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Mobile-First Ranking: Google To Rank Pages Based On Mobile Websites

7 November 2016, 7:00 am EST By Carl Velasco Tech Times
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Google announced that it is shifting to a more mobile-driven search index, to best reflect the usage of search on mobile platforms. The company is starting to tweak its algorithm to rank websites based on their mobile version.  ( Justin Sullivan | Getty Images )

Instead of main desktop sites, Google is now shifting to the mobile version of websites for search result rankings, turning its search indexing system majorly mobile-driven.

To date, Google has only managed to slightly toy and experiment with the shift; the whole transition period may take some time before it could go into full effect.

"Although our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site's content to rank pages from that site," wrote Doantam Phan, product manager for Google, in a blog post.

Google will start administering small scale experiments over the next few months. Once its company is convinced that the shift proves to be a great experience for users, it could proceed on fully amplifying the transition to mobile search indexing.

Webmasters, Here's What You Should Do

Aside from announcing the change, Google has also compiled a list of handy tips for webmasters to help them adjust to a mobile-driven search indexing system.

For users who have responsive or dynamic serving sites where there's an equivalent primary markup in the mobile and desktop version, there shouldn't be any changes necessary. But for those who have sites where there's a different markup for mobile and desktop counterparts, consider adding these changes:

First, make sure that both desktop and mobile versions of your site serve a structured markup. You can test this out by using Google's structured data testing tool. You can also use another tool to determine if the mobile version of your site is accessible to Googlebot.

It's also useful to verify the mobile version of your site in Google's Search Console, if you haven't done that already.

For site owners who don't have mobile versions, there's no need to worry as Google will still continue indexing your site even when viewed using a mobile platform.

The shift to a mobile-driven search index contributes to Google's series of inroads to make search more attuned to mobile usage, and it's wise to do as such since mobile search is increasingly becoming prevalent with the surge of smartphone usage.

The company first started labeling sites as mobile-friendly back in 2014, and it also optimized search results for mobile in April last year. More recently, Google also announced in March that it would rank mobile-friendly sites higher in search results.

Previously, Google's search result rankings typically evaluated the main desktop version of a site or a page even when the same site is accessed via mobile devices like smartphones or tablets.

This system obviously isn't ideal for accurately providing what users search for, since mobile sites often contain less content than that of their desktop counterparts. Google is attempting to change all this with its shift to mobile search results, aiming to lessen algorithmic confusion.

The initial test run will remain small scale, but Google will eventually fully adapt and push out this search indexing system given the rapidly increasing utilization of Google search in mobile platforms.

"We understand this is an important shift in our indexing and it's one we take seriously," wrote Phan.

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