Google’s mobile-first indexing to be rolled out to more sites

Google has started the roll-out of mobile-first indexing for a large number of websites following ‘best practices for mobile-first indexing’, the search engine has announced.

This is the first confirmation of the move of a large number of sites – late last year, a handful of websites was moved over, but Google didn’t specify which properties had been moved. This latest development is on a much bigger scale. However, it’s still just the first wave, although it’s not yet known when rollout will be completed.

Google says that while this indexing won’t direct affect content rankings, it will help the site to ‘perform better’ in mobile search results.

The move follows some 18 months of testing and experimentation – Google first outlined its plans for changing the way its search engine operates in 2016.

At the time, it said all its algorithms would eventually be moved, so that the mobile version of a website’s content would be used for page indexing, to understand its structured data and so that snippets from the site could show up in the Google search results.

According to the corporation, webmasters or site owners will be told that their sites are being migrated to this process through the Google Search Console.

It added: “Site owners will see a greater number of visits from the Smartphone Googlebot. Google will also show the mobile version of pages in search results and Google cached pages.”

Traditionally, crawling, indexing and ranking systems have used a page’s content’s desktop systems, which, if they differ greatly from their mobile counterparts, could cause problems for those searching on mobile devices.

As Google put it: “Mobile-first indexing means we’ll use the page’s mobile version for indexing and ranking, to help our (mainly mobile) users find what they’re searching for.”

Indeed, most people who search Google do so from mobile devices these days, and in fact this has been the case since 2015.

The company explains that it will have a single index for search results instead of a mobile-first index that differs from its main index. That means that Google will begin to look to mobile pages for web indexing rather than desktop editions.

For some time now, mobile-friendliness has been a factor in deciding how a site is ranked, although it’s still not the only one. For instance, Google says that if a non-mobile friendly page still offers the best information, it will appear higher in the rankings.

But the search engine has started to prioritise mobile websites in a number of ways, including its addition of a signal using page speed to help determine a page’s mobile search ranking. From July, content that’s slow to upload will take a rankings hit.

We’d stress that no one should panic about any of this yet, even if your site still isn’t fully mobile-optimised. Google’s announcement continued: “If you only have desktop content, you will continue to be represented in our index.”

However, at the same time no one should underestimate the importance of mobile. If you have any concerns about this at all, talk to us at Front Page before you do anything else. We’ll be glad to help, talk you through your options and discuss tailored solutions.