Google has prioritised mobile-friendly websites for a while now. But the search giant recently announced a switch to a mobile-first search engine index sometime in the future. What does this mean for your website and hard-fought SEO rankings?
How Google works
This is an oversimplification of how Google works but it demonstrates what Google’s mobile-first index means.
Google ranks websites and pages by giving them a ‘score’. The higher the score, the higher the rank on Google. This score is made up of many, many different factors. Only one of these factors includes mobile-friendliness of the website.
To get these scores, Google sends out crawler bots that read webpages. They then return this information to Google and a search index is created. When you type something into Google, you are seeing a small portion of that search index.
When Google began the internet was desktop-only, so Google crawled the web from a desktop point of view.
As smartphones have become increasingly popular and widespread, Google has made on-going changes to its algorithm. Alongside more general changes and improvements to search, the changes have consistently favoured websites that work equally well on desktop and mobile. Aka responsive websites.
However, it’s still been possible for a website that isn’t responsive or looks terrible on mobile to rank highly on Google mobile search. Although any website should be built responsively.
But now, with over 60% of searches made on mobile, Google feels it needs to deliver only the best results for its mobile users. This means a search index that crawls the web from a mobile point of view and prioritises mobile-friendly websites, even when people search on desktop.
According to Google, if you already have a fully responsive website with the same content across mobile and desktop “you shouldn’t have to change anything.”
But if you’re still rocking an unresponsive website or have separate desktop and mobile sites with different content, Google says “you should consider making some changes.”
“You should consider making some changes.”Google
In other words, you’re running the risk of being left out of this new search index. And with 60% of the search share coming from mobile alone, this is a big portion of your target market to lose out on.
While your desktop version is still the version affecting your current search results, this is going to shift shortly. So the sooner you get yourself a responsive website, the better.
As web designers, we’ve been building responsive websites for quite a while. In fact, all the websites we build are fully responsive which means this new Google update will have zero effect on our clients’ websites.
But, regardless of whether your website is mobile-friendly or not, now is a great time to make sure your website is ready in general to be searched by Googlebots and indexed. Think of it as seeing your website through the eyes of Google.
And as you moan about Google moving the goal posts yet again, it’s also a good idea to remember Google is doing this because most of their their users search on mobile now. And that means that’s what your audience is doing too. Your audience is mobile, are you?
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