This means that mobile searches will be prioritised with ranking factors such as traffic and user behaviour – as well as the structure and relevance of content on the site. Desktop searches will therefore be slightly outdated.
While the new approach is not currently in effect, this comes as a warning to websites to ensure they are mobile friendly.
Google webmaster trends analyst, Gary Illyes, announced that the change will hit within “months”, as he spoke at digital marketing conference Pubcon in Las Vegas.
This change has long been talked about, and Google implemented mobile friendliness as a ranking factor back in April 2015.
Joost de Valk, who runs search optimisation firm Yoast.com, said: “It makes sense to me that they’d have two separate indexes and treat them as equals, but now they’ve got a primary one. That makes sense too, because it’s probably the fastest way for them to grow their index.
“I think in part it is about pushing people to change their sites to be responsive rather than having a separate desktop and mobile site. By saying that their mobile index is more important, it will push people to focus on their mobile sites.”
Ensuring you’re prepared
If you are a business owner or individual with a website, you will need to ensure your site is mobile friendly in order for it to rank strongly in the coming months. Here are some tips to consider:
- Make sure text size is relevant to smaller screens – With more people browsing the web on the go, it’s important that the user experience is not diminished by an incorrect text size for mobile or tablet.
- Ensure links are easily navigable – There is also a difference in display between desktop and smartphone touchscreens, as well as another one for tablets, so you need to cater for the user’s experience on various platforms.
- Put your site through Google’s mobile friendly test – This will analyse a URL and report if the page has a mobile-friendly design.
- Test across multiple devices – Just because your site layout and functionality is good on one device does not mean that is the case across every format. Check out your site on mobile, tablet and desktop before rolling it out to consumers.
There is still a time and a place for desktop, and it’s highly unlikely for the computer to become obsolete for browsing the web. But this shift in priorities from Google shows the impact that casual mobile browsing has had, as users increasingly use mobiles and tablets on the go and while at home.
Browsing habits of mobile users can now be tracked more closely with apps sharing locations, browsing habits and user preferences. This allows brands to find out more about its consumers and get ahead of brands which do not pay close attention to mobile devices.