In April 2014, Google’s “Mobilgeddon” was the bow shot – a warning to all sites that being mobile-friendly was imperative by favoring those that are in mobile search results. But up until now, despite the exponential growth of mobile search, Google’s index of desktop websites has been the basis of its search results.
That is going to change.
Google is currently rolling out a mobile-first index that will make mobile content, not desktop, the driving factor in rank, even for listings delivered to desktop users. This is still being tested, and how soon it is fully deployed will depend on the results of that testing – but Google is clear that there is no going back.
For sites that utilize responsive design, which Google promotes as the best option for creating a quality mobile user experience, this is an announcement that will have little to no impact on organic traffic or rank. On a responsive site, the same content, as well as all backlinks, are available in both desktop and mobile. Unlike on desktop, mobile layouts that utilize expandable content (presumably to optimize the mobile user experience) won’t get dinged for “hiding” content.
If you have a separate mobile site, but it has less content than your desktop version, you need to pay attention. While Google says that sites should not be able to detect effects of this change, if you have a mobile site with weak content, you probably already saw the impact in late 2014. For your mobile site to rank as well as your desktop has, your mobile site content and SEO best practices are going to need to be as good. Though most separate mobile sites have substantively fewer links than desktop content, Google refuses to say yet how the influence of links will be handled as they continue to test this change.
And if there still are any of you out there without a responsive or a mobile website, it’s time to make a New Year’s resolution to change that for a prosperous 2017.