According to Google, the majority of people are more likely to search for information using a mobile device. It’s certainly no secret that a sites mobile friendliness is important when it comes to ranking in search engine results, but in the near future, that will take on a whole new dimension.
According to a Google Webmaster blog post published earlier this month, Google has begun experimenting on making their index “mobile first.” In other words, it will eventually be the mobile version of the site that determines the sites ranking in the search engine results, and not the desktop version.
Different Desktop & Mobile Versions
The main reason behind the planned change, Google said, was due to the fact that their estimate of the pages relevance to the search query was sometimes affected by instances where the desktop version had more information, which did not appear on the mobile version, thus impacting the user experience.
They assured website owners that their objective was still to provide a “great search experience for all users” whether they come from mobile or desktop devices, but given the preponderance of mobile users, they are committed to providing a better and more relevant search experience based on the content mobile users would see.
Content Hidden For UX Will Count
Another interesting side-effect of this planned change will be that content which is “hidden” in accordions or behind tabs in order to improve the user experience will apparently no longer be discounted when evaluating a site.
In the past, that sort of content, (although not “hidden” in the traditional sense) was either given less weight, or ignored completely. However, according to Gary Illyes, in a mobile-first world, content hidden on mobile for the express intent of creating a better user experience should have full weight.
Small Scale Testing
Google has acknowledged that this represents an important change in the way that they determine site relevance for search results and ranking. They’ll be experimenting over the coming months on a small scale, and only start rolling out the change once they’re confident that they’re capable of still delivering relevant results regardless of device.
They offer the following recommendations to prepare for the move toward a more mobile-focused index:
- If you have a responsive site, where primary content and markup is the same across devices, no changes should be necessary.
- If you serve different versions of the site depending on device, you may need to make some changes to ensure markup is the same across devices, and that the mobile version is accessible to Google.
- If you have not verified your mobile version in Search Console, doing so is essential.