Perspectives

Google to Develop Mobile-Specific Index, Which Will Take Desktop’s Place as Primary Index

By , Posted October 24, 2016

Earlier this month at industry conference Pubcon, a Google representative announced that – after nearly two years of speculation – Google is in fact working on launching a mobile-specific index, and that it will be launching within the next few months.

MOBILE-FRIENDLY VS. MOBILE-SPECIFIC
It’s no secret that Google has been favoring mobile-friendly sites and content for quite some time now. For years Google has been pushing webmasters towards developing sites that were good for mobile users, and this was firmly supported when Mobilegeddon hit back in May 2016, which stated if you do not have a mobile-friendly website, then you simply would not rank as well as those that do.  

But this – this has the SEO world in a tizzy because even though mobile-friendly content may have gotten a boost in the SERPs, Google has still only had one index that housed all of its documents and pages. Now, there will be two separate indices – one for desktop and one for mobile. So, there will be a mobile-specific index and – to add to the fire – Google also stated in last week’s announcement that this new mobile index would be the search engine’s primary index, not the desktop version.

BUT . . . WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?!
Two implications of this announcement are that they’ll be updating the mobile index more regularly than the desktop index, and that mobile search results will no longer be determined by desktop content. In other words, Google will no longer be referencing a site’s desktop content to help draw its conclusions about which pages to display in mobile search results.

This may present a problem for those whose mobile sites were abbreviated versions of their desktop sites. Oftentimes webmasters would set things up this way because they needed their mobile site to load quicker, be more succinct for the user in terms of content, and feature even less-bloated HTML than their desktop counterparts (oftentimes sacrificing structured data markup and other scripts).

If this was the case in the past, Google would just reference the site’s desktop version to get an idea of what the site’s content was really about, even if the mobile site was somewhat lacking. Then, armed with data from its scraped-off-the-desktop site, it would be able to index and rank the mobile version accordingly for related queries. That may change with this new mobile index. So if you’re still working with a desktop-specific site and a different mobile-version of your site, this may be the ultimate calling to finally jump on board the responsive site design bandwagon, because without that desktop content being considered in the mobile search results, your brand’s sites may be in for a big surprise when this shift happens.

If your website is already built using responsive web design though (which hopefully it is), then congratulations: this shouldn’t be an issue because you already have the same content on all sizes of your website and Google is ranking your pages accordingly.

SO MANY QUESTIONS, SO LITTLE TIME
While we’re able to make assumptions and form hypotheses about how this new mobile index will affect our SEO efforts, there are still a lot of questions about how this mobile-specific index will work. If you haven’t noticed already, this is often the case whenever Google announces something new with its algorithm, as they don’t like to give all the details away that easily. ☺

Some questions being posed: Does this mean that only mobile-friendly content will be indexed and displayed? Does it mean that there won’t be any desktop queries that are used in the mobile index, even though the mobile index is now the primary one? And, if the desktop index will not be updated “as often” as the mobile one, how up-to-date will it remain?

One thing is for certain – if you weren’t convinced that mobile was here to stay before, you should be now. Not only have mobile searches far surpassed desktop, but Google is clearly advancing its strategy for mobile adaptability and design, and encouraging webmasters to follow suit.

If you’re wanting to learn more about the idea of mobile-friendliness, I recommend checking out Google’s mobile resources for webmasters. Or, feel free to give us a call and one of our experts would be happy to discuss whether your website is properly optimized for SEO and this upcoming shift.

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