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Google new mobile-only search index within months... Gary Illyes

     
3:35 pm on Oct 14, 2016 (gmt 0)

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[searchengineland.com...]

Mobile algorithm change in 2015..turned out to be dud
AMP pages in 2016. Not sure about the impact.

This one could have an enormous impact because a lot of sites don't have the internal linking and other such things implemented on the mobile site.
1:09 pm on Oct 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Surprised there is not much chatter on this news as it could be a pretty big change.

It sounds like mobile and desktop will be completely split now and not just a mobile friendly ranking factors applied to the desktop index.

So a number of questions come to mind for me off the bat (which probably can't be answered until the thing goes live).

Will the mobile index and desktop index influence each other at all?

Will internal links on the desktop that don't appear on mobile affect the mobile index?

Will external links pointing to desktop pages (that don't have a "mobile" page") affect the index?

Will having less content on a mobile page (compared to the same desktop page) affect keyword ranking?





The more Google grows the more I question their decisions.

I am not sure why Desktop index will not be updated as much
6:31 pm on Oct 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Desktop usage is now a minority of Google queries but still generates substantial usage.


My mobile growth usage stopped about a year ago, both Google's and my own metrics show desktop v mobile as 60/40 ... it's consistently been that during all of 2016.

I am global manfacturer to national wholesaler, I suppose B2B, and even though nearly all my sites are responsive, realistically anyone doing serious project research would do it on desktop.

YMWV !
7:08 pm on Oct 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Will external links pointing to desktop pages (that don't have a "mobile" page") affect the index?

That's an interesting question. Still, in terms of gauging quality or authority, it would be reasonable to count links to desktop-only pages as "votes." Even with the current index, links and PageRank are only part of the indexing and ranking mix.

Something else to think about:

Will Google's launch of a dedicated mobile index will lead to greater emphasis on things like page speed? In the real world, displaying correctly on a phone--e.g., being responsive--is only one aspect of "mobile-friendliness." Mightn't we eventually see a mobile index where the top results for many queries are dominated by AMP and other mobile-optimized pages?
11:55 am on Oct 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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The other big question is whether AMP pages will get the same boost for all mobile pages as they already do for some searches, or whether Google will use neutral measures of mobile friendliness like page size and speed.

Also, this looks like it will affect both desktop and mobile because it will be the primary index:

Google is going to create a separate mobile index within months, one that will be the main or “primary” index that the search engine uses to respond to queries. A separate desktop index will be maintained, one that will not be as up-to-date as the mobile index.
2:16 pm on Oct 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Also, this looks like it will affect both desktop and mobile because it will be the primary index:

The implications of the term "primary index" seem a bit unclear, in terms of overall system functionality.

If the mobile index is the "primary" index but a separate desktop index is also maintained,will desktop queries pull in results from both indexes (e.g., "fresh" results from the mobile index and "desktop only" results from the desktop index), or....?
3:57 pm on Oct 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Unless something has gone seriously sideways at google I simply do not see this ever coming to pass. The lines are already too blurry and they are not going to get any less blurry, mobile/tablet/laptop/desktop, my 6 plus screen is darn near as big as my laptop screen and I do not want to see different results when searching between them.
5:36 pm on Oct 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Also why define a primary index. That seems to suggest that is the index they will show by default (even to desktop) if an alternate is not selected. Why not just automatically use/show the index of the device used by the search. Therefore each index is the primary for that particular device.

I also agree with Shepherd. These devices are changing and improving all the time. A tablet is basically a type of laptop now. Most have similar resolutions and can handle web pages without problems.

Plus I thought content is king, while it does matter how the content is displayed to a certain point (the page can't be completely unusable) I rather be shown the page with the most up to date and usefully information than the one which looks pretty on my device but contains old data.
6:01 pm on Oct 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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a) If Penguin has reminded us anything about Google, it is that their timeframe guess is usually more guess and less of a hard deadline.

b) Careful that you base your decisions on what Google says & not what is coming out of the SEO rumor mill.
(I actually lean towards focusing more on what Google does instead of says to avoid their FUD.

c) This doesn't really change anything. In general its good to have your pages perform well on big screens & small screens. Users like faster loading pages. So most of the mobile friendly requirements are common sense things you are already doing or moving towards for your site.
10:17 pm on Oct 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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It sounds like mobile and desktop will be completely split now and not just a mobile friendly ranking factors applied to the desktop index.

If proven true - then common-sense prevails at last.
11:46 pm on Oct 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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This confuses me. Even Google are advocating responsive design, yet this does tend to fly in the face of all of that. If Mobile sites and conventional desktop sites are going to be on in separate indexes, this makes me want to have a mobile version and a desktop version to provide the best experience on each platform. The only factor that causes a lot of site owners not to go down this route is Google recommending responsive design as opposed to mobile/desktop versions.

There is now a very real case for going back to basics for the desktop site, and going full AMP for the mobile version. I guess this is the plan anyway.

Mack.
12:38 am on Oct 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I thought Google had an app for that. Must be just trying to clean up their app - removing anything to do with tables and cols -- I guess they view their app as being much more important than their regular "non-mobile-friendly" index --
7:52 am on Oct 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Given that many sites I see have dramatic reductions on links for the mobile site, one of three things are true:
1) Google has successfully emulated / simulated / approximated the role of links in some other way (Equivalence)
2) Google has seriously dialled down the importance of links over time, without anyone noticing (Deprecation)
3) The new Mobile SERPs will look nothing like current SERPs because the link graph will be totally different (Revolution)

Or, it will either not happen, or be not as described.

The crux of the issue is where Responsive Design is used to serve differing content on a single URL, will classifiers / scoring be based on the fullest version of the document, or the slimmest version.

The Desktop Index is unlikely to be served by a different Algo IMHO, which means only one set of scores. That implies that it will be a repository of ancillary documents that may be served to desktop users, that will only surface if there is a deficiency in quality of Primary documents. Very much like PDFs were served a few years ago- not a preferred option, but available if required.

If it is two fully different indexes, with different scoring and classifiers, that would be a serious increase in complexity.

Interesting times.
12:26 pm on Oct 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Surely I am not the only one serving the same responsive sites regardless of desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile?

I do appreciate that some of you have huge legacy sites however I would have thought that many sites could easily serve one responsive design only?
12:55 pm on Oct 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Surely I am not the only one serving the same responsive sites regardless of desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile?
No, we do that too. Loads sites do, but many do not.

Some keep mobile traffic on a different set of URLs, some change the content delivered. Many people alter the delivery of content- and since many ranking factors are based on the rendered page layout, the arrangement matters.

For example, navigation is rarely visible on mobile, but still reasonably common on desktop. Article sites frequently (drastically) reduce the content on the homepage on mobile vs desktop. Any or all of these things would change both the link graph, and the semantic relationships of pages.
1:58 pm on Oct 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Same thing here @RedBar. Same question popped into my head when reading this thread. Same as this site as well. Same content for all users.

On the other hand, there are tons of CMS/ECom packages out there that serve completely different content based on UA. FREE CMS packages that are able to include tons of CSS/JS files for the sake of PLUGITIN/PLUGITIN.

Some of ECOM packages are simply a click-menu, click-menu, click-menu, crappy small image and a HUUUUUUUGE(pun intended) BUY Button. Yep lets include those in mobile index!
3:17 pm on Oct 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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...this makes me want to have a mobile version and a desktop version to provide the best experience on each platform. ...There is now a very real case for going back to basics for the desktop site, and going full AMP for the mobile version.


That would be cool because you can then strip out all the mobile related code (and image files) intended for the mobile version and vice-versa for the mobile version. Both versions would be lighter weight and in theory could be better optimized for conversions.

I believe WikiHow is already serving two sites. I just tested the desktop version of one of their pages by shrinking the browser window size and the page didn't resize, even after refreshing. They're serving an AMP page via a subdomain for mobile devices.

Roger
3:45 pm on Oct 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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That would be cool because you can then strip out all the mobile related code (and image files) intended for the mobile version and vice-versa for the mobile version. Both versions would be lighter weight and in theory could be better optimized for conversions.

This is exactly the type of action that I foresee will cause big changes. Any significant move to link-light mobile pages will be a huge event for the web.
5:43 pm on Oct 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Unless something has gone seriously sideways at google I simply do not see this ever coming to pass. The lines are already too blurry and they are not going to get any less blurry, mobile/tablet/laptop/desktop, my 6 plus screen is darn near as big as my laptop screen and I do not want to see different results when searching between them.


That ^ is key. Different geographic parts of the world, different sets of users, and other factors are hugely important in determining what devices are used to view web pages.

I know the devices that are most commonly used to view my pages, I also know how their shares are moving over time for my websites.

My fear is that Google never classifies what a mobile is when they come up with new proposals. Key to me is, will tablets be classified as mobiles or desktops as far as this development is concerned? Without that vital bit of information I will be very reluctant to to respond quickly to this new development of a separate Google SERPS for 'mobiles'.

It is worrying though because the idea of a separate mobile (versus tablet / desktop) SERPS has been around for years. It's very surprising that G hasn't implemented it a few years ago. My guess is that it is very difficult to achieve for G.

In their efforts to implement it now, G may well classify tablets in the group that makes it technically easiest for them to achieve. This may or may not not reflect the reality of current usage. If the mobile SERPS are to become the primary SERPS then I suspect that tablets and mobiles will be grouped together. This is not the true reality - tablets are more akin to desktops. Tablet users could well be badly served by this new development.
7:33 pm on Oct 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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That would be cool because you can then strip out all the mobile related code (and image files) intended for the mobile version and vice-versa for the mobile version. Both versions would be lighter weight and in theory could be better optimized for conversions.

Slimming down code is the smallest part of it, IMHO.

We have 1,000+ dedicated mobile pages (even though nearly all of our 6,000 or so pages are responsive), and those pages are designed for quick loading and--just as important--reader-friendly content presentation.

For example, articles are broken into shorter paragraphs on the mobile pages for better readability and more white space. This is a bit like editing for newspapers vs. magazines or books: A narrow newspaper column requires shorter paragraphs than, say, a biography or history book does. Similarly, a human editor can decide which images are essential and which can be dispensed with on small screens.

Whether it's worth devoting the time and/or money to having separate mobile pages depends on things like traffic and potential revenue. But doing so can make sense under the right circumstances, even if you already have a responsive site.
9:36 pm on Oct 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I have all sites at 2 rows for desktop:

1/3 - 2/3
1/2 - 1/2

And that transforms to:

100%
100%
100%
100%

four rows on mobile - pure CSS.

With 100% of content and links intact.

Why is it so hard?
11:56 pm on Oct 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I would have thought that many sites could easily serve one responsive design only?


I'll just wait to see how this all shakes out -- Google, in it's usually less than transparent way, has probably created more questions than it ever intended to answer in it's statement (nothing new) -- All except for one (he doesn't want responsive) that I do view well on both mobile and desktop -- I have some others that present the site differently between desktop and mobile view --

I think most of us already have whatever it is that Google might require when it makes it's move. If it's like Google says, and it will only list RWD in this so-called new index, then the best that could happen is that your listings on the mobile side will be the bees knees, and the listings for the same site on the old index will update only every-so-often ...

Going back to a .mobi stand alone build, IMO, is a way bit out there, especially when you've already got the means to present yourself well on any device with a single build.
12:15 am on Oct 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I have noticed recently that my website, mostly desktop visitors, has has moved up the Alexa rankings very quickly, to it's highest ever point, even though traffic is half what it was 2 years ago.

With Alexa only rating sites via desktop that I know of, have the normal serps been weighted towards desktop sites already?
12:49 am on Oct 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Maybe I missed something, but this doesn't seem like it is that big a deal to me.

To me it sounds like if you have a RWD site it will probably appear in both indexes.

But a non-RWD sote will only appear in the desktop index.

That actually sounds like a good idea to me. Less difficult to use clutter in the mobile index.
2:19 am on Oct 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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There are plenty of desktop only sites that are still more usable for mobile users than many responsive sites, it would be a shame to remove them from the index. Those desktop sites can still be fast, lightweight, with the text being usually realigned automatically by the browser into a narrow column to fit the screen. That's how the mobile web was with the first generations of smart phones. Then there are RWD sites that are heavy, slow, with a silly "loading.." animated icon, a few mbs of unnecessary javascript, it takes an eternity to even display the first visual elements and after that you have to scroll down forever, almost useless without the latest flagship smart phone, LTE speed, and unlimited data plan.
2:56 am on Oct 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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For example, articles are broken into shorter paragraphs on the mobile pages for better readability and more white space.


That's a very good point. I'm quite conscious of how many words/sentences are in a paragraph and of late have been sticking to one big idea per paragraph, as few as two sentences per paragraph to around three. That's for desktop and mobile. This might be more important for mobile because of UX considerations.

My gut feeling is that because of limited attention span associated with Internet content consumption, shorter paragraphs work best. I have no data to support that so consider that with a measure of salt.
8:51 am on Oct 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Maybe I missed something, but this doesn't seem like it is that big a deal to me.

To me it sounds like if you have a RWD site it will probably appear in both indexes.

That's true if you only consider your site, alone in the world. But that's not how it is.

Every page is a node on a link graph (and, presumably, a trust graph, authority graph, semantic graph and any other inheritable-citation-based-data graph).

In general, there are three top-level ways of dealing with mobile Vs desktop content:
1) Isolate both with separate URLs
2) Serve materially different content on the same URL
3) Serve the similar content but rendered differently via CSS

Ignoring the few sites that manage to be of some importance yet ignore the mobile phenomenon, your upstream influencers will all be doing at least one of the above. Let's look at them in turn.

1) Separate URLs.
This will have the least impact. The mobile pages and desktop pages already contribute to the link graph. Possibly the weighting will be changed such that the mobile pages will be treated as more "authoritative" in that they give more ranking power, but I would expect little downstream effects from these sites.

2) Materially different content, same URL
This is a bit of a wild-card scenario. If the Desktop index is a fully-fledged index, with dual inheritable scoring per document, then the impact will be reduced. In fact, it will operate as above. If, however, the primary (mobile) index dictates the scoring, and the desktop index is a supplementary index used only where there is insufficient quality in the Primary, then the whole local graph will be fundamentally altered. Expect large downstream effects.

3) CSS-Ordered Content
As we know, Google wants to consider the rendered page. This is explicit with ATF factors, but implicit with things like link positioning, or where G is making a decision about mis-use of H1, H2 elements. Currently, the desktop version is "in charge" and the link positioning and the semantic relationships they imply govern the downstream effects. When the new algo roles out, links will be moved, bodies of text (with in-line links) hidden/collapsed and the general document fundamentally changed in structure. I would expect significant but not revolutionary downstream effects from this type of site.

This is all on Day 0.

Going forward, much webmaster focus will be on writing a compelling mobile page, then making it desktop-friendly. I cannot see many people adding links to the desktop-friendly version. The tap target requirements will but marginal pressure on reducing links to save screen real estate, which will mean this decision will fundamentally alter the future development of the web.

Links just got even more valuable.
11:30 am on Oct 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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This looking at mobile user experience factors as they may affect different types of sites....

I've been thinking primarily about CSS ordered content, keeping half an eye on decoupling front and back ends, apps and javascript, etc. For me initially, thought so far has focused mostly on rendering similar content differently via CSS, perhaps in conjunction with an app.

I think that a lot of user-experience issues will depend on where and how the mobile version of the site is likely to be used, and the differences with which mobile users will read and scroll pages.

Chances are many mobile users will be on the move... not spending the kind of time they would at a desktop carefully interacting with the site. It may be that these will largely be different audiences. It's likely that mobile users will be in more of a hurry than desktop users, will scroll faster, and probably want less information... perhaps just factoids and bits of background, like Google cards. Voice search on mobile versions will enter into this a lot here.

Possibly other users will read when in transit, on a plane or a train, but not ambulatory... and will read more in depth. The long narrow column, broken into paragraphs, is easily readable if presented properly, and is a good format for in depth content.

The prioritization of content will require a fair amount of thought, particularly in ecommerce or large information sites, with the transformation of desktop pages to mobile, or vice versa, and how content is displayed different on each version, becoming an important part of the conception and design of the site.

A bunch of usability and conversion optimization studies have been going on for a while, so this won't be from bare rock. I spend more time studying these than discussions about site rankings. The design process itself has been undergoing a lot of rethinking, being pushed by some in that community almost as a new mode of thought.

Young mobile users, it's been tested, absorb and retain a surprising amount of information quickly. Images are likely to be important keys to content, with the order of image presentation becoming a core part of telling the "story" of a topic on a scrolling page.

Hard to say how long bandwidth in the US will remind a large limiting factor.

I have mixed feelings about infinite scroll and side scroll, seeing definite drawbacks to each... but they're very attraction for lots of people. That's an area which will require evolution and development of collective habits. It's clear that hidden and reveal sections of pages are already part of the standard conventions of a mobile page.

I think that onpage links will change from desktop style menus to (I hate to say this) the type of tile-like menus that Microsoft was pushing in Windows 8, but more orderly and attractive... I think the value of predictable and prioritized sequence will become a more important part of the experience. Site search likely as important as traditional navigation.

The concept of a mobile page will probably change as connections grow faster and bandwidth becomes cheaper. Right now, I'm feeling the conflicts of preserving necessary information on most mobile sites. In B2B ecommerce areas I'm exploring at the moment, I'm still considering desktop as the prime site.
3:35 pm on Oct 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Simply put, does Google say you cannot have the dynamic serving or a separate mobile site but only a responsive site? Will there going to be a new name (penalty) for the sites that don't adapt to responsive design? Thanks!
4:10 pm on Oct 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Will there going to be a new name (penalty) for the sites that don't adapt to responsive design?
Google will say it is not a penalty. The webmaster will perceive a (potentially massive) traffic drop, and claim a penalty.

There will be a highly-charged emotive conversation here on WebmasterWorld about the nature of a penalty, and if any sharp reduction in Google-derived traffic can be considered a penalty.

There will be many complaints where "my site no longer appears in SERPs" - this will be prevalent if the secondary index only surfaces when the primary index doesn't have sufficient quality.

There will be another conversation about "banning" sites being clear evidence of evil.

Some will adapt, some will die. There will be pain.

Or, Google will decide this is an unworkable idea and continue to procrastinate until it goes away.
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