With the world’s browser habits constantly changing from desktop to mobile, Google has reached a pivotal point in developing its ‘Google Indexing’ system to current trends. They have recently announced through a blog post their current talks surrounding their indexing system. In the blog post, they discussed the decision that is being made as to how ready the indexing system is for public consumption and under what conditions it will appear in search results. Also in the blog post, Google stated that they already index more than half of all pages that show up on ‘mobile-first’ basis in search results. This means that the majority of websites that rank at the top of search results got there because of the site’s mobile content rather than desktop content.
It was back in 2016 when mobile-indexing first became a project, but it wasn’t until 2018 when it actually started to be implemented. Google decided to make this a project based on the growing popularity of mobile browsing over that of desktop browsing. The Google index itself is similar to an index in a library, it simply lists information about all web pages that Google knows about. So, when visiting a website, it can detect new and updated pages which then the index is updated. This can also be known as the ‘crawling process’, where a list of web addresses from past crawls and sitemaps is provided by website owners, then ‘crawlers’ visit the websites, using links on those sites to discover other pages. Google says that the computer programs determine which sites to crawl and how often. Also, the software set up for the indexing system pays special attention to new sites, changes to existing sites and dead links.
However, some sites still have quite different mobile versions compared to their what their desktop sites are offering, so some mobile browsers may still be seeing certain sites at the top of their search results because of their desktop indexing. Google says that the system automatically notifies the site owners in the ‘Search Console’ when their site has been moved to mobile-first indexing. But if you are unsure whether the change has been implemented on your site or not, you can check your site’s current indexing system using the ‘URL Inspection Tool’. If your site has been updated to the newer indexing system, it will say your site has been crawled by “Googlebot smartphone” along with the date that it happened.
If you’re interested in optimising the performance of your website and want to “make the switch”, Google recommends using structured data in the mobile version of your site and include alt-text for images on mobile pages.
Google: “If your site uses responsive design and techniques, you should be all set.”