After years of waiting for execution, Google mobile-first index is officially being rolled out, slowly, according to the company. This convergence follows on the heels of many years of mobile-friendly changes and seems to signal the second coming of Google’s Mobilegeddon.
Remember Google Mobilegeddon?
In 2015, the technology conglomerate signaled to users a need to fundamentally change the way people searched for content on their smartphones. Websites were quickly forced to rethink how to make their pages mobile-friendly.
If you were lucky enough to survive after the first “mobile apocalypse,” then get ready for yet another major update to how Google will index your website.
Let’s examine three implications for this major update:
1. Google mobile-first is all about indexing
Mobile-first indexing will not change how Google ranks a page for mobile-friendliness. So, webmasters can relax! Google cares about having your entire website accessible in a mobile version, whether it’s an accelerated mobile page (AMP) version or it’s a non-AMP mobile version.
Google outlined the plan for mobile-first indexing back in 2016, announcing that algorithms will shift to rely solely on the mobile sitemap of the website. To determine this, Google crawls the mobile version of the website to index site links for the search engine results page.
After almost two years of testing, Google officially began slowly rolling out this new format across the internet in March of 2018. The new format will favor the mobile version of your website’s URL over the desktop version; if there is no mobile version, the desktop version will index (for now). Soon, however, desktop-only versions may be absent from search results entirely! Is your website mobile-friendly and optimized for mobile search?
Responsive-design websites and websites that have canonical AMP versions will most likely not suffer from visibility, indexing, or changes to traffic based on this change. However, desktop-only websites and websites that have separate mobile and desktop versions should rethink their strategy moving forward. Only time will tell how this large reorganization will change rankings over the long-term, by this large reorganization.
2. Google Mobile-First Index Changes Site Submission
If you’ve submitted your website to Google Search Console, you know that crawling both the desktop version and the mobile version is a necessary evil. With the convergence of web design into responsive and progressive web application concepts, the need for these two distinctions became unclear.
In Google’s new system, there will be only one index. Google will crawl, create, and communicate your website based on the mobile version. Most Google searches happen through mobile. This migration will ultimately change how you submit websites through Google Search Console, which explains the recent change to the user interface of the webmaster tool manager.
What’s most important is the change to ranking signals. If there is both a desktop and a mobile version of the same page, Google will gather ranking signals based on the mobile version. For websites that have separate desktop and mobile experiences, this can become problematic if mobile optimization hasn’t been a top priority at that point. Does your current website design account for a strong mobile presence?
3. Google Mobile-First Indexing 2018 Encourages AMP
If you were an early adopter of Google’s open source project Accelerated Mobile Pages, the Google mobile-first index creates more opportunity for your websites AMP pages and posts to rank high on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
If your website is not responsive, AMP is an easy way to create mobile versions of your pages. These pages load extremely fast, so Google prioritizes them in mobile search already. Through the Google mobile-first index restructure, AMP pages take priority over their desktop-only counterparts.
If you are still puzzled as to why this is significant, consider the element of site speed. With a mobile-first indexing concept, where AMP pages load almost instantaneously, these pages are critical to mobile optimization.
Even for responsive website designs, using blog articles and other non-cornerstone content in an AMP format can increase the click-through rate, lower the bounce rate, and increase the average position on the results page. Additionally, AMPs have the potential to appear in the AMP carousel at the top of the SERP. Who wouldn’t want that?
So How Do I Survive Mobilegeddon 2?
If you currently use a responsive site or dynamic serving site, you should closely monitor your organic traffic and optimize your website for mobile if you notice sessions dropping. These builds already combine the desktop and mobile version of the website, so they do not require you to completely reassess your mobile website.
If you have a site configuration where your desktop and mobile websites have separate markup, action will be required to survive the Google mobile-first index restructuring. If you have an incomplete, partial, or underdeveloped mobile website, it may be time to consider a responsive website design. If this is out of the question, utilizing AMP may be the best solution for mobile optimization.
It remains to be seen how rankings will be impacted based on this change, but mobile optimization has been something Google has taunted the digital marketing community with for a few years now. Best practices suggest adopting mobile now or ceasing to exist in the digital world.
If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound?
In a similar vein, if a desktop-only version website indexes in a mobile-first world, can it even be found?
If you’re worried about a post-mobile-first-index internet and aren’t sure how your website can survive, it might be time to consider a new website design and improved mobile optimization strategy.