How to Prepare for Google Index Splitting

Within months, Google will divide its index, giving mobile users better and fresher content.

Is your website ready for this new dual index?

Here is a few tips on how you can prepare.

Why Will Google Split Its Index?

Google will split its index for a couple a reasons.

Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets have outnumbered desktop devices. More and more people are consuming content from their mobile devices. In early 2014, mobile exceeds PC Internet usage for first time in history.

More details here: Mobile Now Exceeds PC: The Biggest Shift Since the Internet Began | Search Engine Watch

Not only that. As of May 2015, Google admitted more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers.

More details here: Inside AdWords: Building for the next moment

Currently, Google has a single index of documents for search. Google’s Gary Illyes announced they plan on releasing a separate mobile search index, which will become the primary one.

More details here: 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.

You may wonder how it will affect you? If your website only renders for desktops, you will need to make it responsive (mobile friendly). Otherwise, your pages will be part of Google’s less up-to-date index.

How to Design a Responsive Website

If you use WordPress, it is quite easy to make it responsive. Most of the modern WordPress themes are responsive. Responsive means the WordPress theme will adapt to various devices, screen size and resolutions. Let’s take an example with my website. The sample URL is:

Here is how it displays on a desktop:

desktop version format

The same URL will display as follows on an iPhone 6S:

mobile display format

The theme is use for my website is GeneratePress. This theme is very fast, mobile friendly (responsive) and SEO ready.

Please take a look at their offerings if you feel that your website needs a refresh.

You can test whether your website is responsive, with Google’s Mobile Friendly Testing tool.

What more can you do?

You can convert your blog posts into Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).

Let’s see how you can achieve this.

Implementing Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

With over 600 million accelerated mobile pages (AMP) spread across 700 thousand unique domains, the AMP project is well on the way towards achieving its goal of uniting people around a common cause.

More details here: AMP Reaches Major Milestones Since Launching One Year Ago – Search Engine Journal

So What Is AMP?

AMP means Accelerated Mobile Pages. The Accelerated Mobile Pages project aims to make pages load instantly on mobile. The web is slow for lots and lots of people, in fact, the majority of the people using the internet do so over a mobile phone, often on a 2G or sometimes 3G connection. To make pages load instantly, AMP restricts what you can do in HTML pages. Fancy design is stripped out in favor of speed. AMP is very much a function over form project.

More details here: Setting up WordPress for AMP: Accelerated Mobile Pages • Yoast

To implement AMP in WordPress, you will need a WordPress plugin. The one I suggest is AMP by Automattic (the makers of WordPress).

Get the AMP Plugin

If you use the Yoast SEO plugin, you also need to integrate it with AMP. For this to happen, you need to install Glue for Yoast SEO & AMP plugin.

More details here: WordPress & AMP: part II • Yoast

Get Glue for Yoast SEO & AMP plugin

Both plugins are free.

With AMP the plugin active, all posts on your site will have dynamically generated AMP-compatible versions, accessible by appending /amp/ to the end your post URLs.

If we reuse the preceding example with my post URL:

Appending the amp keyword to the URL will yield:

Now, typing the above URL will display the AMP version of my blog post:

google amp display format

AMP Pros and Cons

There are pros and cons with optimizing your content with AMP.

On the Pros side:

  1. Google AMP — Accelerated Mobile Pages — encourages you to optimize your content for mobile to reach Google search users. When these users search on Google from a mobile device, Google AMP-optimized articles appear at the top of search results for just about anything, from trending and newsworthy topics to mundane, everyday searches.
  2. Better page loading time
  3. Lower bounce rate

The Cons:

But then, you have a downside, too. As users scroll through your article, a static bar at the top of the screen constantly reminds them that they can return to their search results or swipe to the next Google AMP article on the topic.

Certain types of content are not possible with Google AMP-optimized content such as:

  • Images of presentations
  • Standalone videos
  • Pop-ups, sidebars, pop-unders, slide-outs, toolbars, etc. – features that encourage sign-ups, subscriptions, etc.

More details here: Should You Optimize Content for Google AMP and Facebook Instant Articles?

How to Test Your Amp Optimized Website

Lately, Google officially announced the addition of new AMP testing tool in search console.

To test whether your AMP page is valid, you can input your page URL at this link:

Google AMP Test Tool

The tool tests the validity of the AMP markup as well as any structured data on the page.  You can use this tool on your smartphone browser as well.

More details here: [Official] AMP Testing Tool by Google: Test Your Website Today

How about eCommerce sites and AMP?

Let’s say your eCommerce site is responsive. Should you care about AMP?

It seems like AMP is here to stay and every website needs to optimize for it. That also goes for eCommerce sites.

You can get more insights here: AMP for eCommerce • Yoast

Final Thoughts

Google announced it will prioritize mobile devices by splitting its search index. Your website may or may not be adapted for mobile screen sizes and resolutions. As a first step, make sure to use a WordPress responsive theme. This will take care of the mobile formatting part. Next, add the AMP functionality to your website. In WordPress, you only have to add a plugin and your new posts will be formatted in AMP format.

Will you be in time for Google’s index splitting?

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