Google Will Stop Indexing Sites That Do Not Work on Mobile Devices After July 5th

Nick Fitzgerald

In 2015, Google announced that it would be expanding its search engine’s use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal, prompting web developers and SEO experts alike to take action. This included changing sites to use responsive design, mobile-friendly themes, or dedicated mobile sites altogether. As a result, many sites underwent a significant overhaul to ensure that they would remain visible to users searching on mobile devices. Now, Google has taken things a step further by stating that it will not index sites that do not function well on mobile devices, effective July 5th, 2024.

What does this mean for website owners and SEO professionals? 

It means that if a site is not accessible via mobile devices, it will no longer be indexed by Google and will not appear in Google search results. This is a significant change, as mobile traffic has surpassed desktop traffic over the past few years and is only continuing to grow, highlighting the importance of designing sites that are optimized for mobile users.

Google’s “mobile-first indexing” initiative, which started in 2016, was thought to be completed by October 2020 – but it will not be fully done until after July 5th, 2024. While mobile-first indexing means that Google predominantly uses the mobile version of a site for indexing and ranking, Mueller clarifies that if a site is not accessible using a mobile device, then Google “will no longer” index it and thus rank it. This is why mobile accessibility is required for Google indexing.

While it may seem that Google is giving site owners and SEO professionals a significant warning period, this has been a long time coming. Google has been warning users about the importance of mobile-first indexing and mobile usability for years now, with mobile-friendliness becoming a ranking factor back in 2015. It is clear that Google is prioritizing mobile users in its indexing process, and rightly so, given that mobile use has grown considerably over the years.

Mobile-First Design

Sites must be designed with mobile users in mind. Sites that use a responsive design that adapts to different devices are generally better for mobile-first indexing, as they perform well across a range of device types and sizes. In contrast, dedicated mobile sites or alternate versions of a site may offer a better experience for users, but can also pose issues if they are not properly managed or maintained.

Going forward, ensuring that images and other media load quickly and that buttons, drop-down menus, and other interface elements are designed with mobile users in mind is an important step in the design and building of a website. Taking additional steps to improve site speed, such as enabling caching, minimizing redirects, and compressing images, can also help to improve the mobile-friendliness of a site.

Google’s latest move to mobile-only indexing should be seen as a reminder to prioritize mobile accessibility in website design. Website owners and SEO professionals should take steps to ensure that their sites are designed with mobile users in mind and undergo comprehensive testing to ensure that they remain accessible in a mobile-first world. Failure to do so could mean that sites will not appear in Google search results, likely leading to significant drops in traffic and revenue.