This is going to be a huge makeshift in the way Google indexes search results. Googler Gary Illyes announced in a Pubcon that Google is almost ready to switch to a mobile first index. This mens that from now Google will start indexing the mobile version of pages as its primary index. So far, Google has considered desktop as its primary index.
What The Fuss Is All About?
Since, Google has always used the desktop version of a page for ranking, this could be seen as a major change in Google's existing indexing practices. It's worth noting that this is a pre-announcemnet of a upcoming change, and yet to go live. The announcement has probably made to let SEOs and site owners get prepared for this.
Google was planning this change since long. As the company had been watching the massive surge in mobile population very closely, they finally have decided to make the change. This is the change Garry Illyes has been hinting for at least year.
The move is obvious since mobile search share is growing on a rapid pace. Recently it was reported that it surpassed over 50% of total search made irrespective on device used.
How Will It Impact Websites?
As soon the change goes live, site owners will need to think on their mobile website strategy more carefully. They will have to cautiously think what the content they place on the mobile website pages. A website might lose rankings if content on desktop version of the page does not appear on page of its mobile version. The change will pose a bigger challenge for the site owners who serve two different versions of a page, one on mobile and other on desktop.
The change will bring no headache for websites that use responsive design. That means, if such websites have the same content on both desktop and mobile, they will be remain unaffected of the change. This upcoming change is not about having a website that is mobile friendly, but having a mobile website that is serving the correct content.
Structured Data Will Play A Role:
The change will bring emphasis of structured data back in mobile versions of the page. Site owners have tendency of removing structured data from the mobile version of the page to make the page lighter. But with mobile first index, to keep the structured data for your pages in the search results for mobile, site owners need to ensure the structured data remain there on their mobile pages.
Will Desktop Index Go Obsolete?
Absolutely not. Garry stressed that desktop index will be there as always, but it will not be as fresh as the mobile index. The statement again emphasizes that the mobile one will be the primary and freshest index.
What About the Links?
Illyes made it clear that links are an issue because people tend to not link as much on the mobile web compared to desktop.
When Will Google Make The Change?
During the Pubcon, Illyes didn't make any confirmation about the dates when mobile first index will be rolled out, as they can be changed. He however said that Google will announce the date via its blog post. The post will include details about when Google makes the change to mobile first indexing.