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    Mobile-First Indexing Has Begun

    A couple of weeks ago, at Pubcon I think, Gary Illyes said that Google was going to roll out a mobile-only index soon. They also said that it would become the "primary" index.

    As of today, SearchEngineLand reports that mobile-first indexing has begun. Of course, that's only half true. Google says that they're running some "small scale experiments" which will grow larger as time goes on.

    Originally Posted by SEL
    Google said it has started this experiment and will “continue to carefully experiment over the coming months on a small scale.” Google will “ramp up this change when we’re confident that we have a great user experience.”
    Here's a sort of comforting snippet:

    Originally Posted by SEL
    Those who do not have a mobile version of their website do not need to worry. Google will just use the desktop version to rank the site. Google wrote, “[I]f you only have a desktop site, we’ll continue to index your desktop site just fine, even if we’re using a mobile user agent to view your site.” This also means that if you have a responsive site, one that dynamically changes content depending on desktop or mobile device, there’s nothing special you need to do.
    The full article also has a little checklist you can look at to get the bullet points of what to do next.

    So that's today's news. There are lots of moving parts to the mobile-first index though. The SEM Post has put together a big ol' comprehensive blog post all about the parts of the mobile index. It's pretty cool, and it has up to date news on stuff like why Google wants a mobile index, the impact on m(dot) sites vs responsive sites, reduced content on mobile vs desktop, Search Console verification, and more.

    Some snippets:

    Originally Posted by The SEM Post
    Sites that are currently utilizing m.example.com configurations, where mobile and desktop are on completely different pages and sometimes even sites, will be the ones most impacted my the new mobile first index. Because most m. sites do have different content, if the mobile version of each page has less content, those pages could lose their rankings for long tail keywords for content that only appears on the desktop version of the page and not the mobile one.
    Originally Posted by The SEM Post
    If you have your mobile site set up on a subdomain, such as m.example.com, or on a different domain, such as examplemobilesite.com, make sure you verify the site in Google Search Console...And for those with any confusion about Google’s blog post, Gary Illyes confirmed that responsive sites do not need to reverify their sites for the upcoming changes.
    Originally Posted by The SEM Post
    Google says that canonicals will not need to be changed. But what about going forward, should site owners begin changing canonicals on new pages to reflect that the mobile page is the one being indexed? According to Phan, no.
    Originally Posted by The SEM Post
    Google has said previously that people tend to not link out as much on mobile pages when compared to the desktop one. And since links weigh pretty heavily in the search algo as one of the top two ranking factors, this can have an effect on the rankings of pages in a mobile only index...Gary Illyes confirmed they aren’t saying too much about links right now, as it is still early in their testing.
    There's a lot more. I thought it was a pretty useful resource.

    Finally! If you're looking for a different perspective, WebmasterWorld has a great thread about the mobile-first index that you should check out.

    One member, tangor, laments that so many mobile pages and layouts are "so cookie cutter that it will become increasingly difficult for webmasters to craft a unique look and feel for their offerings..." I imagine that will change over time - people have paid more attention to desktop than to mobile since the web was created. Now that Google is asking them to pay more attention to mobile, I'm sure designers will be flexing new muscles.

    Keyplyr, another member, writes:

    Seems there's a foregone conclusion mobile friendly sites have reduced content, not so. Mine has exactly the same content as it's desktop version and I see no negative side to this index.

    Simple supply and demand. Google is constantly saying "more people search from mobile devices than desktop" so it's a natural evolution for the mobile index.
    Here's a really interesting series of questions that ken_b asks. User behavior is much different on a mobile device than it is on a desktop:

    Are most mobile users looking for the full experience, or more of a "just the basic facts" type of experience?

    How do you merge those two experiences?

    How big is too big for a mobile page?

    How many K can you load up on a page before it gets to cumbersome for a mobile user?

    My pages are image oriented, how many images can you use before the page just slows down too much to be useful?

    Beyond images, how much text will a mobile user read?
    What say you fine ladies and gentlemen?

    Comments on this post

    • DirectHits agrees
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    SEO Chat Discoverer (100 - 499 posts)

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    Well thanks for the update! I certainly wasn't expecting this quick.
  4. #3
  5. Dinosaur
    SEO Chat Mastermind (5000+ posts)

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    Interesting mark I think this uplift is a little too early to back it up

    This site has been a real sod to move, its been stuck on page 2 for so long, then suddenly it jumps on the 5th November, I did not want to get my hopes up too quick but now its the 8th and seems to be holding steady. .
    Last edited by Chedders; Nov 9th, 2016 at 12:26 PM.
    Owner of Page Explorer the page onsite SEO checker
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    I,ll be Keeping an eye on my stats to see if there are any noticeable changes to my ranking/listings. Lucky I have "Mobilized" all of my sites for several years now so dont expect any problems.

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