Google has announced that its “mobile-first” indexing of the web is now rolling out after eighteen months of testing and experimentation. Two years ago, Google detailed its plan to change the way its search index operates, explaining how its algorithms would shift to use the mobile version of a website’s content to index its pages.
Fast forward to 2018 and Google has started migrating sites that follow the best practices for mobile-first indexing and will start showing mobile version of pages in Search results and Google cached pages. Site owners can also now expect a significantly increased crawl rate from the Smartphone Googlebot.
Google has told sites that are not in the first wave of roll out “there is no need to panic”, stating that mobile-first indexing is really about how Google gathers content, not about how that content is ranked. In fact Google explicitly says that content gathered by mobile-first indexing has no ranking advantage over mobile content that’s not yet gathered this way (or desktop content). Moreover, if a publisher only has desktop content, it will continue to be represented in Google’s index.
However, with most publishers receiving well over half their site visitors via mobile, the straw in the wind is clear. Google admits as such, adding, “we continue to encourage webmasters to make their content mobile-friendly. We do evaluate all content in our index — whether it is desktop or mobile — to determine how mobile-friendly it is. Since 2015, this measure can help mobile-friendly content perform better for those who are searching on mobile.“
For this first wave of roll out, Google will be notifying sites that are migrating to mobile-first indexing via Search Console.
Google Webmaster Central Blog: Rolling out mobile-first indexing
TechCrunch: Google begins to roll out mobile-first indexing