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Google’s Deadline: No Mobile Access, No Indexing After July 5th!

By this summer, the world of web indexing as such will change. Google confirmed once again what it earlier announced in 2016, that tomorrow (that is, from 5 July 2024) websites without mobile access, or if your site is not fully available for mobile, Google will no longer index or rank your site. This is a crucial piece of news for any business website and any website developer.

The Journey to Mobile-First Indexing

Mobile and Desktop First IndexingIt wasn’t until early 2016, however, when Google started to prioritize crawling for mobile over desktop, that a shift to mobile-first indexing gained momentum. It was prompted by more and more of the world’s users coming online using a mobile device. By October 2021, it was possible according to Google, to have moved many sites to mobile-first crawling, but the transition wasn’t complete, and on 5 July 2024, a final ‘white glove’ push will be made.

This final step, too, was outlined this year by John Mueller, a senior webmaster trends analyst at Google, in a blog post, “As of 5 July 2024, the small set of sites we’ve still been crawling with desktop Googlebot will be crawled with mobile Googlebot. Any remaining sites that had previously been crawled by desktop Googlebot will be switched to only mobile crawling.”

What This Means for Your Website

What does this mean? It means if your website isn’t accessible on mobile devices, it won’t be visible to the Googlebot. And if it can’t be seen by the Googlebot, it’s no longer visible to index, and it’s no longer visible to rank. Mueller’s comment seems to confirm just that, ‘If your site’s content is not accessible at all with a mobile device, it will no longer be indexable.

That’s not just referring to mobile-friendliness, either. It’s more structural, the mobile version of your site should actually load and operate on a mobile device. Sites that load, yes, even render on mobile devices but do not have specific mobile versions with a mobile theme are not affected, they’re perfectly findable and usable on a smartphone or tablet.

Preparing for the Change

To make sure that your website continues to be listed by Google, do the following:

1. Test your site for mobile compatibility: Google provides a good tool, called Mobile-Friendly Test, that assesses how your website is delivered to mobile. It will tell you where your site is not serving mobile users properly.

2. Improve Load Times: Loading speeds are important to mobile users, use checkers like Google PageSpeed Insights to learn how to improve load times on mobile devices.

3. Responsive Design: Follow responsive web design best practices, which means making your site scale on many different sizes of screens and in different orientations, so that it works well in any context.

4. Cross-Device Testing: Ensure that your website works consistently from time to time and on multiple devices and browsers to ensure that all your visitors can access it.

5. Try Google Search Console: The URL Inspection tool in Google Search Console can show you how Googlebot views your site, for example, by giving you information about how your site renders on mobile, and letting you know about errors.

Mobile-First IndexingWhat If Your Site Isn’t Ready?

While it won’t spell the end of the world if your website isn’t mobile-friendly by 5 July, it may hurt your SEO scores, which could dramatically affect your website traffic and visibility. Search engines will no longer index sites that don’t render well on mobile devices such as phones and tablets.

For sites that are still accessible via desktop (but load on mobile), there’s less imminent risk, but a switch to mobile-friendly web design will future proof your site from any further changes from Google, improving its usability for your visitors.

Special Cases: Desktop Crawling Continues

While the switchover is largely mobile-first and vast in scale, Google is keeping the Googlebot Desktop crawler active for some content types (such as Product listing and Google for Jobs data). In other words, some aspects of crawling activity for desktop may still show up in your server logs and reporting.

Why This Matters

This is really not a hurdle for most website owners and developers, but make sure that if you’re working with a client whose site doesn’t render on mobile devices it’s something they address immediately. Mobile now needs to be part of your SEO strategy, so use Google Search Console URL Inspection tool to see that your site and all its pages render on mobile phones and do what you have to do to make sure they do.

To Sum Everything Up

The shift to mobile-first indexing represents a new paradigm shift for the web. If users are increasingly spending more time online via mobile devices, having a mobile-compatible site is no longer an SEO concern but a user experience concern. Beginning on 5 July 2024, if your site is not mobile accessible, then you will not be findable in the search engines. People will not be able to find you if you do not address these issues. Act now so that you do not miss the boat as it sails into the Mobile First World of the web.

Considering the advice outlined above will set you on the path to being ready for those changes, and your website will continue to rank well in the search results, providing traffic and growth to your business.

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