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Google Mobile First index rolling out slowly/ being tested for some sites

     
9:03 pm on Oct 27, 2017 (gmt 0)

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< split off from the Oct Google Updates and SERPs Changes thread>

System: The following 4 messages were cut out of thread at: https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4870905.htm [webmasterworld.com] by robert_charlton - 3:14 pm on Oct 27, 2017 (PDT -8)


I haven't seen any reference in this discussion to yesterday's announcement that the Mobile First index is being tested and has rolled out for some sites...

Google’s mobile-first index has rolled out for some sites & will be implemented very slowly
Barry Schwartz on October 26, 2017
[searchengineland.com...]

Gary Illyes from Google would not give us any timelines, but the rollout of the mobile-first index is going well, and a blog post about the process should be out soon.

The mobile-first index has started to slowly roll out, at least for a “few sites,” Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes told an audience last night at the SMX East conference in New York City.

It is unclear how many sites have already switched over to the mobile-first indexing process, but, when I asked Illyes to clarify what he meant by “a few sites,” he said a few relative to the Google index. So that could be quite a large number of websites....

This is going to be a very slow process, but is it possible that what some are reporting here might be related tremors?

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 11:30 pm (utc) on Oct 27, 2017]

9:43 pm on Oct 27, 2017 (gmt 0)

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It definitely could be, Robert. After reading your post I looked at the different segments. Overall everything is down, but mobile and tablet (very few data points) are more consistently and noticeably down than desktop traffic. This is very interesting because our website has objectively the best mobile experience in our industry (automotive services).

Comparison image: [i.imgur.com...]
9:53 pm on Oct 27, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Yes I agree too still mobile related flux.
10:27 pm on Oct 27, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Wow - mobile traffic is exploding across all sites I'm watching. Looks like the mobile-first index is continuing to roll out, or possibly being tested in some areas.
11:43 pm on Oct 27, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Wow - mobile traffic is exploding across all sites I'm watching. Looks like the mobile-first index is continuing to roll out, or possibly being tested in some areas.

I am seeing the same. Too early to tell if the explosion in traffic will impact sales but even for the brand awareness aspect I'm happy.
1:09 am on Oct 28, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Sorry if I'm just confused about this, but I thought mobile-first indexing simply meant that Google would start crawling the web from a mobile, rather than a desktop, perspective, which means it would start ranking pages based on their mobile content rather than on their desktop content. I'm not sure how that would explain a sudden surge in mobile traffic, since desktop and mobile SERPs would both be impacted by any ranking changes. If your rankings improved because of the mobile-first indexing, you should see increased traffic across the board, from desktop and mobile.

Also, again as I understand it, if your site is mobile friendly and offers the exact same content for both desktop and mobile users, you really shouldn't be affected by the mobile-first indexing, since your content is the same no matter which way Google looks at it. Now, if a competitor is showing less content to mobile users, then maybe your rankings would increase as theirs decrease. But even then, the change should affect both desktop and mobile Google searches, so it would not explain any surge in mobile traffic.
1:19 am on Oct 28, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@Cralamarre - agree with that. But many sites are not mobile friendly, and in some niches that can be significant... boosting the ranking of mobile-friendly sites, especially those optimised well.

Since some (most?) niches have seen continuous decline in desktop traffic, this update can result in a strong increase of mobile traffic.

YMMV
1:27 am on Oct 28, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@keyplyr When you say that some, or most, niches have seen a continuous drop in desktop traffic, you mean simply because people don't search for them on desktops anymore, correct? Not because they've lost ranking over the years on Google, which is how I was looking at it. If most people interested in your niche use mobile for search, and mobile-first indexing boosted your rankings because your competitor sites are not mobile-friendly, then yes, I can see now how that would improve your mobile traffic.

I guess your niche really determines the impact that mobile-friendly indexing will have. In my case, mobile only makes up 10-15% of my traffic, and that hasn't changed.
1:47 am on Oct 28, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@Cralamarre - Desktop Search has been on a decline for a while:

The Decline of the Desktop Computer [webmasterworld.com]

Mobile Surpasses Desktop in Search [gs.statcounter.com]

For the last year or so, a mobile-friendly site has had a slight boost in ranking in Mobile Search. That boost is now being given to searches done from Desktop & Mobile with this new update; at least that's how I understand it.
4:32 am on Oct 28, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Is there any way to see this happening? All of the sites in my niche are well optimized with and without .m
8:52 am on Oct 28, 2017 (gmt 0)

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For our main site, a year-over-year-comparison (30-day period in each case) shows +22.3% for mobile, -0.39% for desktop, and -7.25% for tablet.

Overall sessions and users are up (+8.01% and +7.39%), but pageviews are off -5.89% due a combination of two factors: (1) We've consolidated our most popular two- and three-page articles into one page to make them more mobile-friendly, and (2) mobile users seem to have shorter attention spans than desktop and tablet users.

Interestingly, tablet users rank highest of the three groups in "pages/session" and "average session duration."
9:06 am on Oct 28, 2017 (gmt 0)

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mobile users seem to have shorter attention spans than desktop and tablet users
Absolutely, and they tend to bounce quicker if pages load slow.
9:15 am on Oct 28, 2017 (gmt 0)

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A very important point, I feel.... Barry describes in his article what sounds like a pecking order that Google has set up to determine levels of readiness for the mobile-first index. Google calls these "classifiers"....

In selecting sites to be switched over, Google has set up "classifiers" to define how ready a site is for the mobile-first index. Classifiers determine how equal or comparable the desktop site is to the mobile site when it comes to content, links, schema, multimedia, etc.

If the content, links, schema and so on all match at a 100 percent level, Google is more likely to take that site to the mobile-first indexing stage. If they are at an 80 percent level, Google might wait and communicate to the webmaster that there are specific changes that need to be made to the mobile site to get it closer to being 100 percent comparable....

As I understand it, Gary Illyes has said that the rollout will be gradual to test along the way.

I know that some members here have anticipated chaos because of differences between mobile and desktop sites (people link more on desktop sites)... and this sounds like Google's way of keeping control of the process, at least at the early stages.

Previous WebmasterWorld discussions here....

Are you ready for the Mobile-First Index?
July 2-17, 2017
https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4856128.htm [webmasterworld.com]


Mobile first index update... thoughts, predictions, observations
Oct 18-27, 2017
https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4873086.htm [webmasterworld.com]

12:17 pm on Oct 28, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I understand that the mobile-first index means Google will now be indexing pages based on their mobile, rather than their desktop, content. But have they said anything about mobile performance being a ranking factor in the mobile-first index? A site could have 100% identical content in both its mobile and desktop versions, and yet perform poorly for mobile users. I don't remember reading anything about performance being a factor in the mobile-first index. I know there have been a lot of comments about improved traffic due to a site being more mobile-friendly, but "mobile friendly" and "mobile content" are not the same thing. If I remove all my site's content for mobile users and just serve them blank html pages, it will perform great. But again as I understand it, what Google is really interested in here is the content itself.
3:40 pm on Oct 28, 2017 (gmt 0)

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This is going to be a very slow process

That seems to suggest that any changes in overall traffic to a site will be very slow and gradual.

But on the other hand, if the sites are shifted to the mobile-first index "one at a time", then maybe there could be an abrupt traffic change to an individual site just after it is shifted.

Also, sites that depend on one or two search terms for most of their traffic might experience a more abrupt traffic change than sites that get significant traffic from lots of different search terms.
6:11 pm on Oct 28, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Something is really wrong and or may be a coincidence. I'm talking about a very big site with Alexa rank of 3,500. It uses a the .m despite having same design on mobile and PC, one of their article which I'm tracking always ranked 1st. Yesterday, it slipped to 2nd position and earlier today it was 3rd and now it is 5th (I have tested it from pingdom, different devices and the result is same). I still cannot believe it! :O

I actually search that keyword every day in hope to see my site in top 3 and the rival site has been always on the 1st position... now their rank dropped and site without .m is now first.

And I'm not able to rank my new articles on the that topic, just after publishing the article, I used to get rank of 3rd position and huge traffic. Now, I cannot see my article anywhere!
7:27 pm on Oct 28, 2017 (gmt 0)

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This is going to be a very slow process
That seems to suggest that any changes in overall traffic to a site will be very slow and gradual.
The "slow rollout" would be slow to get to every site. Once your site has been included (reindexed into the mobile-first index) the effects should be instant.

That's not to say there won't be future tweaks that may affect your site.

- - - -

Don't forget that Google has built in a safety valve... if you don't have a Mobile-friendly version yet, Google will continue to rank your site on the merits of its Desktop version *temporarily.*

This grace period is to give you a little more time to conform to the new standard. Google hasn't said how long this period will be, but likely not more than a couple months.
10:11 pm on Oct 28, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Google might wait and communicate to the webmaster
Uh... How? Do webmasters who use neither GSC nor AdSense simply not count?
10:25 pm on Oct 28, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Uh... How? Do webmasters who use neither GSC nor AdSense simply not count?
I'm assuming they will email you.
11:15 pm on Oct 28, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@keyplyr Could you link to an article where Google mentions this "couple of months grace period" for sites that do not have a mobile version? From what I've read, all Google has said is that if you do not have a mobile site, Google will continue to index your desktop version as it normally would. Your "grace period" comment was the first I've heard of it.

Or an article where Google states that mobile performance, not simply content, is now a ranking factor in the new mobile-first index? Or that the "effects should be instant" once Google indexes your site for mobile? Again from what I read, Google has stated that if your site's mobile and desktop content is 100% identical, you should not see any change in your rankings.

I'm not saying you're wrong, but it seems like you're adding your own opinions and assumptions in with the facts, and passing them all off as facts. Some links to back up your statements would be helpful and appreciated.
12:21 am on Oct 29, 2017 (gmt 0)

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couple of months grace period
The linked article uses the words “incredibly slowly” and “no foreseeable time”. It isn’t clear whether those are direct quotations from Gary Illyes, or paraphrases into the writer’s own words. In Googlespeak, does that mean “the week after next” or does it mean “some time before the heat-death of the universe”?
1:21 am on Oct 29, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Yes "grace period" is my language and why I didn't include a citation. I think there are several linked articles where that is covered.

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.
[webmasters.googleblog.com...]

The desktop disadvantage is the ranking factors that do better on mobile that a desktop cannot benefit from.

I don't remember reading anything about performance being a factor in the mobile-first index

This article verifies performance will be a ranking factor with the mobile-index:
Google already considers page speed when ranking a page, and this will be just as important when the mobile-first index is fully live.
[searchenginewatch.com...]
4:18 am on Oct 29, 2017 (gmt 0)

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The bottom article only verifies that page speed will continue as a ranking factor in the mobile-first index, just as it already is now. There is nothing stating that page speed will be even more of a factor than it already is. In fact, both articles you linked to make it quite clear that content is everything with the mobile-first index. As stated in the first article, from Google, "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."

Also, while "grace period" was your own language, so was "temporary" and "a couple of months". Google has made no such statements. With respect, to help everyone get the correct information, we should be sticking to facts.
5:02 am on Oct 29, 2017 (gmt 0)

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There is nothing stating that page speed will be even more of a factor than it already is.
I haven't read that factor would *increase* only that it is a factor... to answer your above statement "I don't remember reading anything about performance being a factor in the mobile-first index"

Yes, you are correct, I should have been more explicit with my language from the very start of my above comments.

The paradox is, while desktop will continue to be ranked on its own merits, it will now not benefit from the ranking factors given to mobile-friendly sites and those sites who have both desktop & optimised mobile-friendly versions. The standing desktop currently has will seemingly be temporary as more and more mobile and mobile-friendly/desktop sites are ranked into the mobile-first index, and climb in the SERP. The time frame that Google sources have indicated for the roll-out to complete seems to be as far off as the first or second quarter of 2018 (my aforementioned grace period.)

as I understand it, if your site is mobile friendly and offers the exact same content for both desktop and mobile users, you really shouldn't be affected by the mobile-first indexing, since your content is the same no matter which way Google looks at it.
That's how I understand it as well. The only difference on my sites is where, what type & the frequency of ads (in house & 3rd party), the navigation & the look/feel (obviously.) The content is word for word the same.
8:18 am on Oct 29, 2017 (gmt 0)

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as I understand it, if your site is mobile friendly and offers the exact same content for both desktop and mobile users, you really shouldn't be affected by the mobile-first indexing, since your content is the same no matter which way Google looks at it.

We keep talking about desktop "sites" and mobile or mobile-friendly "sites," but in the real world, a mostly "mobile-friendly" site could easily have pages that, for any number of reasons (including the needs of a specific audience), are best viewed on large displays. Just to give an off-the-top-of-my-head example, an online collection of scanned maps might well include many printed maps that look bad (or are illegible) on anything less than a large high-resolution display. Ditto for large artworks, building plans, and the like. It's hard to imagine a serious search engine giving short shrift to such content in desktop searches. The academic, library, and museum communities (and many other types of professional users) would be up in arms.
8:56 am on Oct 29, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@EditorialGuy - of course, but our topic in this thread is how the mobile-first index update is rolling out and how it may or may not affect the ranking of our sites/pages.

Pages that aren't intended for small screens and don't work well on mobile devices seem to be an area that has been unclear how Google will handle them in the new index.

If they can't display well on mobile, will they not get the ranking boost?

If they are slow to load on the mobile network, will they be penalized even though they are not meant to be used on mobile?

Are these ranking nuances so slight it won't be noticed?
9:48 am on Oct 29, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Definitely a huge change underway - the biggest changes I have ever seen.
Unfortunately my most popular site is currently down about 100 places from where it used to be. Any theories about what might cause a 100 place drop?
10:24 am on Oct 29, 2017 (gmt 0)

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It may not stay there glitterball. As noted, all indication is this update will be rolling out slowly. There will likely be quite a flux as various sites are indexed.

I'm not going to worry about where my site is ranked til the dust settles.
10:36 am on Oct 29, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I'm not going to worry about where my site is ranked til the dust settles.


Whilst I would like to concur with that, this morning coming up to a 12 hour Googleday for me, I have several sites with ZERO traffic including my original 24 year old site.

All sites but one are fully responsive, the one that isn't had 90% of its relevant info moved to another domain ages ago, and most have been responsive for several years now.

All still seem to be indexed ok.

Whilst I want to believe that this may be a short-term blip, why do I have this feeling of an almighty FUBAR impending?
11:08 am on Oct 29, 2017 (gmt 0)

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It may not stay there glitterball. As noted, all indication is this update will be rolling out slowly. There will likely be quite a flux as various sites are indexed.

I'm not going to worry about where my site is ranked til the dust settles.


I'm more curious about whether the +100 might give me an insight into anything. I've seen a lot of +10 or +30 position changes over the years, that are usually associated with some down time, moving to a different server or making site-wide changes. So wondering if +100 means anything.
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