Google Search Switching to Mobile First Index from Desktop Index: Desktop Index as Secondary

Google Mobile Index

The way Google ranks web pages is about to change. While we may not know when this change will begin, it’s important that website owners know exactly what to expect.

Previously, Google considered the quality of a web page by crawling across the desktop version of that page, and then using data from the desktop page to rank its mobile version. This was its first index and the ultimate means of checking for content quality.

Mobile Users Versus Desktop Users

But shouldn’t the mobile version of a website be considered first since there are far more mobile users than there are desktop users? Gary Illyes at Pubcon was in tandem with this thought, noting that 85% of search results are mobile-friendly already and more than half of the search queries are from mobile devices”, so he announced that Google was switching to a mobile first index.

It has been understood that even before this revelation, the search engine had been musing over the intention to separate its desktop index from mobile index early last year at SMX. The news may be celebratory to some and a scare to others, but SEOs and website owners need to start thinking about steps to maintaining  top ranking on Google search index or at least not fall of the ladder completely.

Steps to Maintaining Top Ranking

  • Build a responsive website. A responsive website makes all of the content on a website look good across devices, whether it’s on a desktop or mobile. Website owners usually reduce the content on their mobile site to allow for faster loading, thus having a desktop page that is separate from the mobile page. However, with the current news, this would no longer be necessary. Every page, then, must be responsive.
  • Do not compromise content on the desktop page: While website owners and SEOs may want to focus more attention on maintaining a top quality mobile page, they may want to digest Illyes’ announcement a bit more. The company does not intend to phase out its desktop index, but has decided to make it a secondary index.
  • Load structured data on mobile page: Website owners need to find a way to include structured data on their mobile page. The problem users of mobile version faced was the inability to view highly organised, rich data. For example, if a user wanted to view the legal records of a mortgage company they wish to do business with, the user would have to turn to the desktop version for this. This was clumsy, so making structured data visible on lite version becomes necessary. However, the downside to this may mean slower load time, and it could even get worse in countries where the Internet connection is poor.
  • Do not over use links on mobile pages: Google has yet to announce that it will index links on the mobile pages of websites, so suffusing a mobile page with links may not yield good ranking results.

Mobile Search Index

Although the company has not set a date when its mobile first index will begin, they have forewarned site owners and SEOs of the upcoming change. Meanwhile, the search engine is in the process of “launching an experiment where they take a big chunk of the index and they do something to that part,” blogged Lisa Barone.

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