Google has announced the rollout of its mobile-first search indexing, after more than a year of testing and experimentation. The move was first detailed in 2016 when Google wanted to use phone-optimized versions of websites to index pages in its search results.
The shift to mobile-first indexing comes from the rising trend of more people using mobile devices to browse and search the web. However, some sites have significantly different versions of content for desktop and mobile browsers, the latter often a watered-down copy of the former. “Mobile-first indexing means that we'll use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, to better help our – primarily mobile – users find what they're looking for,” Google explained its blog.
Google insisted that it will only use one index in displaying search results, but will prioritize mobile-friendly sites over desktop versions. It emphasized that the index only changed how content is gathered and not how it is ranked.
Google also allayed fears that desktop content will be removed from the index, or that mobile sites not included in the initial wave would be at a disadvantage when compared to first joiners. And if a desktop site is more relevant to the search over mobile alternatives, it will be included in the results.
We also have freshly updated documentation about Google mobile-first indexing, including this helpful chart that covers what happens if there's only desktop content (Yes! It continues to be included!), AMP content and so on. https://t.co/T5w9WOp1Hc pic.twitter.com/O515eRzjdb
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) March 26, 2018
The company will select sites that follow best practices for mobile-first indexing, notifying them via Search Console. Webmasters of these sites should notice increased visits from the Smartphone Googlebot. After the shift, the mobile version of sites will be shown in Google’s search results and cached pages.
Google assured that it will continuously evaluate content in its index to determine how mobile-friendly sites are based on best practices. Moreover, it will still prefer mobile versions of sites over Google’s fast-loading AMP pages in indexing.
The tech company has always pushed for mobile-optimized sites, boosting the rank of mobile-friendly pages on its search results in 2015. Last January, Google announced that page loading speed will also be a ranking factor for mobile searches and slow pages will be downranked starting July 2018.[Featured image via Pixabay]