Mobile First Indexing: A Seismic Search Marketing Shift

Neil Henry / Marketing, mobile, seo, web development Leave a Comment

Google says that it’s an experiment, but the fact is the search giant’s decision towards the end of last year to give more prominence to mobile versions of websites, is the first stage of its planned pivot away from desktop.

It perhaps shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise. After all, we saw Google introduce a mobile-friendly update back in 2015, so the writing has been on the wall for a while. What Google’s latest update does, however, is take the mobile-friendly stance that bit further.

'77% of mobile searches are performed, even when a desktop PC is available' via @MarketingProfsClick To Tweet

According to Google, most people today search online using a mobile device. However, the firm’s ranking systems still looked at the desktop versions of websites when evaluating relevance to end users.

The problem with this method is that the mobile versions of certain websites might not contain as much relevant content as their desktop counterparts. This can lead to Google serving up a site that it thinks is high quality and relevant, but that’s not what the mobile user gets. Instead, they see a site that lacks content, delivers a poor user experience and ultimately proves to be of little value.

By amending its algorithms to analyze the actual page that a mobile user sees, Google will be able to serve up more relevant, high-quality content as a result.

Mobile Optimization Now More Important Than Desktop

The decision to switch from a desktop-focused algorithm to a mobile-focused one will undoubtedly cause businesses to take stock of their mobile website offerings and make improvements where necessary.

For any businesses that don’t yet have mobile offerings, the fact Google is going to permanently use the mobile version of content as a base index should make them sit up and take note.

The bottom line is that businesses need to give their mobile websites as much (if not more!) time and attention as they do their desktop versions. Failure to do so could lead to drops in search visibility, especially when you consider how your mobile offering will impact searches conducted by people on desktops and laptops. A native experience – whatever the consumer’s device of choice – is paramount.

In Google’s own words, “We understand this is an important shift in our indexing and it’s one we take seriously. We’ll continue to carefully experiment over the coming months on a small scale and we’ll ramp up this change when we’re confident that we have a great user experience.”

The focus for 2018 for many businesses will need to be on how their web assets are geared for every device type – with mobile being the default. The design, creation, and marketing of every feasible web asset will need to have a heavy mobile-first skew.

The good news is that Google says businesses with a responsive website, or a dynamic serving site which has the same primary content and markup on both mobile and desktop versions, shouldn’t have to change anything at the moment.

It will be interesting to see if this rings true once a good 6 months worth of solid search data is in.