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Mobile Index Over Desktop Index

By admin 19 October 2016 Digital , SEO
Mobile Index Over Desktop Index


On 4th November 2016, Google released an official article on their Webmaster Central Blog talking about the Mobile-First Index. To stay updated about your website and the severity of this change please do read the Google article.

Google are making a significant shift towards mobile search, as Gary Illyes announced at Pubcon on the 13th October 2016 "Google will be creating a separate mobile index". This is a major shift for Google, as they have always used the desktop indexed pages to rank on mobile. This is certainly going to change things for webmasters!

Let's take 6 minutes to explain more about this update.

Google announced in September 2015 that they are experimenting with a mobile only index, this was to help with mobile rankings as they were currently using desktop indexed pages to rank mobile pages. As we move forward to a few days ago, it was announced that they will be releasing a separate mobile index, that will become the primary index. There has been no time frame given other than the words 'soon'. Google have done this before with mobile updates, they have given the webmaster community the heads up so they can sort out what's needed before the update. This is probably because Google doesn't want an amnesty on their hands from hundreds of thousands of webmasters who have been affected by the update.

Its was said that the mobile index update will become Google's primary index, meaning it will be the most up to date index of any page. This isn't killing off the desktop index (for now). It was mentioned that there will still be a desktop index, this just won't be as up to date as the mobile index. Here at TWC, we can see the desktop index being phased out in a matter of time.

Below is a series of Tweets from the talk to shed more light on the upcoming change:

Mobile First Index Tweets From Pubcon Announcment

We have loads of questions but must wait for Google to release an official blog about the changes nearer the time. We thought about a few questions and what the answers may be below. Some of these are questions that became apparent from the Tweets above or from issues website may end up enduring.

Spend a few minutes reading the below to see how you can prevent the loss of visibility when this change goes live!

Why Mobile First Index?

Mobile search has been growing over the years, as handheld devices become easier to use and access the world wide web, amongst other things like Apps etc. Because of this accessibility, it's meant that Google has seen a rise in mobile first searches. This has increased year on year to where we see mobile search surpassing desktop search. Mobile search has been well over 50% for years now, this will only grow as we go into the future where we see handheld or wearable technology advance.

Think About Your Mobile Page

Many website owners offer a lighter, stripped down version to mobile users of their website. You may remove things that you feel aren't necessary on a mobile site like certain images, on-page content, on-page structure and schema markup. This can be all things weighing a mobile page down, making it load slower.

With Google announcement, you'll need to think carefully about what you remove or add for that matter to your mobile site. If certain elements that help your page to rank on a desktop are removed from the mobile page you may see a reduction in your rankings due to the mobile first index. Web sites with a dedicated mobile site and a desktop site will need to think carefully over the coming months on how they should progress their website so they don't encounter loss of traffic when the change happens.

Responsive Website Benefits

For the website owners that choose to go responsive and not hide any content, your site shouldn't see an effect from this Google change, as you should have identical content on both mobile and desktop devices, meaning the mobile index will be the same as the desktop index.

Structured Data

As many site owners do, they remove the structured data from the mobile version of their website to create a lighter page. With this new update, you'll be losing the structured data in the mobile index. Moving forward structured data will need to be placed back into the mobile pages to be indexed.

Mobile First Index Tweet About Structured Data

The Link Affect

Throughout Illyes’s announcement, he mentioned links, even though he didn't go into too much detail about them. Links are an issue due to not many people linking on a mobile page as they do on a desktop page. This may not be an issue for the responsive pages but will be for the dedicated mobile pages.

Accelerated Mobile Pages

We know Google has been pushing AMP, with this change we feel more and more websites will be adopting the lightweight Google solution. If you're a WordPress user this will be an easy solution for you, as you can make your mobile pages load quickly without losing the ranking factors on your mobile page. You'll be able to just install a plugin that will do all the hard work for you.

It's hard to say when the update will come, it may be in the next few months or possibly the first quarter of 2017. We know from experience when listening to Google a few months can turn into a year. But we've got to take this announcement seriously, as there is potential to lose visibility and rankings when the change happens. It's our recommendation that you make your changes as soon as possible, it's best to optimise your mobile pages now, not just for this change but for great SEO benefits as well as improving the use of your website for your user.

For more information on this subject, you should have a look at the details of Google Mobile-Friendly Launch on Search Engine Round Table. This may answer more of your related questions you have about your website.