Google has started testing a new mobile-first index as it continues its drive to deliver more relevant content to users on mobile. The search engine giant revealed last month that it is planning to introduce a mobile-centric algorithm for SERPs as it moves away from using the desktop version for ranking a page’s content.
Google said on Friday that it has begun “experiments” to make results more useful on mobile and that it will continue testing during the coming months on a “small scale.” It will bring the algorithm to the masses when it is confident that end-users will be provided with a great search experience.
“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, to understand structured data and to show snippets from those pages in our results,” Google Product Manager Doantam Phan said in an official blog post.
The new index will take time to be implemented fully, but it marks a significant change for publishers and webmasters and again highlights the ongoing shift towards mobile-tailored content. This development also means that those without functional mobile versions for their pages are likely to lose further ground in SERPs when the new algorithm arrives.
In order to better facilitate this sea change in SEO, Google has provided a few recommendations that can help publishers prepare for the mobile-centric index if they haven’t already built a responsive or dynamic serving site where the content and mark-up for both mobile and desktop is equal.
In cases where the primary content and mark-up is not identical, Google recommends serving structured mark-up for both mobile and desktop versions and using the Structured Data Testing Tool to compare the output. Google also believes that large amounts of mark-up and irrelevant content should be avoided, and a robots.txt testing tool should be used to verify that the mobile version of a site can be accessed by Googlebot.
It also warns against rushing out a mobile version of a site that is not fit for launch, adding that a “functional desktop-oriented site” is better in the short term, especially if mobile content is either broken or incomplete.