Google collects information on every web page in a massive catalog, known as an index, which it then uses to formulate and display search results for various queries. Up until recently, Google primarily viewed web pages through the eyes of a desktop user, treating mobile pages as important, but secondary to those desktop pages. Now, Google is treating the mobile versions of each page as the primary page to index, with desktop versions being secondary.
The mobile first index has already rolled out to some users, but like with most of the search engine’s major updates, it is being rolled out gradually. Though no firm dates have been given, experts suspect the rollout could take place over the next several months.
Google’s Stance on Mobile Friendliness
This isn’t the first time that Google has released an update intended to address the increasing needs of the mobile population of users. Mobilegeddon and its follow-up were released in 2015 and 2016, respectively, to encourage the web to become a more “mobile friendly” place, and even before that, Google worked hard to reward sites that offered mobile compatibility. READ MORE : The Graphic Design Process
What does Google count as mobile friendly? The simple definition is any webpage that views “correctly” on a mobile device. For the most part, Google just cares that people will be able to load all pieces of content on your page, read the text without having to zoom or scroll, and interact with any buttons present.
If you’re concerned about the mobile friendliness of your website, you can use Google’s mobile friendly test here to determine if any of your pages are lacking. Though Google is mostly concerned with all sites adhering to a “bare minimum” of mobile friendliness, it’s often worth the extra effort to make your site especially appealing or targeted toward mobile users.
The Impact of Mobile-First
Keep in mind that the mobile-first index does not affect what Google has considered to be mobile friendly, and your site will not be rewarded or penalized in the rankings based on your mobile friendliness. In fact, Google has stated specifically that the change should not affect the search rankings in any major way.
Instead, the impact of mobile-first indexing will come into play if your mobile and desktop sites are significantly different. For example, if the mobile version of a page of your site has significantly less content than the desktop version, the mobile version will now be treated as the primary version, which could have a significant bearing on your visitors’ impressions of your brand and site. Mobile-first is also important because it reiterates Google’s commitment to appealing to mobile users.
The Broader Trend
Google has proven that its vision for the future of mobile is about more than just making all sites mobile compliant. In addition to changing how sites are ranked based on their use of mobile features, Google has been steadily rolling out new features that favor mobile-exclusive functionality. Some of these include Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs), which allow users to access content almost instantaneously when the protocols are included, and app streaming, which allows users to preview content within apps they haven’t even downloaded to their mobile devices.
It’s clear that Google is building a bold new future for mobile content and mobile users, and the mobile-first index is another herald of those changes to come.