Google’s New Mobile-First Indexing May Have eCommerce Implications

Google recently announced that it will now roll out its mobile-first indexing after a year and a half of testing and experimentation.

Google’s move aims to improve the overall Google search experience on all mobile devices, which marks a change from its current crawling, indexing, and ranking system used in its desktop version.

The company’s indexing system has favored the desktop version of a page’s content, which may causes problems with mobile users as mobile pages may not include all the content or same experiences as the desktop page.

Now Google will change to favor the mobile version first and index that page based over the desktop version. Effectively, this means a mobile page will determine the page’s ranking in Google search results.

“We continue to have one single index that we use for serving search results. We do not have a “mobile-first index” that’s separate from our main index. Historically, the desktop version was indexed, but increasingly, we will be using the mobile versions of content.”

Google software engineer, Fan Zhang

The Effects of Mobile-first Indexing to Online Retailers

Google prioritized mobile sites for years. It boosted the ranks of mobile-friendly web pages on mobile search results, thereby reducing the amount of desktop results on a mobile search.

But by using one index and calculating the ranking based on the mobile page, it becomes important for eCommerce sites to ensure that the pages they serve on the mobile version contain all the information from the desktop version.

eCommerce sites have a unique issue that product pages often include a lot of information, but sometimes some information is not present on the mobile version of the product page.

This includes metadata, descriptions, images, links to support files such as instruction and installation manuals, and links to relevant other content.

Anything that typically makes a page SEO friendly must now be included in the mobile version to compete for ranking.

Templates May Need Updating

Older templates that may use separate mobile pages may need to be updated to newer templates that use responsive design.

These mobile-specific pages were often slimmed down versions of the full desktop page and may even included a separate shorter description.

By continuing to use such mobile-specific pages, eCommerce retailer may lose in ranking as Google will only index the information it finds on the mobile version and ignore the desktop version.

In a responsive design template, all the data from the desktop version is rearranged into a more mobile friendly display. Some responsive templates may allow for the removal of objects as the screen size becomes smaller, but that may not be the desired result anymore.

While Google said that content gathered by mobile-first indexing has no effect over a web page’s search ranking, it does mean the mobile page has less content and it will rank the information only on the content it finds.

Now Is The Time To Fix Websites

Google is rolling out this change over waves and it claims to have carefully selected the first wave of sites that are already following the recently set guidelines.

Also, the company recently announced that starting July 2018, slow-loading content will impact ranking on both mobile and desktop searchers.

The company tries to stress that mobile-friendly content ranking is different from mobile first ranking. This sounds a bit like double-talk but what they are saying is that a website with no mobile friendly pages will not incur any additional ranking “penalties.”

The overall trend is clear. Google wants fast-moving, mobile friendly, and mobile content-rich pages. Follow these practices, and page rankings will improve.

The full information about this change is available here from Google.One final note. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are not a consideration (yet) for Google in search rankings. But with Google having a stake in AMP pages, that may be the next hurdle to consider in Google rankings.

Have you done a checkup lately on your eCommerce site’s mobile experience? Head over to our Facebook Discussion Group or use the comments section below.

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