Google Search Index set to go ‘mobile-first’ within months

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As if you haven’t experienced enough turbulence in the last few months, what with the release of Penguin 4.0 and the proliferation of AMP through organic SERPs, Google has announced that it will soon be splitting its index between mobile and desktop.

Speaking at Pubcon last week, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes stated that Google will create a separate mobile index within the next few months.

Furthermore, this mobile index will become the primary Google index. The newly separated desktop index will not be kept as up-to-date as the mobile one.

This is completely in line with not only everything Google has been building towards over the past few years, but also with user behaviour. You’re already aware that more than half of all searches happen on mobile, but also if a page takes more than a few seconds to load, a user will abandon and visit somewhere else.

Google has been working to make the user experience for mobile better, by introducing Accelerated Mobile Pages, making site speed a ranking factor and perhaps most infamously of all, unleashing mobilegeddon.

However the introduction of a mobile-only ‘primary’ index raises a heck of a lot of questions, with very few details confirmed as of yet.

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Making sure mobile users have the most up-to-date information available is a no-brainer, as they’re more likely to be using ‘near-me’ search queries.

But doesn’t a desktop user also require the latest information? Maybe it’s a question of limited resources, but it feels like Google is encouraging mobile behaviour rather than following user trends.

Of course the delay in updates may only refer to minutes or hours rather than days or weeks.

Also, it’s highly likely the mobile-index will only contain mobile-friendly content. Although Google promised that non-mobile optimised content can still rank highly if it’s the best match for a query, having a mobile-only index may mean certain websites are excised from mobile SERPs all together.

According to Gary Illyes, we may not be waiting long for the answers to these questions. We’ll keep you updated when we learn more.

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