What Google’s “Mobile First” announcement means to you

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Google announces “Mobile First” algorithm

A few days ago, Google announced that it was implementing a “mobile first” ranking strategy. Now that the dust has settled and there have been numerous articles posted on what this means, we can now comment on what to means to you.


Google has spoken

Google’s release about the upcoming change stated that mobile searches now outnumbered desktop (including laptop) searches. In reviewing the Analytics from several websites that I manage, I found this to be true in most cases – some by a little, some by a lot and few where desktop still outperforms mobile.

But the trend is clear. Mobile is overtaking desktop in searches as well as website pageviews. And Google’s new “mobile first” algorithms underscore that for every one of us that markets online.

If you remember just a little while back, the “Mobilegeddon” algorithm update from Google shook up a lot a marketers who were managing websites with no viable mobile alternative. Stats show that just 5% of affected website owners updated there websites for mobile compatibility.

But this new update will be much more important and much harder to ignore and maintain your page ranking. While this announcement is only for Google rankings, you can bet that Bing and Yahoo won’t be far behind.

“Mobile Friendly” or “Mobile First”?

When the “Mobilegeddon” algorithm update was implemented, many site owners checked their websites using the tool provided by Google to determine if their site was “mobile friendly.” This is a whole new ballgame.

What the “mobile first” algorithm update will change is HOW Google looks at mobile pages to determine page ranking.

For example, many site owners present mobile pages with less content than desktop pages to lighten the page. When the algorithm was “desktop first”, this made sense. But with the “mobile first” algorithm, ranking for keywords on the desktop version may be lost if that content is unavailable on the mobile version.

If your website was developed using a responsive template, where all content is served on all devices, this is not a problem. But, if your website uses two or more different versions, one for desktop devices and one or more for mobile devices, you need to be sure that they are in sync as to content.

Mobile websites vs. mobile apps

Up until now, in a desktop dominated algorithm, websites ranked higher than dedicated mobile apps. This was because a search could be directed to a particular page of a website, but could only point to the home screen of a mobile app. This is no longer the case. Google can now direct traffic to specific pages of mobile apps, making better ranking for content a possibility.

What does this mean? It means that for any specific search done on a mobile device, Google can now link directly to a specific page in an iOS or Android app that contains the content it has indexed.

Does this mean that everyone needs to build a dedicated mobile app? Not by a long shot. But an app usually provides a better user experience and Google may rank these apps higher than web pages at sometime in the future. You need to know what your competition is doing before you make any decisions regarding an app.

When can we expect this change to take place?

As always, Google’s announcement preceded its actual implementation by enough time for SEO and SEM professionals and website owners to take whatever actions they deem necessary to retain their ranking once the new algorithm is actually launched.

As far as exact timelines, Google may release info about that at some later date. But now is the time to start thinking about it. Contact your web developer or SEO or SEM professional and ask where you might be able to improve (or at least hold) your current ranking once this change becomes a reality.

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