Within months, Google to divide its index, giving mobile users better & fresher content

Google is going to create a separate mobile index within months, one that will be the main or “primary” index that the search engine uses to respond to queries. A separate desktop index will be maintained, one that will not be as up-to-date as the mobile index.

The news came today during a keynote address from Gary Illyes, a webmaster trends analyst with Google, at Pubcon. Illyes didn’t give a timeline in his talk, but in a follow-up with Search Engine Land, he confirmed that it would happen within “months.”

Google first announced that it was experimenting with the idea of a mobile index last year at SMX East. Since that time, Google’s clearly decided that a mobile index makes sense and is moving ahead with the idea.

It’s unclear exactly how the mobile index will work. For example, since the mobile index is the “primary” index, will it really not be used for any desktop queries? Will it only contain “mobile-friendly” content? How out-of-date will the desktop index be? Desktop usage is now a minority of Google queries but still generates substantial usage.

The most substantial change will likely be that by having a mobile index, Google can run its ranking algorithm in a different fashion across “pure” mobile content rather than the current system that extracts data from desktop content to determine mobile rankings.

Tweets from his talk shed a bit of light on the coming change but not that much:

.@methode: Google creating a sep mobile index, which will be its primary index. Desktop will be a secondary index,less up to date #Pubcon

— Lisa Barone (@LisaBarone) October 13, 2016

Mobile first index will change things since mobile sites tend to not be as large as desktop. @methode #pubcon

— Jennifer Slegg (@jenstar) October 13, 2016

Mobile index will be primary & desktop secondary-think about what are the main differences between your mobile & desktop #pubcon @methode pic.twitter.com/umwBoYA6Cx

— Eugene Feygin (@rawseo) October 13, 2016

Google will still have a desktop index, it just won’t be as fresh as the mobile index. #pubcon

— Lisa Barone (@LisaBarone) October 13, 2016

Sites often remove content and structured data from mobile pages for size. @methode #pubcon

— Jennifer Slegg (@jenstar) October 13, 2016

If the content on your mobile page is the same as desktop, those sites will be fine. @methode #pubcon

— Jennifer Slegg (@jenstar) October 13, 2016

Links will be scarcer on mobile. There will be loss of tokens (words). People put less content on mobile devices. #pubcon

— Lisa Barone (@LisaBarone) October 13, 2016

When @methode says tokens he’s mostly referring to words on the page. #pubcon

— Ryan Jones (@RyanJones) October 13, 2016

We did ask Google for more details, but all it would confirm is the general timing of the change. Stay tuned for more in a few months, it seems.

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