Get Ready for the Mobile Search Evolution
There are now three things that are certain in life: Death, taxes, and Google changing their search algorithms.
It shouldn’t be surprising that the company is always updating the way they search and rank content on the Web, since the Internet is constantly evolving as well. This update, however, is even more important as it essentially changes the focus on how the company searches the Internet.
Google is now migrating its search processing to a mobile-first approach. Google isn’t just tweaking how content is evaluated, it’s fundamentally changing the focus of the search onto a totally different platform. Why, you ask? Over 50 percent of all Internet searches originate on a mobile device, so Google is simply responding to the changing search environment.
This update can have a huge impact on many websites, in addition to how companies approach search engine optimization (SEO). That’s because many mobile versions of websites don’t contain all the content from the desktop version of the site. So, Google will find less content if it’s primarily looking at your mobile website. Just think of all the time and money you put into a website designed mainly for desktop searches. Maybe your mobile site was put together as an afterthought. That could put a serious dent in your search engine ranking.
The Search Process
To help explain how Google searches and indexes information on the Internet, I use an analogy from the Matrix films. The Matrix has machines that look like octopi that go out and search every nook and cranny of the Earth looking for humans. Google has programs called Googlebots, which are much more friendly, but basically do the same thing to websites on the Internet.
A Googlebot goes to your site and “crawls” through every page looking for information related to the content of your website pages. It then returns to Google with an index of your site’s content and saves it for future use as search results. Here’s an important feature about Googlebots – they are constantly looking for new content on your website and will add new webpages, links, and content to your site’s index. So, the more updates you make to your site, the better your chances of ranking higher on the Google search results pages.
Website Design Matters
How does your website look on a smartphone and tablet? In the past, companies actually had two different websites – one for desktop and one for mobile. Imagine the logistical nightmare for the webmaster to track all the changes on two websites. Think of the user’s frustration when the information they found on the desktop site isn’t on the mobile site. Search engines also penalize sites that have duplicate information on multiple sites. It’s just not a good way to run a website.
There is a better way. Responsive website design is the term used for sites designed with HTML coding that allows the web pages to detect and adjust to any screen size. This allows the same content to be viewed on either a desktop or mobile device, which means the mobile-first search change shouldn’t negatively affect the search ranking.
One area you do need to concentrate on is page loading speed on your mobile site. Even though your pages may load quickly on a desktop, that speed may not translate to your mobile site. This can hurt your search ranking two ways:
1. Google ranks sites lower if they have slow loading speeds.
2. We know from research that almost half of all Internet users will abandon a website if the page doesn’t load within two seconds.
There are ways to speed up mobile website loading through both design and coding. Re-sizing images and adjusting the resolution can aid loading speed. It’s important to make your video mobile-friendly as well. Visitors are three times more likely to view videos from a mobile device than from a desktop. So, don’t get rid of it. Make sure it loads quickly by using a video player that uses processing speeds efficiently. Flash software is no longer supported on many mobile devices, so get rid of it. HTML5 is the recommended video viewer these days. On the geek side, website programmers can go through the coding and eliminate any extra characters that don’t do anything but slow down the site’s speed.
Here’s some really important information on mobile searches courtesy of our friends at Google: 50 percent of people who searched locally for a business actually visited that business within a day. Think of it this way, if you’re not optimized for mobile, you could be missing out on a big chunk of business.
Haste is Waste
Now that you know this change is coming, you may want to rush out and put up a new mobile site as quickly as possible. Slow down, take a deep breath. Let your desktop site handle the Googlebots until your mobile site is ready. Throwing up an incomplete mobile site could actually hurt your rankings instead of improving them. Once you properly finish your mobile website, Google will switch over to ranking it instead of the desktop site.
I should point out that Google has made it clear that the mobile-first search focus is currently in the experiment phase and they are only utilizing this process on a small portion of websites on the Internet. The company hasn’t discussed how long the test phase will last or when their searches will go mobile-first over the entire Internet. However, mobile-first indexing will absolutely be the search priority in the near future.
We Walk the Walk
There’s no reason we have to look at the mobile-first indexing as a bad thing. I like to think of it more as just taking a different route to work each day. Sure, the scenery changes, but it still gets you where you want to go. The good news is CelebritySites already optimizes content for desktop and mobile devices, so the mobile-first change shouldn’t negatively impact our clients’ sites. In fact, I invite you to check out celebritysites.com on both your computer and mobile device and let me know what you think of our approach to going mobile-first.