Google Mobile First Indexing FAQ

January 31, 2017

You may have read our previous post that announced Google’s plans for mobile first indexing. Of course, it set the SEO world on fire.

Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller has been bombarded with mobile first questions during video hangout sessions ever since. Here are some of the insights that he’s shared and ways people are preparing for the indexing switch.

Will desktop sites be ranked on the quality of their mobile site counterparts?

If mobile sites are now the barometer for Google search rankings, it’s logical to wonder if the corresponding desktop site will be affected. The answer is yes. If you have a desktop site and a mobile site, both can be positively or negatively impacted based on the quality of the latter.

The mobile version of a URL is set to become the canonical version. Therefore, the search rank signals are being extracted from the mobile site more so than the desktop site.

Is This Just a Reverse of Previous Indexing Scheme That Gave Desktop Sites Priority?

You’re correct if you’ve already thought the mobile first indexing is simply a reverse of the previous model. Until now the desktop version of the URL was what Google used to rank both desktop and mobile sites. Since there are more mobile searches than desktop searches these days, Google flipped the script so results are as relevant as possible.

Will Mobile Site Speed Affect Ranking?

The performance of a desktop website is a factor in Google rankings. However, John stated that the speed of mobile websites isn’t really being considered at the moment. That could have something to do with their Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) initiative. It will most likely become a factor in the near future, but for now it’s not a top consideration. John says they want to do that in the long run but in the beginning it isn’t in the works.

Is Mobile First Indexing Here to Stay?

An interesting point has been brought up by a few webmasters. Google stated that mobile first indexing hasn’t actually been launched yet and is currently in a trial run to test everything out. That means nothing is set in stone. Google plans to extensively test the mobile first indexing scheme and compare it to the desktop method before officially launching widespread changes.

In the off chance Google’s tests show desktop versions are still the most reliable source for search signals, then the mobile first indexing will never move beyond the testing phase. But Google doesn’t usually make a major move to test something as significant as the indexing source without having done research that suggests it’s a good idea.

When Will Changes Officially Take Effect If Mobile First Indexing Tests Well?

At this very moment Google is in the midst of testing their new mobile first indexing algorithm. But since the announcement was made weeks ago, many webmasters and SEOs assume that means the launch is right around the corner. Not so, says John.

Because the switch to mobile first will completely change how rankings are decided, Google is taking their time to test their theories. Testing alone will likely continue through the first quarter of 2017. There’s also the issue of giving website owners enough time to make necessary adjustments. If Google finds that a lot of websites will need updates, then they’ll give people time to prepare before the launch.

Will Hidden Mobile Content Be Read by Googlebot With Mobile First Indexing?

Under the current desktop indexing algorithm CSS hidden content is ignored by Googlebot. But with mobile first it’s being read by the search engine spiders. Google will be parsing all of the content when they base search rankings on the mobile version of the site. That doesn’t mean you have to immediately start rewriting content that’s “borrowed” from another source, which is common in eCommerce. Your sites won’t be penalized, but it also won’t really help your ranking. Clean, unique content is still the more effective way to boost page rankings.

Nothing is certain, but it seems like mobile first indexing will probably launch some time this year after the first quarter. You can wait until Google makes the announcement and hurry to clean up your websites, or you can get a head start on the competition. At SearchRPM we help clients build solid technical frameworks and quality content so that their sites rank well no matter what version is used for indexing.

Get ready for the mobile first indexing switch – give SearchRPM a call to receive your FREE SEO Report.

By Michael Ramirez
SearchRPM Founder
Michael Ramirez

Michael Ramirez is the Founder of SearchRPM, an Austin, TX based search marketing company that’s well-versed in Search Engine Optimization best practices. You can follow Michael Ramirez on Twitter @openmic0323 or on Google+ to see what he’s up to next.