Last quarter of 2016, Google announced its Mobile First Index experiments which will prioritize mobile content over non-mobile content. According to Google, if the results of the testing prove their theory that “mobile rules,” they plan to make significant changes to their search algorithm.
Based on preliminary research, most of Google users start with a mobile search in spite of the fact that a site’s desktop version is still given priority. This experiment could not only lead to a single index but a switch in priorities. The end game? To remain the most relevant and popular search engine and to deliver a “great search experience for all users.”
Here’s a quick FAQ on Google’s Mobile-First Index, which is expected to be launched sometime soon:
If I have less content on my mobile site, will my ranking be affected?
Yes, your ranking can potentially drop as Google will see your (and all other) mobile content first before indexing desktop sites. It is advisable to start adopting a responsive approach wherein the content on your desktop site is mimicked page by page on the mobile version of your site.
Will expandable content on mobile increase my ranking with Mobile First Index?
Unlike the low weight approach, Google gives to desktop sites on expandable content or content hidden in expandable boxes and tabs. Gary Ilyes, Google’s webmaster trends analyst, has said that this won’t be the case with Mobile First if the expandable content will add value to user experience purposes.
What happens if I don’t have a mobile version of my website?
There is a chance that your ranking will drop but Google says “not to worry” because websites without mobile version will still get ranked. The problem though is that mobile sites will get first priority. Based on 2016 studies, about 30% of all websites are mobile-friendly. This is expected to grow in number as over 50% of searches start on mobile before being pursued on the larger screen, if at all. The point is mobile versions will get that special ranking index boost just because it is mobile with quality content.
Although Google says ranking won’t change significantly, this is only because as of right now, there are more desktop sites than mobile sites. Once this changes, expect Google to adjust accordingly. Wouldn’t you want to be up and running before this happens?
The Mobile First Index is already being used by selected users and full roll-out will depend if there are any kinks to be ironed out. During this testing period, Google will continue to use two indexes until the full roll-out. The thing is, you’ll never know when the full roll-out will take place because Google does not always announce their moves prior to implementation. According to mid-year 2017 announcement by Ilyes, full implementation is expected around early 2018.
Some of the top recommendations from Google on preparing for the eventual Mobile First Index change are:
- Make changes to your desktop site by turning it into a dynamic serving site or a responsive site
- Change site configuration so desktop and mobile versions are not different. You can do this by adding URL of both versions on the Structured Data Testing Tool and doing the analytic comparison. However be careful not to add large amounts of markups and make sure your mobile version is accessible to Googlebot
- Use the Google Mobile Friendliness tool to improve your mobile version
- Check your mobile content. Make content easily accessible
- Use the “Read More” button so you don’t have to assign a lot of space on your mobile screen which will free up space for e-commerce or other features
- Make sure the mobile version uploads fast. Use the Google PageSpeed Insight tool to help you with this. Ideally, you should target full upload in three seconds.
Now is the perfect time to work on your mobile site and improve content. Your hard work today will mean less stress when full roll-out happens – and it looks like Google is intent on pushing a Mobile First Index in the near future.