A new form of differentiation

In 2015, Google revealed an initiative to present users with contextualized search engine results using an algorithm based on the specific type of device used to access Google altogether. As global mobile usage continues trending higher and shows no sign of slowing down in the near future, this initiative ensures that webmasters will have to take a more critical look at the mobile friendliness of their content now more than ever before.

Desktop and mobile indexing

Ideally, this initiative would result in Google's search engine results being differently indexed based on whether or not the requesting user submitted their query on a mobile device or desktop; the formal name given to this algorithm is mobile-only indexing.

Desktop indexing was formally rolled out last year, and Google currently plans to initiate its mobile indexing algorithm within a number of months. Before the mobile indexing program is fully realized, there still yet remains a decent amount of experimentation to confirm its functionality.

The adjustment phase

The introduction of differently-indexed search engine results comes after a long and steady progression towards increasingly mobile-centric internet browsing trends. Some content creators have naturally raised questions about the potential consequences of not diving into the mobile optimization of their webpages quickly enough, but so far, Google has accommodated those who may need just a bit of an adjustment period to the mobile-heavy ways of the times.

Webmasters who hadn't hopped aboard the mobile optimization shift weren't left out in the cold when the mobile friendliness algorithm was introduced in the April of 2015. Any pages that were already optimized for mobile at the time of the algorithm's release were selected and benefitede accordingly.

Mobile search domination

In early 2015, Google released an official statement that mobile searches had officially become more numerous on the search engine desktop queries. In addition to the United States, the company stated that mobile device search queries had overtaken desktop queries in nine other countries as well.

Webmaster trends analyst Gary Illyes stated that when the mobile search indexing system is fully released, it will officially become the main search index that Google's search engine spider uses as a reference.

A primary mobile index: questions and concerns

The steady and sure growth of mobile search query volume has convinced Google that making its mobile search index the "primary" index a natural choice. Though some have posited that the mobile search index prioritization could potentially improve search engine results for mobile users, it has not yet been fully revealed just how the new index will be designed to operate in practice.

As the mobile index will assume the status as Google's primary index, some have raised questions as to whether or not the desktop index will be updated as regularly. Though the number of desktop queries submitted by users has been shown to be a fair bit lower than mobile search queries, there are still objectively as fairly large number of users who still submit their queries via desktop.

Specific changes to come

Though there are still a fair amount of details that have yet to be fully revealed, Google has clarified just a few of the confirmed changes that are expected to result from the primary prioritization of the mobile search index.

First and foremost, there would a fundamental change in the way that mobile-optimized content would be treated compared to "dedicated" mobile content; "dedicated", in this context, would refer to websites that are solely intended to be browsed via mobile device.

In the past, desktop-oriented content would be extracted by the search engine spider and used as a point of reference to formally establish the rankings for mobile results. Under the algorithmic process of the new system, content that has been purely designed for a mobile browsing experience would be specifically targeted and given first priority.

Expert insights into the changes that are expected to come

Lisa Barone, CMO of creative agency Overit, stated that the desktop index will indeed be slightly less up to date than the mobile index. As the desktop index will be moved to secondary status while the mobile index assumes primary status, it would naturally come to pass that the desktop search results would no longer be at the forefront of displaying the most recently-updated digital content.

Jennifer Slegg, writer behind the search engine marketing marketing news platform TheSEMPost, commented on the differing sizes of mobile websites and desktop websites. While the changes in algorithmic prioritization that will result from the new algorithmic process are clear, what may be easier to miss are the changes that will come as a natural byproduct of differing website sizes, depending on whether or not they're intended for a primarily mobile experience.

According to Slegg, part of the significance of the new algorithmic changes will be based on the fact that mobile websites are typically a fair bit smaller than purely desktop-based sites.

SEO program manager Eugene Feygin, SEO of Quill.com, offered direct advice regarding the way that webmasters think of their current content and its optimization. Feygin urged webmasters to not only determine the level of mobile optimization of their content, but to take note of just what the main differences are between mobile and desktop browsing experiences are in general.

Closing thoughts

The natural shift to a higher number of mobile search queries submitted by casual internet users has been well-documented, and Google has reacted accordingly - what remains to be seen is how these shifts will ultimately effect the level of mobile optimization interest held by webmasters whose profit will be inextricably tied to the changes.

For those who have yet to invest time in optimizing their content for the mobile browser, the challenges of traffic and lead generation could very well become substantially more daunting. Should a fair amount of webmasters take Feygin's advice to heart, then there could be a swell in the number of queries submitted by webmasters to learn more information about mobile browsing versus desktop browsing.