google undergoing mobile first indexing experiment - shows man in car on mobile phone

The announcement of Google’s mobile first indexing brought a lot of conjectures, theorizing, widespread speculation, and confusion about what it means. What will happen to desktop sites? Will those without mobile-friendly sites experience a decrease in ranking? Do we have to overhaul canonical tags? How will Google handle a reduced text?

Google made public their concurrent mobile-friendly indexing experiment where many businesses are now on the look-out for what might happen to those that depend on traffic for higher conversion rates.

For SEO professionals, there are concerns about the new indexing and everyone wants to get to the bottom of things to see how Google handles the issue. Let us try to grasp what Google is talking about here.

First, let us define what indexing is to understand the issue better.

An algorithm is a rule set in determining an operation sequence in the computer, and its core comprises of four parts: Indexing, Ranking, Crawling, and Retrieval.

  • Indexing is a collection of data stored to speed up retrieval of correct information.
  • The next part, which is ranking, is what plagues us most. It is how results-based factors are categorized.
  • Crawling is Google’s way of following links online and exploring pages to see whether the contents they discover should be promoted or are messed up.
  • Retrieval is where the stored data is sorted out and where vectors and n-grams of a word are put in service. It is the part where we make use of Hummingbird and Rankbrain.

Well, you might ask what is the relation of the four parts to Mobile-First Index?

Here’s the scenario.

Currently, Google is using a single index based on desktop sites. The agent’s user-desktop coupled with Googlebot creates signals which are employed by Google to crawl or gather mobile-friendly messages.

The only problem is there’s no index base for mobile sites. For example, you have an ongoing Google Maps marketing. What happens when users search Google, be it on desktop or mobile, is that the algorithm for the retrieval of data will look on the desktop index that was created by desktop Googlebot crawler. Mobile signals the Ranker and adjusts the crawler collected. Relevant results are indexed and ranked with featured snippet searches all based on the indexing of desktop.

In some cases such as in maps marketing, it causes a problem when a user clicks on the results found on snippets, and the page is redirected to a mobile homepage that offers app or popup newsletters and is not available on the mobile site. The user gets disappointed because of this and Google wants to put a stop to it.

Google search on mobile device

What does Google want to imply?

Our foremost concern must not depend on the concept that ranking is affected by indexing. We must focus on indexing in preparation for this change. With indexing, particular situations can happen anytime on your site or in your local maps marketing. Set aside mobile-friendly concept because it renders a small boost in ranking and is not relevant here.

What is important is to differentiate the relevance of mobile index from mobile-friendly ranking. Sites can be in a mobile index environment even in the absence of mobile-friendly set ups.

At mobile-friendly indexing, three scenarios are apparent: responsiveness of a website, a separate site for mobile, or non-existent mobile site.

Responsive Sites

Well, the good thing here is on responsive sites indexing will not incur any changes because Googlebot for mobile and desktop will see the same content be it articles or content for marketing maps. Although there are some issues here that Google needs to address, the overall responsiveness of sites will not have any problem. On the other hand, weight changes for content tabs or menu drop-down that are invaluable to the desktop can also be useful to mobile.

Mobile and Desktop Separate Sites

The tricky part is this – a mobile crawler can identify sites with redirects OR rel=alternate device and setups with canonical tags. That means “ONLY” contents on desktops, cannot be seen by Googlebot mobile and will not end up in a mobile-friendly index. Google is trying to figure out this issue.

Mobile with No Site

Out there are pages which have no mobile site, and there are still tons that do not have one yet. Good news is Googlebot can still watch these pages as mobile crawler does not exclusively crawl mobile-friendly sites but does the same to everything else. These pages can be visible although they do not have the mobile-friendly designation. And these pages will be alright because absolutely, it has no bearing with mobile-first indexing.

Who Will Be Affected?

Above all, sites affected are pages with mobile version contents that do not synchronize their desktop. Remember, it is important to consider the “level page.” An example is a research or case study. If contents have a mobile version which excludes a desktop content page, then this is affected by the change. The distinction that happens here is the page will still have a ranking, it will just not show on mobiles. So, better to focus your pages on a desktop rather than cell phones.

Future Scenarios

Mobile officially surpassed desktop for traffic online in 2015 and 2016. The speed of mobile page has become a factor for ranking and with the latest mobile-friendly index experiment of Google, we can clearly have an idea of what is going on at the back of Google’s mind, given the significant role of mobile in the future.

Web site development as a whole is the best option since it involves the creation of responsive sites. With mobile integration at the forefront, those who do web designs must take note of details like the development or experience of a user in good swiping and minimum accidental taps to ease browsing experience while navigating sites on smartphones.

Mobile surfing soared high this past year, and these were made more localized elevating the importance and demand for SEO. Business entities will need their assistance to tailor compressed metadata required to capitalize on the aspects of local search.

Google admits that various challenges are encountered in priming up mobile-friendly indexing. However, an SEO company or expert must be prepared to respond to possible scenarios that will happen as a result of this experiment.

Author’s Bio

Patrick PanuncillonPatrick is an enthusiastic entrepreneur and digital marketer who is passionate about sharing his knowledge to everyone who wants to learn more about digital marketing and its many strategies. He is also the founder and CEO of LinkVista Digtal, Inc., where they strive to provide the needs of the many businesses when it comes to gaining more online presence.