The indexing of your content by Google crawlers depends on user demand and the quality of your content. Previously, Google used to index pages predominantly based on the desktop version. However, due to the huge spike in users using mobile devices for their Google searches in the current day and age, Google primarily crawls mobile versions of pages first which gave rise to the Google’s Mobile-First Indexing rule.
Mobile-first indexing was set as default for all new websites on July 1, 2019. For existing websites, the owners were informed via the Search Console of the date their site was switched to mobile-first indexing.
The following are some best practices to rank high in mobile-first indexing.
For your page to rank higher in mobile-first indexing, ensure all your images have alt text. The alt text should be descriptive of the image as empty or irrelevant alt text negatively affects ranking. Alt text is important for crawlers to understand the image better.
Below are examples of good and bad alt text.
<img src=”Lion.jpg” alt=”A photo of a lion resting in its natural habitat” />
<img src=”Lion.jpg” alt=”Image” />
This is one of the basic requirements for your website to be indexed properly. When you have both a desktop and mobile version of your page, make sure that both have the same primary content. If your mobile site has less content in comparison to your desktop site, work on increasing the content to be on par with the desktop site. If you prefer to have less content on your mobile site, it is not ideal as Google will assess and understand that your site does not have all the necessary information and skip indexing your site. So be careful not to let your preferences affect your ranking.
Importance of Headings
Headings are important page elements for Googlebot to understand your content. Pay attention to which tags you use for headings as incorrect usage will adversely affect your ranking. Look at the below example to have a better idea of which tags are preferable for better indexing. For headings, h1 through h6 provides hierarchy; div will apply CSS styles in bulk.
<h1>Importance of Headings</h1>
<div>Importance of Headings</div>
Placement of Ads
Placement of ads is much more important than you think for mobile pages than the desktop version. This is because the display window is much larger on a desktop than a mobile. Some websites will have a plus button to display the rest of the page in the mobile version. This is not a best practice as Googlebot will not click the button to crawl the additional information. Therefore, there will not be visibility of content to Google in such instances. Users can view the content and will not be affected much by the placement of ads while using a desktop.
However, on a mobile, if ads are at the start of the page, it will require the user to scroll past it before getting to more content as the display is narrow. This might increase bounce rate as users usually won’t have the patience to scroll past ads which occupy relatively more space on mobile devices. Thus, paying close attention to the placement of ads is vital.
Robots meta tags
Ensure that you use the same robots meta tags and robots.text directives for the desktop version and the mobile version. This will help with mobile-first indexing. Be careful not to use ‘noindex or nofollow tags’ on your mobile site as these tags will prevent Google from crawling and indexing the page.
X-Robots-Tag: googlebot: nofollow
X-Robots-Tag: googlebot: noindex
Invisible parts of the page
Invisible parts of the page, though invisible to page visitors, are very much visible to Googlebot. So you have to take them into consideration while optimizing your page for mobile-first indexing. Structured data and metadata markup are two invisible components that have a big impact on your ranking. With regard to structured data, ensure that you follow the same structured data for both the mobile and desktop version. Similar to this, use identical metadata (title and meta description) in both versions of the site.
Image and Video quality
Having good image and video quality on your mobile site is more important than most of us assume. The general tendency is to use lower quality versions for your mobile site as the display size is smaller. However, this is not ideal as Google treats desktop and mobile versions the same. For images, many websites use thumbnails in the mobile version. We should avoid this as Google will consider this a low resolution and poor quality image. This in turn lowers your ranking. Therefore use the same image and video quality for both versions of your site to increase the likelihood of getting better traffic to your website.
The relevance of the content you come up with for the keyword is fundamental to your site getting indexed properly in mobile-first indexing. The content should be organic and not plagiarized. External links to credible sources that have domain authority will improve Googlebot’s assessment of your reliability. Avoid keyword stuffing and using irrelevant secondary keywords to help Google rank your content better.
Host crawl capacity
Host crawl capacity is vital for mobile-first indexing. Ensure that your site host has the capacity to handle as many mobile crawlers as desktop crawlers. This will help Googlebot to easily index your website and rank it appropriately. Deviation in this will result in indexing issues which will affect flow of web traffic to your mobile site.
Loading speed of the website is also considered by Google during indexing. So, optimize your page so that the loading speed is as low as possible. Google values user experience and therefore will rank pages with good loading speeds higher. Lazy loading is prevalent in mobile sites where only part of the page loads and the rest appears only after a click of a button or any other form of navigation. This practice is followed primarily to improve loading speeds. As a best practice, lazy loading should be optimized so that it shows all the relevant primary content for better ranking and mobile-first indexing.
We hope that the above tips will help you to have a better understanding on the best practices to be followed for mobile-first indexing and the pitfalls you need to avoid. Keep optimizing your website and you will reach new heights in your SEO journey.