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Mobile First Index: what it is and how it works


Google is testing its Mobile First Index, one year after the announcement of the project. Google has therefore decided to compose the index of results in SERP based on the mobile version of the sites.

Mountain View must have noticed that for some time now, the percentage of searches from mobile has exceeded those from desktop, and are oriented accordingly. This is a new feature, still in the rollout phase, which we will see on all devices by 2018. The Mobile First Index will have relevance on content positioning and on many aspects of Web Design and SEO.

What is Google’s Mobile First Index

Since October 2016, Google has announced that it wants to revolutionise the search results that make up the SERP, classifying them on the basis of their mobile version. This innovation involves not only the results shown in searches from mobile devices, but also those made via desktop PC.

How the Mobile First Index works

Basically, Google will from now on use the mobile user agent to crawl a website; this means that:

  • the link graph will be evaluated based on what a mobile user sees;
  • the content of the site will be evaluated based on what is seen by a mobile user.
    Google’s blog reads “If you only have a desktop site, we will continue to index your desktop site, even if we are using a mobile user agent to view your site”.

Basically, if the site is responsive, there shouldn’t be any major changes to plan. Of course Google will rank content based on the ranking signals and the site scan performed by a mobile view. Therefore, mobile friendly content will be privileged in any case, as has been the case for at least a year, compared to desktop sites that make it difficult, in terms of User Experience, navigation.

What if the mobile site has different, usually smaller content than the desktop site?

The Mobile First Index displays the site as any mobile device would, introducing problems and differences in site analysis when content differs between mobile and desktop versions (even simply on a responsive site that works with media queries).

This may be a problem for some. Even in terms of internal and external links, mobile sites generally have fewer; if you have optimised the link graph and information architecture on the desktop version to date, you may have problems if you have never done the same thing on mobile and are presenting a different structure.

What will be the impact of the Mobile First Index on SERP results?

Gary Illyes and Paul Haahr, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst and Ranking Engineer respectively, recently stated that the SERP update will bring “minimal changes” and that the impact on content positioning will not be too strong. However, it is too early to say that something will not change for some sites.

Other recent news: SERP results increasingly geolocalised

Google’s blog reads “So if you live in Australia, you will automatically receive the country service for Australia, but when you travel to New Zealand your results will automatically switch to the country service for New Zealand. When you return to Australia, you can go back to the Australian service.” This is to improve the user experience, showing more useful and contextualised results than where the device is located, even temporarily. SERP results will be increasingly conditioned by local search.

Moreover, according to data released by Google, 30% of mobile queries are related to local searches, whether they refer to a hotel, gas station or shopping mall. The research shows that 76 % of users who make local searches for products and services in the area, visit one of the local businesses within 24 hours, and 28 % of those who make a local search, eventually make a purchase.
Google thus tends to improve the user experience, helping them to solve a problem, whether it is searching for a nearby tyre shop or a place to have fun.

The impact of the First Mobile Index on SEO

Mobile SEO does not differ substantially from the optimisation of a website for the desktop, especially if it is responsive. However, there are some specificities to keep in mind. Often for the construction of a responsive site there is a tendency to review the page layout, affecting the content and the link graph. If you have developed an audit and design of the site in purely desktop mode, you should probably review it by evaluating the distribution of links with mobile user agents.

Even if they are not directly related to the mobile first indexing theme, you should consider user experience speeches on mobile. It is clear that Google is increasingly focusing on mobile users and so it will be crucial in this respect to work in terms of improving the user experience. How?

With regard to lyrics, it is certainly advisable to use Long Tail Keyword, keywords composed of two or more terms, in order to optimise content for voice search. In 2016 in Italy, 47 percent of users used Voice Search.

The speed of loading the site will make the difference, both in terms of User Experience and positioning, as a ranking factor. In this regard, it will also be useful to work on the correct sizing of images and multimedia content. In fact, it will be necessary to resize or compress the images to speed up loading.

Are you ready for the Mobile First Index?

Not all companies’ websites are ready to face this historic change, which is an opportunity to update their web presence and the effectiveness of their website. In ByTek Marketing you can find the skills to improve Web Design and User Experience, combined with SEO consulting oriented to facilitate the positioning of mobile content, improving the positioning in the results shown in SERP.