Google's Mobile Index is Coming and What That Means for Your Business
Edit: As of 11/4, Google is testing its mobile index. The mobile index is not currently available to all users and is likely still months away from being fully live.
In case you haven't heard, mobile is a pretty big deal. And with Google's forthcoming mobile index, it's about to get bigger.
If your business hasn't felt the impact of mobile yet, you will soon. Over the past few years, several stories have shaken the core of the way people conduct business online:
- Over 50% of Google searches now occur on mobile devices
- Google's mobile-friendly algorithm improved the position of mobile-friendly websites in search results
- The AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) project serves faster, stripped-down versions of pages on mobile devices
Okay, so that mobile-friendly algorithm wasn't quite the Mobilegeddon that a lot of people expected, but that doesn't change the obvious fact that the world is shifting to mobile.
If you're one of the millions of business owners who's been putting off mobile technology, you can't wait any longer. Google's latest announcement is likely the biggest one yet (and a long time coming): within the next few months, Google will have a separate mobile index.
A Separate Index for Mobile
Edit (11/7): New reports indicate that it will not be a separate index. Rather, Google will continue to have one index, but now it will be a mobile-first index. In other words, Google will crawl mobile versions of webpages and base the index for both mobile and desktop off these mobile crawls. This strengthens the position of responsive web design as the leading way to design and develop a website in our mobile-first world. In the words of Google, there is nothing new you will need to do if you utilize responsive design.
With the mobile index, Google intends to give mobile users better and fresher content. But what does that mean for business owners?
Let's break this down.
Right now, Google uses one index for mobile and desktop search results. It's updated relatively frequently, but it's always been centered on desktop usage. The search results may not always be the same on desktop and mobile, but they're pretty close. And they are all pulling from the same index.
Up until now, there's never been a drastic difference between your website's position in mobile and desktop results. Even if you ignored everyone's advice and didn't adopt a mobile-friendly website, you still made it out okay (as long as you were doing well on desktop).
Not for long. Google's separate mobile index is about to become the primary index, and it's going to be updated at a rapid pace. This will become a huge concern for any website that isn't mobile-friendly.
What Happens Now
There are two plausible scenarios for how the mobile index will work:
- Websites that aren't mobile-friendly will be buried deep in the mobile search results. Google's push is to provide a better experience for mobile users. Non-mobile friendly websites are not good for mobile users. So it's very likely that Google will hide them in the search results in order to show any relevant mobile-friendly websites first.
- Websites that aren't mobile-friendly won't be indexed on mobile. This is the more extreme prediction, but it makes a lot of sense. Why should a site that isn't mobile-friendly even appear in Google's mobile search results? If it's a mobile index, shouldn't it just be for mobile pages?
Although it's possible, it's unlikely that Google won't index websites that aren't mobile friendly. After all, there are still many industries where no one is mobile friendly. It wouldn't be in Google's best interest to show no results for those verticals. So Google will probably still include non-mobile friendly websites in the index. Just don't expect them to be prominent players.
You Need to Be Mobile Friendly Now
Here's the thing: no matter what happens, the winners will be the businesses with mobile-friendly websites. We're not talking about a slight rankings boost for mobile-friendly sites. We're talking about an index that is designed for a specific type of device.
If you want to stay relevant, you need a mobile-friendly website. It doesn't matter what industry you're in or what percentage of your customers you think use mobile devices (news flash: ALL of your customers use mobile devices).
And you need that mobile-friendly site now, not in four months when the index goes live and you get to see how it plays out. Every day you are without a mobile-friendly site you are losing customers. If you wait until the index goes live, it may be too late for your business to survive.
So what should you do now? Well, if you have a mobile-friendly site, you're in great shape. No, you don't need to run out and get an app. This mobile index isn't about apps. It's about serving usable search results on mobile devices. As long as your mobile-friendly site delivers a good user experience, you're doing what you need to do. However, if your mobile-friendly site is just a patchwork bandage (or if it's out of date), then you should consider a redesign.
If you don't have a mobile-friendly site (you can use Google's mobile-friendly tester to check), then obviously you need one right away. There are a few options to achieve this:
For most businesses, the best option is to go responsive (even Google agrees). Accelerated mobile pages are currently not a solution by themselves, but they can and should be integrated into your responsive website to give you an extra edge in mobile results.
For more information regarding the best mobile-friendly option for your business, contact us today.