The Impact of Mobile-First Indexing On Your Link Graph

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It’s not exactly uncommon to check out a webpage on your mobile device and find out that the feature you’ve always used on desktop is not available on the mobile version. Naturally, you’d be frustrated. For web developers and business owners, simplifying and condensing the site for mobile without giving up any of its useful features has always been both a struggle and a challenge. Mobile view is relatively smaller than the desktop view, hence it’s unavoidable to strip some of the desktop features of the mobile one to prevent cluttering the smaller screen. Stripping some of the features will result in a mobile page that is easier to navigate and definitely easier to read. However, is it worth it? What will happen to your page’s link graph when you strip off the desktop features too much?

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For instance, some blogs with 87 links lose 75 of its links and all external links when the mobile version is used. This is a huge drop, for sure. It becomes an even bigger problem when the mobile version of your site becomes the main site accessed by your audience and the search engine bots. A lot of people now question how the link graph is affected when the simplified version of the page becomes the primary and only page accessed by the search engines.

The Main Issue

The main issue lies in the fact that mobile websites do not always have the content and links that are available on their desktop counterparts. When the link structure gets disrupted, the site’s ranking also suffers from it. As you are well-aware, links are one of the most important factors that can influence the ranking of your site on the search engine result pages. Of course, we don’t know for certain how much Google will crawl on your site’s web and mobile versions. However, it is likely that Google will prioritize the mobile version of the sites that display identical codebase to the mobile and desktop variations of Googlebot. In the worst case scenario, Google will not just choose to prioritize the mobile version, but it might be the only version Google will crawl.

Relax: Mobile-First and Mobile-Only Are Two Different Things

One important consideration you must not forget is that Google is not forsaking the desktop entirely, despite its efforts to prioritize mobile crawl. This prioritization is likely brought upon by the fact that most of the searches are now done on mobile. If you are closely following the growth of mobile, you’d see how much this makes sense. Google probably wants to shift their priorities in terms of crawling because they want to serve mobile sites and content too. However, Google cannot simply give up its search for quality content, which is why they can never give up desktop crawlers.

So if you are a business owner who is building a mobile version of your site, you need to remember that a functional site that is desktop oriented is still better than an incomplete mobile version. This means that if you are likely to end up with a broken and malfunctioning mobile site, it’s more ideal to stick to the desktop.

Good Links Are Still As Important as Ever

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If you are looking for links that are likely to survive the transition from desktop to the mobile site, you are likely to find them within the content. If you have any external links on your site that are placed on sidebars they are likely to disappear from the index when you make a mobile-friendly version of the site. However, links that are within your content will survive. Hence, even if there are fewer links powering your link graph, as long as your links are of great quality and are within your content, you should not need to worry about your site’s performance.

Selection Biases and Convergence

In most cases, sites that are more popular are likely to have mobile versions than those sites with lower popularity. The less popular sites can also be responsive as much as the popular sites, which causes no difference where the crawlers are concerned. However, some percentage of these sites could be utilizing plugins that could potentially truncate the content. Older and less professional content on the web is likely to be only available in desktop versions even when they are viewed through mobile. In such cases, the differences in the index will probably converge. Many experts also expect convergence between mobile and desktop indexes in the future. Many believe that the link graphs will not grow too different. Certain paths to certain pages will be reached and only the frequency which these pages are reached will change.

Basically, the link graph will be different since there will be changes but the URLs that make up the graph will stay the same. We can expect parts of the mobile web to be completely disparate. There are many sites on the web that use dedicated subdomains for their mobile versions and they also use plugins that can remove pertinent sections of the content. These sites will remain like unreachable islands in the linked web.

How All These Affects The Search Engine Result Pages

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At this time, it’s not completely clear how these issues on the link graph and mobile sites impact the search results. One thing is for certain though: there will surely be changes in the SERPs. It’ll probably be an improvement of the SERPs too, or else Google wouldn’t make the effort of announcing its changes to its indexing methods.

It would certainly be helpful to stay on the lookout for more information about the impact of mobile-first indexing on the search results. This can affect your site and your business too. If there are changes that need to be made to maintain your current ranking on the SERPs, you will have to keep your eyes and ears open to what experts have to say in the next few months.

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