Key Issues Summary:
- Following on from first reports of Google’s Mobile First Index rolling out, Google is now describing it as “live for a few sites”, according to SE Roundtable.
- This may be semantics (“live” vs “testing”), but it is significant that they feel confident enough to describe it as live.
- It is currently rolling out at a host-level, which means that www.domain.com may be live, but blog.domain.com may not be.
- Google is also saying that it is unlikely to ever be fully rolled out as there will always be some sites which are outliers and only work on desktop, or never update to being mobile first.
Key Actions To Take:
- Have I mentioned Google’s Mobile First Index before? I can’t remember.
- Ideally, your site will be designed from a mobile-first perspective.
- If it’s not, your next level is to make sure it is responsively-designed.
- If it is still on m-dot or similar, you need to make sure you follow these recommendations on things to do for mobile first indexing: Google: Four Things to Get Right for Mobile First Index
- If none of the above applies, and you have no plans to make your site mobile-friendly, let alone mobile-first, then you will struggle to attract much search traffic in the not too distant future. Google will still index and surface your site, but unless it is the absolute authority on a topic, there will likely be other options to surface and send traffic to.
- Click here to contact me to discuss how to check if your site is ready for the mobile first index and how to make it so.
Insights & Discussion:
I think Google is testing the waters here. After the much-derided Mobilegeddon debacle a few years ago, it has had its fingers burned with big indexing changes.
There are no signposts in search which say a site has been mobile first indexed, nor are there any in Google Search Console. Google is trying to implement this change with either no, or very limited changes to the search results, or it is taking a “boiling frogs” approach, where changes are minimal, incremental and take place over such a long period of time that change is almost invisible to the naked eye.
As I say above, whether Google is “live” or “testing” is likely to be a matter of semantics, with 700 or so Google algorithm updates a year, you could argue that the live index is always in a testing state.
Over the longer term, I can see that the desktop index of legacy sites will become like the supplemental index of old, in that results may surface from that set but they have to be the absolute authority or very best result for that particular query, and that query would have to be very specific. As a rule, I wouldn’t expect desktop-only sites to surface for popular generic queries, and especially not for commercial queries.
Given the super slow rate of adoption of new technology on the web, or in businesses in general (how many of you are still on Windows 7?), I can see this rollout or transition taking a number of years to get anywhere near 80%-90% fulfilment. Generally, website designs have a shelf-life of about 3 years before they should have a makeover, and some never do. Often in the big enterprise world, this expands to 7 years before all the stars are aligned and the go-live button can be pushed. Responsive websites started in earnest 5 or so years ago, so we probably have another 2-3 years before responsive sites can properly be described as the norm.
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