With more people now searching on Google from their smartphones and mobile devices, as opposed to desktops (in fact, this switch happened all the way back in 2015!), Google has seen how important mobile is now and how much more important it will be in the future.
People like to have the convenience of being able to search while on the move, or to pull their phone out of their pocket at home and search for a local business or service, or even find reviews from a restaurant they’re standing in front of! Search engines, combined with mobile technology has changed our world in a way that was unforeseen to businesses, and those that keep up with the changing times are the ones that will win out in the end.
Google’s team spoke back in 2016 about changing its algorithm, to place emphasis in its rankings on mobile sites. They felt they would best achieve this by indexing the mobile versions of sites first, then the non-mobile versions. As always, because Google is a behemoth of code, they would require some testing for that first!
Then in December of 2017, Google had begun to experiment with search results in the real world. They transitioned a sample of sites to mobile-indexing to see the result it would have on search results and searchers happiness with those results. It looks like the test went well, as Google has now made an official announcement that it is now rolling this new indexing out internet-wide.
Google will “penalise” sites that aren’t mobile friendly, by placing emphasis on and up-ranking those that are, to better cater for its users. What this means for you if you own or maintain a website – that you want to perform well in Google, is that your site must now be either mobile-responsive, or more future-proof; mobile-first.
Your mobile website must be optimised for SEO in all the same ways as the desktop version, but what’s useful about this is if you’re forward-thinking enough to already have done this to your site, you should be ranking in a higher position than you were previously, very shortly!
It is worth bearing in mind, that Google want to rank sites with the best user experience for their searchers, and so this means that not only will mobile sites rank better, but also those that give a good user experience: Google has already penalised sites that show pop-ups to browsers of a page, and in the future (likely July 2018), it will begin to penalise sites that load slowly, or cause a lot of data to be downloaded in order to show the site.
This roll out has only just begun however, and not all sites are affected yet, so you will still have some time to edit your site if need be! The change will be made in waves, starting with those sites that are already most optimised for mobile-first indexing, then slowly working towards those that are less so. It is also unclear when this change to their indexing algorithm will be complete.
You or your webmaster will be notified via a message in Google’s Search Console when this change does affect you, so you won’t be left in the dark!
As always, Google and other search engines want to place the best website in front of their searcher, because the better the searcher likes the first result they click on, the more likely they are to trust that search engine. This means they’ll use that search engine more often and then that search engine can make money from their advertising platforms!
What this means for you, whenever you’re designing or creating a site, is that you want to make the experience as useful and engaging for human users as possible! You want them to click through to other pages on your site and spend a while on it, and preferably even comment and share it on social media platforms. If they like your site when they click on it, so will Google!