Google’s switch to a mobile-first index has been a hot topic since Google first announced the planned change in November 2016. New details of their plans for the index emerged at the Friends of Search conference last week where Google’s Gary Illyes announced that the new indexing system was still being developed and that it would be months before it went live.
This index and ranking update continues Google’s focus on a mobile-first user experience and follows the introduction of mobile-friendly ranking signals in 2015. So, while Google will still index your site even if it’s desktop only, mobile sites will continue to rise in importance when it comes to SEO.
A mobile-first index would represent a transition from the current desktop-based indexing and ranking, reflecting the continued growth of search conducted on mobile devices, which now represent more than half of all Google search volume.
Should SEOs and website owners be concerned about this development? Google has stated that it does not expect the change to affect the indexing and ranking of most sites; If your site delivers the same content to both mobile and desktop users – with a responsive site or dynamic serving site – then you should be in the clear as Google will continue to use the same content to index and rank your site.
However, sites delivering different mobile and desktop versions may be affected by mobile-focused indexing – this includes sites using a separate URL for the mobile version of a desktop site as well as mobile sites that, for performance reasons, eliminate the structured data markup associated with their equivalent desktop site. Google recommends that relevant markup be integrated into both the desktop and mobile sites in order to take full advantage of rich results under the new indexing system.
One area of uncertainty that remains relates to links: people are less likely to link to mobile sites than their desktop counterparts, meaning that the new rankings may not reflect the PageRank of existing desktop sites. Google hasn’t stated how, or even if, this issue will be addressed in the new index, but it is something they are aware of.
While a fully mobile-first index will become a reality in the near future, Google has yet to set an official date for the rollout.