BIG changes have been announced by Google on their new mobile-first search index – and it’s a win for mobile UX!
It’s not so good if your mobile site sucks.
The mobile-first index
When the mobile index was first announced back in March 2015, it was interpreted that Google were going to have a mobile index for mobile rankings and a desktop index for desktop rankings – which makes perfect sense.
As Google have announced, this is no longer the case.
Google have confirmed they are going to use their new mobile index for both mobile and desktop rankings – meaning if websites aren’t optimized for mobile, they will not perform well on desktop search.
I can see the positives and negatives in this, but it raises a few questions which I discuss at the end of this post.
“Hidden” content will no longer be devalued
Google’s Gary Illyes went on to say that in the mobile-first world, content hidden (ie. in accordions and tabs) to improve UX should have full weight and will no longer be devalued.
This is a big win for users because they will no longer have to endure pages with lengthy content because “it’s good for SEO”.
On mobile devices especially, you do not want to be scrolling through endless content to find what you’re looking for on a page. It makes sense that you would use tabs and accordions to present your information in a way that is more visually appealing and user-friendly.
Giving hidden content more value is great news for UC and gives us a lot more flexibility in how mobile design is approached. We can think more about what is best for the user and not have to worry (much) about what is “good for SEO” (which is good because I hate saying “good for SEO”).
Does this mean websites with content that is currently “hidden” may receive a “Panda boost” when when the new index is rolled out? Maybe:
@emerikusz_ whoa, great question! Theoretically yes, in practice I don't know yet
— Gary Illyes (@methode) November 6, 2016
When will the mobile-first algorithm roll out?
The mobile-first index is currently being tested on a subset of users and will be fully rolled out over the next few months, following more testing. There is no set release date and there may or may not be one in the future, however, we do know that it will be a global, worldwide rollout.
My questions on the mobile-first algorithm:
Garry Illyes confirmed on Twitter that your desktop rankings will be based on what content is available on your mobile page.
This question was answered based on mobile pages sometimes having less content than the desktop equivalent.
But if rankings are based on crawling mobile page content instead of desktop pages, does this mean can now get away with having “thin” desktop pages?
For example, could an affiliate marketer rank well on desktop if they create a “quality” mobile page and then have a desktop page that is essentially a squeeze page for driving clicks the the affiliate program?
I’m sure Google will have measures to combat tactics like this, but it would be good to get some clarification on the importance of desktop pages in regards to the mobile-first algorithm.
Will Google demote/remove desktop pages that are significantly lower in quality than their mobile equivalent?
If a website has AMP setup, do they get the ranking boost for desktop, too?
Can a fast mobile site help a slow desktop site to perform better?
Does Google’s mobile-first index raise any questions for you? I’d love to chat about it!
Leave a comment below or send me a Tweet!