Thursday, 08 December 2016 23:48

Google Prioritize Mobile Searches over Desktops: What It Means for Your Business


Recognizing the growing number of mobile searches, Google now calculates for mobile first

Google is no stranger to trying out new things for the benefit of their visitors. This time they're going to choose mobile searches over desktop searches, effectively saying that mobile is the new priority.

Since 2010, mobile users have been increasing at a rapid rate, overshadowing the desktop users in the past few years. The algorithms that Google use to determine which pages are the most relevant for any given keyword has not changed in the same sense, meaning that the robots have continued to focus on the content shown to desktop users, even if the mobile users see less content, or even altogether different content.

This has meant that some websites had very different user experiences for their desktop and mobile users respectively, leading to a lower quality of search results when using Google to find information on the given topic.

In November 2016, Google announced a shift in how they will rank and place search results based on a mobile-first experiment. By tweaking their systems to check in more detail for the different version of any given website, compared to desktop and mobile content, Google is hoping to provide even better search results for mobile users.

How this will be done is relatively simple; instead of Google using the content that desktop users see when visiting any given website, and ranking the pages on that, they will switch to crawling mobile results, and use that content to rank their sites instead. 

What this means for webmasters out there has yet to be shown in full effect, as Google will adjust and change certain metrics over the coming few months, and as with anything related to their search queries, nothing is set in stone, and subject to change at their whim.

Currently, this is what website owners and bloggers should be aware of:

  • If your desktop and mobile content differs, you might gain or lose rankings accordingly.
  • Google will not have 2 indexes, one for desktop and one for mobile, meaning that they really are going Mobile First. (In other words, desktop users have been demoted.)
  • If both desktop and mobile content are the same, there should be no visible changes based on your site alone, but you might still see changes based on the competitor movement in the search engine ranking placements.
  • Pages with low-quality content on mobile devices stand a large chance of getting de-ranked, and Google states in cases like this it should be better to discontinue the mobile versions until they can rival the desktop versions. (Build up your mobile pages to be as good if not better than your desktop pages before pushing them live.)

Some onlookers had hoped for Google to announce they would add a second index that focused on mobile pages only, but currently Google will keep a single index and rank both desktop and mobile sites in that same dataset, meaning they won't distinguish too much between the two, in terms of ranking signals. 

When a Twitter user asked Gary Illyes, a senior developer at Google in charge of this implementation, when we could expect to see this live on a big scale, he replied:

@ThisIsAJames I dunno. We're months away from that

— Gary Illyes (@methode) November 5, 2016

So it might not be until the new year, that we will see this huge change going live, but Google is currently testing on a small scale, probably with a controlled set of websites and mobile pages, to test everything properly. After all, this is probably going to be one of the single largest changes the search giant has made to their algorithms in a long time.

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