Website owners can now probably breathe a sigh of relief now that Google is holding off on another one of its web-breaking changes. The search giant has been aggressively pushing for new systems and standards to make the Web safe and more accessible on any device, but those changes don’t happen just by magic. They require site owners and developers to put in some extra work, work that they may not be able to afford right now, which is why Google is staying its hand in fully implementing its mobile-first indexing until March next year.
To be fair, Google already made its intentions clear way back in 2016 and again last year. Mobile-first indexing would have become Google Search’s default by September this year. Now it’s giving developers and designers more time to prepare and some more tips to make their sites more mobile-friendly.
Mobile-first indexing is Google’s way of making sure that mobile devices, especially Android, don’t get the short end of the stick when it comes to Web content. It will make its Googlebot website crawler index only a site’s mobile version rather than its usually fuller default desktop site. This practically means that Google Search will rank and show results based only on data the bot gathered from mobile sites.
For web designers and developers, this means that they need to make mobile versions co-equal with desktop sites in terms of content and presentation. Easier said than done, of course, which is why Google is giving them more time to ensure their websites are ready for a mobile-first world. You may disagree with Google’s forecast of the future but you won’t be able to argue with Googlebot.
This isn’t the first time Google delayed enforcing new policies due to the COVID-19 pandemic but it will definitely be the longest. It only delayed enforcing SameSite Cookies by a few months at most and it doesn’t seem to have any plans on delaying how it labels downloaded programs and installers as potential malware.