Having published additional info on the upcoming mobile first indexing change, Google’s statement should give some reassurance to website owners. In particular those who rely heavily on SEO as a either a main or major source of traffic to their website.
At the moment the default search result is the desktop version of a website. However, with an increasing proportion of traffic coming from mobile devices, the mobile version of sites is being served first more often than ever before in the search results.
Google’s Gary Illyes has said that they are working toward the aim of a ‘quality neutral’ launch when the new update is released. He also said they won’t launch the ‘mobile first’ update until they achieve this. So what does that actually mean?
It means google are aware of the possible negative impact that a change of this magnitude could have on search results and ultimately rankings. They have committed to try and retain the quality of the existing desktop first rankings. Ideally, they are aiming to go one better and actually improve the results, making the evolution of Google’s artificial intelligence and every changing algorithm even more impressive.
There are many reasons why this is a difficult transition to make. As you are probably aware the mobile version of a webpage is often much thinner (in terms of content) than the desktop version. This can often be done intentionally to improve page speed and load times for mobile visitors.
While this is a great improvement for the site visitor and a tick in the box for one of Google’s many “ranking factors”, it can also have an impact on another very important ranking factor ‘backlinks’. Thinner content means less linking opportunity and less ‘linkable’, quality content.
Google are currently in the testing phase of ‘mobile first’ and seem to be confident that with the right adjustments they can get this right.
One of the biggest issues to be aware of however is that if you have removed elements of structured data from the mobile version of your site you will not rank for that data in mobile search. This is a key point to note. You have two options. Either reintroduce the content into the mobile version of the site or accept that your site will only appear in desktop searches for that content.
So there you have it while Gary says Google won’t launch ‘mobile first’ until search results are ‘quality neutral’ there are some issues to be aware of. Review your site structure now and save yourself some time and headaches later.