Mobile First Index: Google Says Wait Until 2018

Last fall at his keynote at Pubcon, Gary Illyes sent the SEO world into a frenzy when he announced that Google would be launching a mobile first index and begin maintaining a secondary desktop index. Eight months later we’re still no closer to that mobile first index launching. This week at SMX Advanced Illyes said that it will now be coming in 2018. He said that it is still “probably many quarters away.”

GoogleIllyes also said that Google will be very proactive in communicating with webmasters and publishers about the launch of this mobile first index. While it will be a significant change, he reiterated that there is no need to “freak out.” The new index does not mean that desktop content won’t be included in the mobile index.  Rather, Google will be looking for mobile content first, not exclusively.

In short, we know about as much now about the timing, implications, and preparations necessary for the mobile first index as we did in October. Given this, we recommend that advertisers and marketers continue to optimize their web properties with a mobile first mentality. For example:

It’s Time to Get AMPed

Any publisher not on AMP already should be planning on rolling out AMP in the near future. While some publishers have struggled monetizing AMP pages, many domains are now successfully leveraging AMP. TechCrunch reports that over 900,000 domains are using AMP for more than 2,000,000,000 pages.

And, publishers aren’t the only ones who should be exploring AMP. Google is pushing AMP for e-commerce websites.  eBay rolled out AMP for more than 15 MM pages in 2016 and continues to expand its AMP presence.

AMP’s initial roll-out provided publishers with limited options in terms of page elements. However, Google has continued to develop and enhance AMP and you can now create a close to seamless web experience between your core website and AMP pages. Things like web forms, reviews, comments, and the like are now all able to be included in AMP pages.

And To Speed Up Your Website

Site speed is another area to focus on leading up to the release of the mobile first index. Regardless of your website’s mobile-friendliness, if it loads slowly it will be difficult to perform well in Google. Faster pages are already given a boost by Google and that boost should only increase with a mobile first index. Implementing fixes to site speed should be prioritized in organization’s development road maps.

Fortunately, the launch of the mobile first index being “many quarters away” gives larger organizations more time to prepare their websites. Fixing things like underlying site speed issues can be time consuming and difficult for larger websites. This delay is giving marketers and advertisers more time to prepare.

Don’t You Forget About Desktop

Just because Google is releasing a mobile first index does not mean that it is completely forgetting about desktop. There will still be a separate index maintained for desktop content and desktop searches will still be taking place. If you have a responsive website, you don’t have to worry about optimizing for one device vs. the other for the most part.

However, if you maintain a separate mobile and desktop site, don’t put all your focus on your mobile website at the neglect of the desktop site. Desktop searches still comprise about 40% of all searches, making maintaining high visibility in both indexes extremely important.

What’s Next?

We’ll monitor and assess the timing and implications around the mobile first index as new information becomes available from Google. Continue to check back on our blog for updates and developments.

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