A lot of Web-based companies have a rude awakening coming very soon.
For most of the last two years, we’ve been following and reporting on Google’s first forays into mobile-first indexing. Until recently, the Internet Titan essentially had a library, or the results which pop up when you type in a search string; and an index, which is how that library was populated. Today, Google announced after a year and a half of testing and experimentation, they’ve begun the migration process for websites which comply with Google’s best practices for optimization on mobile devices, proving once again that the compact power of mobile devices has become the uncontested 800-pound gorilla in Internet search spaces.
In the past, Google’s indexing prioritized PC-based websites for one simple and obvious reason: PCs, desktop and laptop computers were where most Internet searches originated. In the past several years, mobile searches have outstripped PC searches by a significant margin, accounting for over 70% of all user-side searches.
This new indexing scheme means older websites or sites who have until now ignored Google’s warnings that this was coming are about to face a day of reckoning where their visibility may drop off significantly and suddenly, affecting their business negatively or even catastrophically.
Although Google says the mobile-first indexing does not affect rankings, there appears to be a subtle but large “Yet…” looming in the language they used in their announcement. This is because websites optimized to run seamlessly and smoothly across platforms will be given priority, ultimately gaining more visibility and traffic as opposed to their non-optimized counterparts. Google also notes in its announcement that as from July of 2018, slower-loading or non-optimized sites “may perform less well for both desktop and mobile searchers,” implying that while these sites may not notice an immediate undercut in their current rankings, complacency at this stage could very well be a costly or even lethal mistake for many companies whose websites don’t deliver the sort of end-user experience Google prefers to deliver to searchers.
Of course, this is not the time to panic! If your site looks and performs more or less the same regardless of which platform it’s being viewed on, you’re probably okay and don’t need to worry. If your site is slow, clunky, vastly outdated or doesn’t perform well when you look at it across platforms, now is the time to start considering how to fix it by optimizing. And if you’re not sure, it’s definitely time to make sure you know how your site will perform in the clinch by testing its responsiveness and cross-platform capability.
Google’s announcement made it very clear, however, that mobile optimization, while an important standalone metric, is not the be-all, end-all of how sites will be ranked and displayed. Great content, high authority ratings and other solid SEO benchmarks may save a site that would otherwise languish. However, when given the option between a nonoptimized site which checks all the other boxes or “the total package,” it’s almost a certainty that Google will choose the site which delivers “all the things.”
In the announcement, Google also states it is going to be implementing the rollout in waves, and that websites which are included in the first wave will be notified through their Search Console. This means just because your site isn’t picked up in the first, second or third wave, it doesn’t mean you have a bad site. It only means Google’s crawlers haven’t picked it up yet. However, making sure your site is optimized and delivers all the other metrics Google looks for will vastly improve your chances of making the cut as future waves of the new indexing methodology are implemented.
If your site isn’t “ready for prime time” as per Google’s new criteria, again, we reiterate that now is not the time to panic! However, you would be wise to have an SEO and optimization audit conducted on your site so you can see where your weaknesses are versus competitors in the same space and how to address them. At Online Advantages, we bring a combined two decades of experience and know-how in the SEO and search engine rankings arena, as well as web development and social media solutions which make a real impact. Don’t let Google’s next wave pass you by. Make sure your business shows a face which gets the attention and respect it deserves by bringing in the professionals at Online Advantages to get and keep your site running at the top of its game!