Mobile-first Indexing Challenges

Mobile-first indexing has been the talk of the town for a while now. Ever since Google announced that it started experimenting to form its index mobile-first in November 2016, people have been skeptical about its launch date.

Recently, in a Google Webmaster’s Central Blog, it announced that the time-frame to completely switch to mobile-first indexing be extended to the end of March 2020. The decision to make mobile-first indexing the default behavior of its search engine was realized keeping in view the excess quantity of users who came from mobile devices.

While you may have more than seven months to incorporate changes to prepare your website for mobile-first indexing, several challenges may occur in the process.

Martin Splitt (Developer Advocate, Google) talks about these challenges in detail in the latest episode of Webmaster Conference Lightning Talk Series. The following are the challenges associated with mobile-first indexing that will be helpful to the publishers, SEOs, and webmasters.

Read 5 SEO Tips to Take Advantage of Mobile-first Indexing

Mobile Crawl Issues

A mobile page may fail to crawl or render when Google crawl with the mobile Googlebot. In such a situation, when a request is made to the mobile pages, there will be little to no information from that particular page. Hence, signals would not be generated to show the mobile page in the Google search results.

Mobile Page Content Issues

One of the main ranking factors through which Google ranks pages is the relevance of the content. Page relevance would be negatively affected if Google gets less or incorrect information from the page which will lead to lower search rankings.

Avoiding Issues for Mobile-first indexing

Both these issues will have negative consequences on a website’s rankings when the site is enabled for mobile-first indexing. To avoid such issues, you’ll need to change some of your website’s settings. As an example, Splitt suggests avoiding the following settings that will prevent Google from crawling or indexing your mobile page.
User-agent: Googlebot
Disallow: ?

On your mobile page:

<meta name=“robots” content=“noindex”>
<meta name=“googlebot” content=“noindex”>

To avoid any of the mobile crawl issues, you need to recheck your robots.txt files while to avoid indexing issues, you have to be careful with noindex and nofollows tags. If your host doesn’t have enough crawl capacity for mobile-first indexing, you may also need to increase it in order to rank higher.

Furthermore, to prepare your site for mobile-first indexing, you need to make sure that the primary content on your desktop and mobile version is the same. Sometimes, mobile versions of the websites contain content far less than the desktop version. It asks visitors to click the plus button to load full content.

Mobile first indexing
Mobile Version

While people can understand that clicking the button would load more content. Googlebot, on the other hand, could not be able to fetch the information. Therefore, all the unloaded information is invisible to Googlebot.

Image and Video Content

Images and videos can either create a positive or negative user experience. To check whether your webpage with images and video content qualifies the best practices of Google, visit the following pages.

Google Image Best Practices

Google Video Best Practices

Invisible Parts of your Website

The invisible part of your website will not affect user experience but it will help Googlebot understand them. Structured data needs to be the same on desktop and mobile pages. Meta descriptions should also be added to the mobile version as they matter a lot for Googlebot.




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