Google announced on Wednesday that the rollout of mobile-first indexing for all sites in search has been delayed by six months to allow webmasters and SEOs to better prepare for the switchover following a tumultuous few months.
Google previously revealed in March that it was planning to move sites to mobile-first indexing by September, but the deadline has now been pushed back to March 2021.
The delay is not a complete surprise as Google had previously hinted that it might give everyone more time to prepare amid the disruption caused by COVID-19.
In a post on the Webmaster Central Blog, Google said: “We realize that in these uncertain times, it’s not always easy to focus on work as otherwise, so we’ve decided to extend the timeframe to the end of March 2021.”
Mobile-first indexing is not a new concept as Google launched the process way back in 2016 and has been switching sites that are mobile-ready in ever greater numbers during the last 18 months.
In March, Google said that 70% of sites had already “shifted over”, and this figure is likely to have increased during the last four months.
New sites are now mobile-first indexed by default, but older websites have to make amendments and changes to prepare for migration.
In its latest blog post, Google highlighted some of the common issues that can prevent migration.
It said that it is important that its web crawler software Googlebot can see all of the content on the mobile version of a website.
Google also recommended using the same robots meta tags, enacting “lazy-loading” best practices, and optimising images and videos for smartphones.
Making these changes will help sites to be automatically migrated ahead of the deadline, which is better than forcing the issue as it won’t have a negative impact on search rankings.
Developers, SEOs and webmasters now have eight months to get ready for the switch.