Google desktop search results could be out of date very soon

14 Oct 2016

Google on desktop. Image: Linda Moon/Shutterstock

In one of the biggest indications of its mobile-first intentions, Google is expected to split its desktop and mobile search indexes soon, with the former to play second fiddle to mobile.

As things stand, Google search results on both desktop and mobile are sourced from the same powerful index that decides what results you get when you search ‘Chinese restaurants Dublin’, for example.

However, if reports are accurate, that search in a few months’ time on desktop won’t be as up to date as the same search on mobile, as Google’s plans follow market trends and the near month-on-month decline of PC sales globally.

Future Human

A year in the making

According to Search Engine Land, Google webmaster trends analyst Gary Illyes confirmed at an event that the company will be going ahead with the splitting of its search indexes into desktop and mobile in the coming months.

While it might not so evident at first, in-depth comparisons between search results on desktop and mobile will show that the former is slightly different and not as up to date.

Last year, Google revealed at the SMX East event that it was toying with the idea of splitting the search index in two, but now Google and SEO experts will certainly be following developments of the new index prior to its launch.

The decision to focus greater attention on mobile would appear to follow the company’s attitude to the platform, having announced last year that its search rankings would favour mobile-optimised sites over ones that are not.

How out of date the search index on desktop is, and whether it will have any access to the mobile version remains to be seen, but its effect on how its ranking algorithm on mobile will be considerable.

‘It makes sense’

Currently, Google generates its mobile ranking by extracting data from the desktop version and modifying it for use on mobile but with this new index, it can run its own dedicated algorithm.

One company that this change will certainly affect is Yoast, a search optimisation company that is used by many websites to optimise their content for Google searches.

Speaking with The Guardian, Yoast founder and CEO Joost de Valk has welcomed the news.

“It makes sense to me that they’d have two separate indexes and treat them as equals, but now they’ve got a primary one. That makes sense too, because it’s probably the fastest way for them to grow their index,” he said.

“I think, in part, it is about pushing people to change their sites to be responsive, rather than having a separate desktop and mobile site. By saying that their mobile index is more important, it will push people to focus on their mobile sites.”

Google on desktop. Image: Linda Moon/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic