Google Search Goes Mobile-First; Here's What You Should Know

by CXOtoday News Desk    Nov 07, 2016

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Companies that haven’t updated to mobile-friendly sites will find it tough to survive. For some time now, search giant Google have warned that non-mobile-friendly sites disappearing from top Google results. The search engine was working on its algorithm to boost the rankings for sites that meet its criteria for mobile display in recent times, and it is now testing a new ‘mobile-first’ version while indexing search results.

This move essentially means Google will primarily rank websites based on their mobile friendly pages. This is a big change since earlier desktop computers were the heart and soul of Google when it comes to search results.

While this change will not affect websites which are made to work and fit into a mobile mode, the challenge now is only for websites which have different contents for both the mediums. This move by Google to put the impetus on the core product optimisation is definitely to stay with the times, as the mobile searches now far exceed searches on PCs.

Google product manager Doantam Phan wrote in the Google’s official webmaster blog,”Although our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results.”

According to a study from Moovweb there are clear visibility and ranking consequences, in addition to usability consequences for companies that are still not moving to mobile. Since Google’s Mobile-Friendly Algorithm kicked in earlier this year, Moovweb has tracked “1,000 important e-commerce keywords in a range of industries” to see whether and how it has impacted mobile rankings on Google.

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The research firm found that 83 percent of the the time, the top result was mobile-friendly. On page one of the Google mobile SERP, 77 percent of results (or 7.7 out of 10) were mobile-friendly. In other words, websites that don’t fit the description will be demoted in Google’s search results on smartphones while those meeting the criteria will be more likely to appear at the top of the rankings – a move that can translate into more visitors and money for businesses.

Read more: Google’s ‘Mobile-Friendly’ Ambition Can Hurt SMBs

However, in 20 percent odd cases Google is serving non-mobile-friendly results as well. Moovweb’s report shows the percentage of mobile friendly sites in each of the top 10 positions across the 1,000 keywords tested.

The company found that mobile-friendliness varied by vertical as some industries were more mobile ready than others. Of seven categories examined retail had the most mobile-friendly results and transportation the lowest percentage of mobile friendly results — for the examined keywords.

While overall this may be a welcome change for users as the search results will get better, some websites can lose out on this change.

 The obvious next step for marketers whose sites aren’t mobile ready is to update them as soon as possible. The next step would be to provide an experience that rewards smartphone searchers and advances the broader business interests of the company among mobile users.

Because webmasters chose to support mobile sites via various techniques, there are a few things that webmasters need to know, according to Google.

If a site is responsive, meaning it serves the same content to both mobile and desktop users, just in a different layout, then admins don’t have to worry about a thing. If a website uses a filtering system to serve different site versions, with different content for mobile and desktop users, then webmasters need to make sure the mobile version gets their full attention from now on. This includes both content updates but also search engine optimization operations. Webmasters that use the Google Search Console to get alerts of how their website is fairing in search results should also add their site’s mobile version. Webmasters using a desktop-only version of their site should be aware that Google will continue to index their sites regardless, but their site won’t show up as high in mobile search results as they do on a desktop.