It has been known for some time that Google was planning a major shift to mobile-first indexing for some point in the first half of 2021. The deadline had initially been set for September last year, though for unknown reasons,would come to be pushed back.
Confirming what most SEO gurus and webmasters knew was coming; Google’s John Mueller stated on Twitter that the planned deadline is indeed March.
“That’s approximately the target, we don’t have a critical reason to reach any particular cut-off date, so it could be that the remaining sites are a bit spread out, some earlier, some a little bit later.”
This suggests that no formal deadline date has been set, meaning there may be some leeway with regard to sites being moved over slightly before or slightly after the 1st of April.
What to Expect From Mobile-First Indexing
As with most major alterations to Googles indexation system, many sites moved over to the new mobile-first indexing standards are expected to encounter changes to their performance. Some for the better, some for the worse; it all depends on how much prep has been taken care of in advance.
For the vast majority of sites that are already mobile-friendly, SEO performance will either stick around the same level or improve. If things take an immediate or gradual dive, it suggests that one or more of Googles good practice guidelines have not been heeded.
Issued some time ago for developers, the following are the main pointers outlined by Google:
- Use the same Meta robot tags on the mobile and desktop site.
- Don’t lazy-load primary content upon user interaction.
- Let Google crawl your resources.
- Make sure that your mobile and desktop sites have the same structured data.
- Use correct URLs in structured data.
- If you use Data Highlighter, train it on your mobile site.
- Provide high quality images.
- Use a supported format for images.
- Don’t use URLs that change every time the page loads for images.
- Make sure that the mobile site has the same alt text for images as the desktop site.
- Make sure that the mobile page content quality is as good as the desktop page.
- Make sure that the error page status is the same on both the desktop and mobile sites.
- Make sure that your mobile version does not have fragment URLs.
- Ensure that the desktop versions that serve different contents have equivalent mobile versions.
- Verify both versions of your site in Search Console to make sure that you have access to data and messages for both versions.
- Check hreflang links on separate URLs.
- Ensure that your mobile site has enough capacity to handle a potential increase in crawl rate on the mobile version of your site.
If you have any concerns as to the mobile-friendliness of your website, you now have very limited time to do something about it. Unless you can handle the necessary adjustments and improvements in-house, it may be advisable to hire help to ensure all major boxes are ticked before the end of March.