After teasing changes to the function of its search index in 2016, Google recently announced the official shift to a mobile-first indexing operation, meaning that Google’s algorithms will now index web pages based on the content of the mobile versions. This is coming after an extended testing period, including when it switched a handful of websites over back in late 2017. While this recent announcement doesn’t indicate a comprehensive transition, this is expected to be the first major shift and there will likely be more to come.
This transition is only logical given that most Google searches, especially from Thailand and Asia are coming from a mobile device, which means that indexing and ranking sites based on their desktop versions could pose a problem for people searching on their mobile devices. Reorganizing the ranking system based on ‘mobile first’ means they are more likely to get the results they are after.
Google has explained the role of this indexing system to be absolute rather than simply existing separately of a desktop index. The mobile-first index will become the one and only.
A webpage’s responsibility to be mobile-friendly is has become more important than ever. Mobile friendliness not only affects how mobile users interact with a given website but also the level of satisfaction they experience as a result.
Granted, a webpage that is non-mobile friendly could easily be the better source of information but this could pose a problem with Google’s new way of ranking. Google does claim that the ranking of desktop-oriented webpages won’t be directly affected by the change but they also say that mobile-friendly content is likely to perform better in the search results. Which in Google’s language is an indicator that rankings are likely to fluctuate depending on the websites ability to cater to Mobiles.
Google does a few different things to organize its websites, including boosting the rank of those that are mobile-friendly. They also take into account things such as speed and ease of access, which has been going on as early as 2015. Not to mention, this mobile-first indexing shift is beginning with those sites that already fit an optimal layout.
It is not clear how long the first phase of the transition will take, nor is it clear how many stages there will be. Google reassures those without mobile web content that their sites won’t be shut out by any means and web pages that are chosen for the first round of shifts should be sent a notification (via Search Console / GWT) informing them of the shift to mobile-first indexing.
A site that lacks mobile-friendly content should not experience many, if any, changes in ranking, especially if their site contains the best content, in which case it would rank higher than say, for example, a slow-loading site or a site that is less relevant.
That being said, though, Google does, of course, encourage webpage runners to develop more mobile-friendly content if possible. Mobile-friendly content will be optimized for mobile devices, meaning faster loading potential. In the coming months, Google indicated that slow-loading web pages may not perform as well in the search results and that goes for both mobile and desktop searches. Either way, it’s important to pay attention to the changes and watch your Search Console email for that notification.