Google Addresses Misunderstandings About Mobile-First Index
Google officially began the mobile-first index in March 2018, following a year and a half of “careful experimentation and testing”.
URLs in search
If a website has separate mobile and desktop versions, Google indexes the URL of the mobile-friendly version first. Therefore, Google search results would include the mobile URL to users searching on a mobile device, whilst displaying the desktop URL to desktop users. In both cases, the content indexed will be the mobile version, hence the “mobile-first” name.
Search engines systematically browse the internet, known as crawling, to index web pages to display in search results when users query relevant keywords. According to Google, the number of crawls per day won’t be affected by the mobile-first index. Over time however, the balance from mostly-desktop crawls to mostly-mobile crawls will shift. Google did confirm that URLs may be crawled more frequently during the switch over as everything is re-indexed.
When you visit a web page, your browser requests the page data and retains a version of that web page in a cache. This helps to reduce bandwidth usage, server lag and loading times for future visits to that web page. Google admitted that a bug has been preventing cached pages of many mobile-first indexed websites are not showing in search results, and that this is being fixed.
From July 2018 onwards, Google is to begin using mobile page speed as a ranking factor for mobile search results. Google confirmed that this mobile speed update is independent and unrelated to the mobile-first index.
Mobile website design varies significantly compared to desktop, primarily for easier navigation on a smaller screen. Navigation menus are occasionally hidden behind an icon with three horizontal lines, known as a “hamburger menu”. When expanded, hamburger menus often condense menus into headings, known as “accordions”. Google stated that the use of hamburger menus and accordions on mobile website is fine.
Google dismissed a common misunderstanding that the mobile-first index would only index mobile-friendly websites. Whilst mobile-friendliness and mobile-responsive layouts are preferable as they’re easier for the user to navigate, this doesn’t mean that desktop-only websites aren’t eligible for indexing. However, the search engine giant did add, “it’s about time to move on from desktop-only and embrace mobile”.
Google stated that the mobile-first index doesn’t change anything in terms of ranking positions. Whilst mobile-friendliness is a ranking factor for mobile search results, being included in the mobile-first index is not.
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