Looking forward to 2017: a glimpse at the Google mobile index
Back in October, Google confirmed it was splitting its search results index – the huge database of websites that it stores for search – into separate versions for mobile and desktop, with the new mobile index being the primary and most up-to-date version.
But what exactly does this mean? Why and when is this change taking place? And how should you prepare for the impact it’ll have on SEO?
Some history behind the mobile index
When Google announced mobile friendliness in 2015, it began to officially prioritise mobile optimised websites.
Now, the search engine is progressing with its plan to run its ranking algorithms across mobile optimised content, to determine mobile-only search rankings instead of combined data from desktop results.
This is seen as Google’s attempt to further accommodate the shift towards mobile internet browsing that’s rapidly increased over the last few years. Especially recently as we saw for the first time mobile web usage actually overtake desktop web usage.
A significant change to Google’s policy
The change is significant as it puts the emphasis on webmasters to ensure sites have fully functional mobile versions in order to retain search placements within the new index. Having a separate index for mobile creates an opportunity for Googlebot to strictly crawl the responsive/mobile version of a webpage and index it accordingly.
This could lead to Google delivering better mobile-optimised content to the growing number of people searching on smartphones.
In terms of SEO regarding the index split, it’s important to optimise for this upcoming change, things like mobile usability and making sure that your content is mobile ready.
Making your site mobile-friendly
Although making your site mobile-friendly will prepare you pretty well for the change, there’s no need to worry if you haven’t found the time just yet. Google will just use the desktop version to rank the site.
Google wrote: “If 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 official rollout
So when can we expect this to officially happen?
Google has always been a little mercurial when it comes to release dates. A lot of the time, it can take months before anyone even realises they’ve made changes.
What we do know is that the company began testing its mobile first index on the 4th November. Provided things went well, we could see a rollout very soon.
If you want any more information surrounding SEO, and would like to prepare your site for 2017, don’t hesitate to contact us.