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Google Officially Rollsout Mobile-first Indexing

Google Mobile First - Hero

Google has officially begin rolling out mobile-first indexing to all sites that follow the best practices. Prior to this announcement, the feature was in experimental mode for over a year and a half. Google stated that a significant number of sites have already beem migrated to mobile-first indexing since test phase.

Mobile-first indexing means, Google will now use “only” the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking. The eligible sites must either use a responsive web design or dynamic serving. For sites that have AMP and non-AMP pages, Google “will prefer to index the mobile version of the non-AMP page.”

Google will be sending out notifications via Search Console to sites that follow these best practices and being migrated over.

Here is a screen shot of an example notification:

Mobile-first indexing: Google Search Consile notification

Google also said webmasters of sites that are migrating over to mobile-first indexing “will see significantly increased crawl rate from the Smartphone Googlebot.” Additionally, Google “will now show the mobile version of pages in Search results and Google cached pages.”

What is Mobile-first Indexing?

Basically it referes to how Google crawls and index a site. Google will continue to have one single index for serving results, and going forward will only use the mobile versions of content for indexing as oppose to historically when it used desktop versions of the page.

To be more clear, there is no separate ‘mobile-first index’ that is different from the main index. All content will live within the same index, but Google will now be using the mobile versions when available.

“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 wrote.

Rankings will not Affected

Since, it’s how content is gathered and not about how content is ranked. Google assures site owners that mobile-first indexing will not have an impact on rankings. “Content gathered by mobile-first indexing has no ranking advantage over mobile content that’s not yet gathered this way or desktop content,” Google stated.

Moreover, sites that only have desktop content will continue to be represented in the index. “We do evaluate all content in our index — whether it is desktop or mobile — to determine how mobile-friendly it is.”

To recap:

  • Mobile-indexing is rolling out more broadly. Being indexed this way has no ranking advantage and operates independently from our mobile-friendly assessment.
  • Having mobile-friendly content is still helpful for those looking at ways to perform better in mobile search results.
  • Having fast-loading content is still helpful for those looking at ways to perform better for mobile and desktop users.
  • As always, ranking uses many factors. We may show content to users that’s not mobile-friendly or that is slow loading if our many other signals determine it is the most relevant content to show.
  • We’ll continue to monitor and evaluate this change carefully. If you have any questions, please drop by our Webmaster forums or our public events, Google wrote.

Google has published a detailed developer document about mobile-first indexing.

Update 04/06: In a latest SEO snippets Q&A video, Google’s John Mueller explains how a site owner(s) can submit a sitemap with more than 50,000 URLs.

Noramlly, sitemaps are limited to 50,000 URLs per file, so if a site that exceeds this limit can create multiple sitemap files for a single website to submit to Google, Mueller says. These multiple sitemaps then can be combined into a single sitemap index file, or, as Mueller puts it, “a sitemap file for sitemaps.”

Multiple sitemap files can then be submitted individually, or through a single sitemap index file. Even sitemaps with fewer than 50,000 URLs can also implement this multiple sitemaps technique for different sections of their site.

Watch the complete video along with a transcript usder:

“Sitemap files are a great way to make your content known to Google and to other search engines. However, they’re limited to 50,000 URLs per file.

What do you do if you have more URLs? You can generate more than one sitemap file per website. You can either submit these individually, for example, through a Search Console. Or you can create a sitemap index file.

A sitemap index file is like a sitemap file for sitemaps. You can list multiple sitemap files in it. If you use a sitemap index file, you can just submit that file for your website in Search Console.

Even if you have fewer than 50,000 URLs, you can submit multiple sitemap files. For example, you might want to do that to keep track of different sections of your website, or just in general to make maintenance of your sitemap files a little bit easier.

When it comes to creating sitemap files, we strongly recommend that you have these made automatically through your server directly. That’s the best way to make sure that your new and updated content is highlighted to search engines as quickly as possible.

Most modern content management systems will take care of this for you. Often, it is just a matter of flipping a switch in your control panel to turn these on.”

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