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Google Launches Mobile-First Index Experiment: Here Is Everything We Know About It.

As most of you already know, Google announced Friday afternoon that they are going live with their test of their “mobile-first” index. I covered the breaking news on Search Engine Land and waited here, as I normally do to get the industry reaction and oh boy, we have a ton more to share with you about this mobile first index.

First, we knew this was coming but I am surprised they announced it so soon being that they said recently they have a lot to figure out with this. But I guess they want to let people know, they are now testing it on a subset of users/index to work out more of the kinks.

What is a mobile-first index?

First thing, is what is changing with this mobile-first index? In short, Google will crawl and index the mobile version of your site as its primary source for content and ranking signals for your site. Before, Google did this on the desktop site, which we discussed many many times.

Google said they “primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results.”

Will Google maintain two different indexes? Desktop and mobile?

Google wrote in their blog post, “our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps.” But it is not 100% clear because the previous Google communication made it sound like there would be two indexes for this.
Paul Haahr from Google, a senior senior person there on indexing, said no – they will have one index only. He said this on Twitter. He said a separate index won’t happen:

When is the mobile-first index launching?

Well, it is live for some subset of users now but it is limited. It will gradually be pushed out to more and more searchers as Google wants to test it on more and more users. Eventually, it will replace the desktop index fully and Google will move on from this experiment and on to others.

Google wrote in their blog post “we’ll continue to carefully experiment over the coming months on a small scale and we’ll ramp up this change when we’re confident that we have a great user experience.”

But Gary Illyes said again, after the announcement that they are still months away from launching it:

What type of impact will this cause to webmasters?

Googlers are pretty much saying they don’t expect this to have much of an impact at all. In fact, they said even if you do not have a mobile site, they will use the desktop version. Google wrote on their blog post, “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.”

Gary Illyes from Google said he expects very little impact, he said “we’re aiming for close to quality-neutral launch; ideally there wouldn’t be too much delta”.

What if I have less content on mobile than desktop?

If you have less content on your mobile version than on your desktop version – Google will probably see the less content mobile version. Google said they are indexing the mobile version first.

What about links missing on mobile vs desktop?

My gut tells me Google will treat content as they do links with mobile versus desktop. So if you are missing links on your mobile version that you have on desktop, Google will probably not count them. But I think Google is at the stage where they are testing this and they want to reserve the answer on this until later.

What about pagespeed and specific factors?

Previous, well, now, Google looks at the pagespeed and ranking signals of your desktop pages. So a fast desktop page with a canonical slow mobile page, will pick up the desktop factor and be graded as being fast and not slow.

This will flip, I think. So if you have a slow desktop page but your mobile page is super fast, Google will use the mobile version of your pagespeed. At least, it looks like all/most those signals will now be based on your mobile page versus your desktop page.

Mobile ranking factors still the same

So the core mobile friendly ranking signals are to be the same. Nothing is changing their. This is independent of that.

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