Having recently said that it will show different search results to mobile and desktop users, Google now has another search related announcement. Reacting to the fact that most searches are conducted from mobile devices, search results will be ranked according to sites' mobile content.
Google says that it has "begun experiments to make [its] index mobile-first", and it's a move that essentially says that mobile searchers are more important than the rest. In light of the recent splitting of mobile and desktop indexing, the announcement is hardly a bolt out of the blue, but it's still something that many site owners will need to take action about.
While the change has just been announced, Google says that it will be gradually introduced over the coming months. Ranking algorithms will ultimately look to the mobile index to determine how results should be ordered, Google says desktop users are not going to be abandoned.
Announcing the change, Google says:
Although our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually 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. Of course, while our index will be built from mobile documents, we're going to continue to build a great search experience for all users, whether they come from mobile or desktop devices.
We understand this is an important shift in our indexing and it's one we take seriously. 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.
To help webmasters to ensure that their sites don't slip right to the bottom of search results, Google has a number of hints and tips relating to the change:
- If you have a responsive site or a dynamic serving site where the primary content and markup is equivalent across mobile and desktop, you shouldn’t have to change anything.
- If you have a site configuration where the primary content and markup is different across mobile and desktop, you should consider making some changes to your site.
- Make sure to serve structured markup for both the desktop and mobile version.Sites can verify the equivalence of their structured markup across desktop and mobile by typing the URLs of both versions into the Structured Data Testing Tool and comparing the output.When adding structured data to a mobile site, avoid adding large amounts of markup that isn’t relevant to the specific information content of each document.
- Use the robots.txt testing tool to verify that your mobile version is accessible to Googlebot.
- Sites do not have to make changes to their canonical links; we’ll continue to use these links as guides to serve the appropriate results to a user searching on desktop or mobile.
- If you are a site owner who has only verified their desktop site in Search Console, please add and verify your mobile version.
- 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.If you are building a mobile version of your site, keep in mind that a functional desktop-oriented site can be better than a broken or incomplete mobile version of the site. It's better for you to build up your mobile site and launch it when ready.