Google’s mobile-first indexing initiative has been delayed until March 2021, pushing back from its planned September 2020 completion.

Google has been rolling out mobile-first indexing for some time now with the search giant stating that mobile-first indexing is enabled for ‘most’ websites now and that all new websites are already included as mobile-first.

What is mobile-first indexing?

Mobile-first indexing means that Google uses the mobile version of your website for assessing your content and determining rankings.

In the past, Google has assessed how a website’s content appears when using desktop devices, however in an increasingly mobile-enabled world, the search provider has decided to make mobile the default delivery method when assessing content.

The change means that website owners must ensure that all content and services they provide online must be compatible with mobile devices in order to be considered by Google.

Why is Google delaying the rollout of mobile-first indexing?

Because of Coronavirus and the impact it is having on organisations and how they operate. Google has extended its switch over to mobile-first indexing to give organisations who aren’t yet ready extra time to prepare.

In practice, Google has slowly been rolling out this change for a very long time. Website owners will have received notification that their websites are now being considered by Google’s mobile-first assessment via Google Search Console; a tool for monitoring how Google shows your website in search.

By its own measure, Google says that ‘most websites’ are now being assessed as mobile-first, however, this delay suggests that a significant number still need time to prepare.

What’s the advice to website owners?

In its announcement of the delay, Google’s Webmaster Central blog said, “in mobile-first indexing, we will only get the information of your site from the mobile version, so make sure [Google] can see the full content and all resources there.”

Google provided some specific examples of common problems it comes across, one of which concerns so-called ‘lazy loading’ of images.

In the example provided, Google said that it is common for websites to provide large image galleries on desktop but to show a smaller number on mobile, with an optional ‘show more’ button.

This feature would mean that Google’s mobile-first assessment would fail to find additional images because it wouldn’t be able to use the ‘show more’ feature.

In short, Google has recommended that if you would like content and features to be considered by its assessment, you must ensure that it is fully compatible with mobile devices.