mobile-first index. In the blog, Google did confirm that they have rolled out the index to a handful of sites for testing purposes. Once this testing phase is complete, we should see it roll out completely shortly after.

When will your site be moved over?

You will know for sure when you start to see a significant increase in the crawl rate by the Smartphone Googlebot. In addition to this, SERP snippets and content on Google cache pages will be drawn from your website’s mobile version. For now, only a small amount of websites have been migrated over but it is only a matter of time…

Google’s Gary Illyes posted various tips and suggestions in order to best prepare for the mobile-first index:

  • Make sure the mobile version of the site also has the important, high-quality content. This includes text, images (with alt-attributes), and videos — in the usual crawlable and indexable formats.
  • Ensure the servers hosting the site have enough capacity to handle potentially increased crawl rate. This doesn’t affect sites that use responsive web design and dynamic serving. It only affects sites where the mobile version is on a separate host, such as m.example.com.
  • Structured data is important for indexing and search features that users love: It should be both on the mobile and desktop version of the site. Ensure URLs within the structured data are updated to the mobile version on the mobile pages.
  • No changes are necessary for interlinking with separate mobile URLs (m.-dot sites). For sites using separate mobile URLs, keep the existing link rel=canonical and link rel=alternate elements between these versions.
  • Metadata should be present on both versions of the site. It provides hints about the content on a page for indexing and serving. For example, make sure that titles and meta descriptions are equivalent across both versions of all pages on the site.
  • Check hreflang links on separate mobile URLs. When using link rel=hreflang elements for internationalization, link between mobile and desktop URLs separately. Your mobile URLs’ hreflang should point to the other language/region versions on other mobile URLs, and similarly link desktop with other desktop URLs using hreflang link elements there.

For more information, check out Google’s mobile-first index FAQs.