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Google SEO 101: Mobile-First Indexing Problems

Google’s Martin Splitt goes over the most common issues with mobile-first indexing, and how to avoid them, in a new Lightning Talks episode.

Google SEO 101: Mobile-First Indexing Problems

In the latest installment of Google’s Lightning Talks video series, Martin Splitt identifies the top issues site owners run into with mobile-first indexing.

Google Lightning Talks are short presentations that would have otherwise been given at Google Webmaster Conferences.

Given that in-person events are cancelled for the foreseeable future, Google is adapting its conference content for the web.

In this presentation on mobile-first indexing, Splitt walks site owners through common issues and carefully explains how they can either be fixed or avoided.

Common Problems With Mobile-First Indexing

The most common problems related to mobile-first indexing can be grouped into two categories.

1. Mobile crawling issues

Things can go wrong when Google crawls with the mobile version of Googlebot.

For example, the request can be treated different by the server based on the user agent.

Or something else might go wrong when making a request to the mobile pages.

If that happens there will be little to no information Google can get from pages.

That means Google can’t get the necessary signals to show the pages in search results.

2. Mobile page content issues

Other issues may be related to the content itself.

This is especially true if a site has separate mobile pages that serve different content from the desktop version.

When Google receives less information from a page then it’s not able to adequately determine the page’s relevance.

This will prevent Google from ranking the site well in search results.

How to Avoid These Issues

Here are some things to check for to make sure Google doesn’t run into issues when crawling mobile pages:

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  • Don’t block Googlebot from crawling with a ‘Disallow’ directive in robots.txt
  • Don’t use noindex meta tags
  • Don’t block Googlebot from crawling mobile CSS
  • Don’t block Googlebot from following internal links

In addition to checking for robots.txt directives, noindex tags, and nofollow tags, site owners should also check their server’s crawl capacity.

Ideally a server should be able to handle as many desktop crawls as mobile crawls.

Mobile Page Content

Splitt reminds site owners that page content when viewed on mobile should be identical to viewing the page on desktop.

Site owners can run into problems when they intentionally hide content on mobile.

For example, some mobile pages may require users to tap a “See More” button in order to expand the visible content.

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That should be avoided because Googlebot does not interact with page elements. So it will only be able to crawl what is immediately visible.

If Googlebot only sees a minimal amount of content then it will not be able to rank the page very well.

Keep the content identical on mobile and desktop and you should be able to avoid issues with mobile-first indexing.

That includes keeping invisible parts of a page identical as well, such as structured data and meta descriptions.

See the full Lightning Talk below:

More Google Lightning Talks

If you missed any of the previous Lightning Talks, catch up by checking out my recaps here:

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Matt Southern

Lead News Writer at Search Engine Journal

Matt Southern has been the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal since 2013. With a degree in communications, Matt ... [Read full bio]

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