Google: The Mobile-first Index is Rolling out

Google released a blog post on March 26th, with the sole purpose of announcing that they’re moving beyond testing and are shifting to a slow roll out of the Mobile-first index. The post was vague on specifics but had this to say:

Today we’re announcing that after a year and a half of careful experimentation and testing, we’ve started migrating sites that follow the best practices for mobile-first indexing

We continue to have one single index that we use for serving search results. We do not have a “mobile-first index” that’s separate from our main index. Historically, the desktop version was indexed, but increasingly, we will be using the mobile versions of content.

We are notifying sites that are migrating to mobile-first indexing via Search Console. Site owners will see significantly increased crawl rate from the Smartphone Googlebot. Additionally, Google will show the mobile version of pages in Search results and Google cached pages.


Mobile-first index defined…
If you’re confused about what the Mobile-first index is then I have good news – it’s a simple concept. Up until now, Google’s index has been based on an algorithm that took into account the desktop version of every website. So, the search rankings and Google’s index were based on the desktop version of everyone’s sites. Then those with mobile-friendly sites got a ranking boost in the mobile search results but, as a whole, Google was in the Desktop-first mindset.

The Mobile-first index is a complete flip of that mindset. Now that this change is rolling out Google’s algorithm will take into account the mobile version of websites first when it comes to its index and rankings. This change is in response to their being more people searching Google from mobile devices than desktop worldwide. You can read Google’s explanation of it here as well. To be clear – Google has a single index and it’s the way they crawl your site that is changing.

Already on Responsive Design…
Now, if you are on a responsive design, which is what Google and SEN have been recommending for years, then nothing changes because your site is the same across the board. When Google changes the way they’re indexing your site then you’ll see a boost in crawling from the Smartphone Googlebot and you’ll get an email notice from Google Search Console but you shouldn’t see a vast change in the rankings. The exception to that is if others in your industry are vastly unprepared because then you could see a boost as they drop away.

Just because you’re on a responsive design doesn’t mean you’re off the hook! You also need to keep in mind that your site needs to be fast loading because Google’s Speed Update is coming sometime in July of 2018 and it WILL affect your rankings. Be sure to read our next blog next two-part speed optimization guide coming in May and June

Not on Responsive Design…
If you’re NOT on a responsive design and have an site that’s vastly different than your desktop version OR only a desktop version of your website and nothing for mobile users then when this index change is completely rolled out you could be in SERIOUS trouble. If you’re in this category then the only consolation we have for you right now is that Google is just migrating the sites that they think are ready for the change and are already following their best practices for mobile-first indexing. This means you have a little time. BUT in this mobile-first world your time is running out to offer your audience a user-friendly mobile solution.

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