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Are you ready for the Mobile-First Index?

     
11:04 am on Jul 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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What is the Mobile-First Index? The mobile-first index is a change in the way Google is going to index content.

Currently, Google looks at the desktop version of a site and then bases how it will rank the mobile site according to that information. Once this update rolls out, the opposite of that will happen. Google will begin looking at your mobile site and from that, will rank the desktop site.

[searchenginewatch.com...]

Google estimates the Mobile-First Index will be in effect by the end of 2017.
3:52 pm on July 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I can't wait. I'm so ready. What's best is that there are so many ugly sites out there, it's fairly easy to do something better cosmetically speaking. Bring on the ugly. Better for me that's for sure. So to anyone with an ugly mobile solution, I thank you very much. Hopefully we are in the same niche! But yes, seriously, I'm ready with all things mobile outside of any real monetization solutions.
4:20 pm on July 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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That date is outdated by the way. In June at SMX, Gary said it was "many quarters away" and 2018 at earliest.
7:29 pm on July 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Why does google need to give priority to either desktop or mobile? Why not just keep them separate, with one index and algorithm for mobile users and a separate index and algorithm for desktop users?
9:06 pm on July 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@aristotle - Paul Haahr (@haahr) from Google said “Index of mobile pages for mobile users and index of desktop pages for desktop users won’t happen.”
9:58 am on July 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@Lake - it may end up being implemented in 2018 but what Google’s Gary Illyes actually said was:
We don’t have a timeline. It could be a few months or quarters, but it’s definitely not weeks [away].
[google.com...]

There's also some talk about releasing it bit by bit while testing, but one thing seems certain, it is coming.
2:18 pm on July 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I'm working like mad to get ready. I hope it is several quarters away.
2:23 pm on July 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@MrSavage what you mean exactly by "ugly mobile solution"?
4:18 pm on July 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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It's going to be a drip by drip release is my bet.

And I have this overwhelming feeling that the drips will last well into 2019 before it's stabilised. Don't overreact to each and every iteration of this sequence of SERPS changes. If you do, you'll be chasing your tail and do more damage than good.

The only area I have worked on is site speed. It's done now and that's it for me at the moment as far as the mobile index is concerned (my main site is already responsive).

Don't be surprised if site speed (and appearance of the pages on mobiles) is the primary focus of the mobile index. This, somehow, all ties in with G pushing AMP. But if your pages are responsive and they load better than average I reckon the mobile SERPS will be a damp squid and AMP is a bit irrelevant.

I'm talking from the perspective of a UK informational site. I have absolutely no ideas of the impact on e-commerce sites. Probably major, G will want to have another slice of your income.
8:44 pm on July 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Don't be surprised if site speed (and appearance of the pages on mobiles) is the primary focus of the mobile index.
Most definitely speed with be a ranking factor, and all the other components Google has been including in their mobile speed check tools.
10:54 pm on July 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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But, but, splutter, but ... what is a “mobile page”? Is it shorthand for “the content that some specific mobile device receives by default, or is automatically redirected to, when requesting suchandsuch URL”? How does it work on sites that use entirely different URLs? How about sites that encourage mobile users to download their app instead?
Currently, Google looks at the desktop version of a site and then bases how it will rank the mobile site according to that information. Once this update rolls out, the opposite of that will happen. Google will begin looking at your mobile site and from that, will rank the desktop site.

I thought they kept telling us they rank pages, not sites.

At some time in the future, will they look for “mobile-first” sites? Currently, if you use any kind of UA detection, the underlying rule is “Serve the desktop version unless you have reason to believe the visitor is on a mobile”. Will the next step be to look for sites that serve the mobile version unless there is concrete reason to believe the visitor is on a desktop?
11:23 pm on July 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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what is a “mobile page”?
There are 3 different classes of what SE's consider a mobile page/site:

• mobile friendly - the bare minimum. The site passes the mobile-friendly test, image sizes are within limits, content font size can be read.

• mobile sites - a separate version of the desktop built for mobile often accessed by sub-directory: mobile.example.com or m.example.com.

• responsive layout - currently the recommended version which adjusts to all screen sizes.
12:56 am on July 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I'm ready, but Google obviously isn't. :-)
1:52 am on July 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Even after the Mobile-First index is implemented, if you don’t have a mobile site, Google will continue to index your desktop site, and your ranking may not change... for now.

Definitely start planning a mobile version for the future. Most searches are done on mobile so you’re definitely missing out on that traffic, which is steadily growing.

It's recommended to not rush with building a mobile site. Better to build one correctly than to hurry and produce an inferior product. Since mobile will eventually determine ranking for both desktop & mobile, include full, rich & relevant content, not a watered down version of the desktop.

Helpful links:
Why make a website mobile-friendly? [developers.google.com]
How do I make my site mobile friendly? [developers.google.com]

- - -
5:17 am on July 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Ugly Mobile Solution - When you force desktop users to view a mobile version of your website on a display other than a smartphone/phablet size. You will find a thumbnail size logo (top left), HUGE fonts that you could read from 40-yard line if your monitor was in the end zone, images that stretch from your house to the nearest Starbucks, white background, etc. It's worth noting that it might suffice on mobile displays, there are better, prettier more optimized solutions out there.

This is like discussing politics of course. I'm encouraging everyone to go bland. Make those desktop users seek websites that makes sense. Web designer in 2017 is an oxymoron.
8:40 am on July 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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My first responsive design was as far back as 2000. The layout switched for 640, 800, 1024 screen width.
Now all layout elements have standard 600 pixel width. There can be 1 to 6 columns of 600 pixel be.
Below 600 pixel, zoom is used.
9:39 am on July 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I am responsive everywhere.

No mobile only sites. That's a headache.

CSS wise, it's even better.
Before, I was always concerned with white-space:nowrap, so it wouldn't break any fixed looking layout.
Now? WRAP WARP!
Everything wraps! :D

Only downside: some display:none elements that, unfortunately, consume some bandwidth and will never ever be seen... poor elements. :(
1:43 pm on July 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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We've been fully responsive since mid-2014 and I must say the process by which I turned the whole site responsive was probably the most hand-on enjoyable thing I've done with my sites since I first added CSS to it in 2002 (I had a year of font, center, bgcolor, etc tags!).

Remember in November '16, mobile overtook desktop [telegraph.co.uk] so us as webmasters also need to begin employing a mobile-first viewpoint.
6:38 pm on July 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Only downside: some display:none elements that, unfortunately, consume some bandwidth and will never ever be seen... poor elements.

If the elements are text, the bandwidth is insignificant. For images, there are workarounds. One that I've actually used is: instead of putting the image in <img> tags, make it the background-image for an element. As part of your responsive code for smaller viewports, set both display: none and background-image: none for that element. If you load the page from a device with a small viewport, the image file will not be requested at all. (I tested to ensure that this works as intended.)
10:52 pm on July 5, 2017 (gmt 0)

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The race to the top of the new index will be different from past algo changes. IMO a website cannot achieve mobile-first index success without intuitive navigation & rich content seamlessly integrated into a responsive web design utilizing optimized schema data, and a fast load time.
12:32 am on July 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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what is a “mobile page”?


In addition to what was said above, many sites that use an "m dot" strategy have totally different content and if they detect a mobile device, they redirect you to the m-dot site. So the Google mobile crawler literally wouldn't see the "desktop" page without asking "show me the full site." I ran across a site like this just the other day. I'd say those are the sites at the most risk, even more than a site that just has a bad mobile experience..

Why does google need to give priority to either desktop or mobile?


Why does anyone prioritize anything? Because resources aren't infinite. Gary said at Pubcon last year that Google devotes 80% of its available crawl resources to desktop. But if you consider that more than 50% of the searches are on mobile, that's clearly wrong. So why not prioritize neither? Well, then you're splitting your crawl resources 50/50, which is perhaps the worst of all possible solutions, since you're now visiting any given site about half as often as you would with an 80/20 split.

So you put 80% of your resources out there to serve the majority, and then you throw 20% at the laggards until they catch up... or until that thing we know as a web page ceases to be important in either mobile or desktop form. Then who knows, the VR/AR/video crawlers will use 90% of the resources and they'll just keep 10% to crawl text-based resources.
12:41 am on July 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Looking at analytics on one site right now and the last time desktop sessions surpassed mobile was August, 2016. The first time mobile surpassed desktop was August 2014.

Now revenue? That's another story altogether
3:17 am on July 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Now revenue? That's another story altogether
True, but that may be a thing of the past now. In the early days of building mobile pages, a lot of mistakes were made.

My main product converts very well on mobile, better even, but then I built the page for mobile... then made it responsive for desktop. With the Mobile-First index, that will be the smart approach.
4:00 am on July 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Google devotes 80% of its available crawl resources to desktop.

I just did a quick check of logs for the last full month (June 2017). That 80/20 figure is spot-on--at least for me. Looking only at page requests by the Googlebot, right around 20% of them are from the Android UA.

I should think they can tell by now whether a page is responsive or selectively served (variable content at the same URL). Logs bear this out: in the whole month, only 1% of CSS requests were from the Android. If they know it's always going to be the same content, there's no reason to request it with multiple UAs--and then you might as well stick with the shorter one. (The Android UA string is almost three times as long as the vanilla Googlebot UA. All those bytes must add up when you're sending millions of requests every day.)
3:52 am on July 7, 2017 (gmt 0)

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My main product converts very well on mobile


I think that will depend on your product. Is *it* mobile friendly? In other words, some products that depend on rich imagery or complex use cases or complex configuration will never adapt to mobile well. There just isn't enough screen real estate and you can't always "mobile first" your way out of it.

I suspect that those types of products will jump straight from desktop making up most of their conversions to VR (or possibly AI configuration agents), more or less skipping "mobile" (understood as small screen, text-based website) as a primary channel.

Another consideration: is there an online marketplace already for your product. In travel, for example, people are more likely to use the Expedia app than go to your airline or resort website, so mobile *websites* will remain a research channel, while desktop and apps (probably not your app unless you've hooked them in with your frequent flyer miles or other loyalty program) will account for most sales.

For very many businesses, mobile traffic is the small part of the puzzle. I've been looking at the analytics extensively for a decent-sized website over the last couple of days and mobile conversion rates just are nothing close to desktop. So while mobile traffic continues to rise, it doesn't translate into mobile revenue to the same degree.

That said, there does seem to be a "research on mobile, buy on desktop" phenomenon. Mobile traffic peaks on Saturday and Sunday and desktop conversions peak on Sunday and Monday. Also, interestingly, when segmented by day of the week, tablet resembles small screens in terms of traffic patterns, but large screens in terms of conversion patterns (with conversion rates closer to mobile, but the *pattern* being closer to desktop, that is peaking on Sunday/Monday). So mobile is probably more important for the overall conversion than the numbers would have you believe.

There's some seasonal variation because buying habit change a lot over the course of the year, but that's for the last quarter. Spot checking, winter customers behave rather differently.

Anyway, all of this to say that there's being ready for a "mobile-first index" and being ready for a "mobile-first world" and those are two very different things.
4:14 am on July 7, 2017 (gmt 0)

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...there does seem to be a "research on mobile, buy on desktop" phenomenon.
All evidence points to that metric changing in the next couple years.

As desktops are used less and less (besides the office, desktop sales have steadily declined over the last 3 years and continue to do so) and as websites are designed mobile-first, the product focus will surely need to change to accommodate the mobile user.

As for my product mentioned above, it's just a series of books, neither favoring desktop nor mobile, however I strongly promote on various Social Media which does of course favor mobile. My mobile traffic is far higher desktop.
10:34 am on July 7, 2017 (gmt 0)

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If I'm buying on a phone, I usually use Amazon directly. I rarely search. However, the vast majority of my purchasing is done from a desktop/laptop.

OTOH, I never fire up a PC for general information, my smartphone is my friend.

The normal caveat for everyone on these boards applies; I am not necessarily a typical user.

We're fully responsive, so we'll have to see how that goes. However, I am very nervous about this mobile-first index, as ecom generally attracts a low volume of links. As mobile pages tend to have less links anyway, I am concerned that the mobile index will cause a lot of disruption to a top-tier ranking factor (plus any PR-like scores similarly circulated).

I genuinely think this could be the biggest shake-up in the SERPs since Mayday, and possibly Florida.

Incidentally, it has been 7 years since Mayday, which was 7 years after Florida. When Mayday rolled, I remember thinking that Florida was ancient. But even though it's the same gap, Mayday still seems quite recent. Time flies when you're... getting old.
1:58 pm on July 7, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Did anyone get a profit on google rank by implementation AMP pages? I have up to 10$ on google traffic on amp pages, but I am not sure, that it is a natural gain, or mobile traffic just divided on default mobile pages and amp pages
4:24 pm on July 7, 2017 (gmt 0)

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As desktops are used less and less (besides the office, desktop sales have steadily declined over the last 3 years and continue to do so) and as websites are designed mobile-first, the product focus will surely need to change to accommodate the mobile user.

We publish an information site that earns significant revenue from affiliate programs. The program that generates the bulk of our affiliate revenue lets us break out results by "computer," "tablet," and "mobile."

The vast majority of our bookings are still "computer" (even though our mobile traffic has grown enormously), with "tablet" in second place. We had hardly any "mobile" bookings until recently, but in the last six months or so, that's begun to change. Mobile is still a distant third behind computers and tablets, but I wouldn't be surprised to see mobile creeping up on tablets in another year or two.
2:04 pm on July 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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EditorialGuy, that's because many such companies divert mobile visitors to their apps which costs you the cookie if/when they close the browser. I won't name names but the biggest companies are doing this, and have been for some time.
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