Whether you’re checking your email or browsing through Pinterest, it’s safe to say that smartphones are an integral part of daily life. In fact, the old notion of “going online” with a desktop computer has quickly evolved into the more common reality of online usage — pulling out our smartphones.
According to a 2015 study from the Pew Research Center, 64% of Americans own a smartphone, which is up 35% from 2011. This trend toward mobile usage doesn’t just affect the way we browse online, but it also changes the way we market to and interact with potential customers.
If your website and marketing strategy are only geared toward desktop searchers, you’re leaving opportunity and business growth on the table. With 2017 just around the corner, there is no better time to take a critical look at your online presence and how Google’s mobile-first indexing will affect your ranking in the new year.
The Rise Of Mobile
It’s obvious that the popularity of smartphones is significantly higher than ever before. Still, statistics from Deloitte’s 2016 Global Mobile Consumer Survey give us a very clear picture of just how important mobile technology is for reaching our consumers. According to the survey:
- More than 40 percent of consumers check their phones within five minutes of waking up
- Americans collectively check their smartphones upwards of 8 billion times per day
- “While out shopping” and “while at work” are the #1 activities Americans do while on their phones
Findings from Similar Web’s State of Mobile Web US 2015 report echo the same trends. According to the report, approximately 56% of consumer traffic to top US websites comes from mobile devices. This analysis looked at the top 10,000 websites in the US, covering 24 categories.
So, why are more consumers opting for mobile online surfing instead of desktop? It boils down to convenience along with the prevalence of high-speed 4G data networks. With this landmark shift in the way we access the internet, Google is following the users’ lead and changing the way websites rank.
What Is Mobile-First Indexing?
Analysts and SEO enthusiasts suspected the shift to mobile indexing years ago. Suspicions were confirmed back in September 2015 when Gary Illyes from Google tweeted about the possibility of a mobile-only index.
Illyes tweeted, “Please don’t assume we WON’T have different indexing for mobile. We are still experimenting, but it may happen.”
This is just one of many ways Google has changed throughout the years to cater to the growing use of mobile devices. In April 2015, Google’s massive update — which is affectionately referred to as Mobilegeddon — began considering mobile optimization as a factor for page rank. Most sites that weren’t optimized for mobile saw a drop in their ranking on mobile searchers.
Initially, most believed that Google would use two separate indexes — mobile and desktop — for search results. We now know that SERPs (search engine results page) will be primarily based on mobile content.
Google shared more about this change on the Webmaster Central Blog in November 2016, explaining:
“Our ranking systems still typically look at the desktop version of a page’s content to evaluate its relevance to the user. This can cause issues when the mobile page has less content than the desktop page because our algorithms are not evaluating the actual page that is seen by a mobile searcher.”
For this reason, Google is essentially switching their current method for determining search results. Instead of crawling the desktop version of a website first, mobile-first indexing, as the name suggests, Google will use a mobile search engine index.
The Effects of Mobile-First Indexing On Ranking
Google recently started testing their mobile-first index among some users. However, most SEO experts believe we’re still several months away from the full roll out of Google’s mobile index. It’s not 100% clear how search results will shift, but mobile sites with poor speed or sites with content that is not mobile-friendly will likely drop in ranking.
Other mobile-unfriendly characteristics include:
- Text too small
- Links too close together
- Mobile viewport not set
If you don’t have a mobile site, Google announced that they’ll continue to index desktop sites while using a mobile user agent to view the site. However, it’s important to keep this in mind as we continue to shift toward a mobile-dominant world.
Another option we recommend for those concerned about their mobile traffic is a mobile-responsive website. This allows businesses to have one website that is both compatible with desktop and mobile instead of two different websites for each platform.
Here at Now Media Group, we offer mobile-responsive websites that are optimized for every screen size and are easy for users to navigate. Mobile-friendly elements that we incorporate into design include:
- Easy-to-read text
- Resized images that fit any screen size
- Clear navigation
Ranking And SEO in 2017
By the looks of it, we’re sure to see major changes in the world of SEO in the new year.
Are you unsure about the optimization of your website and your online presence? We’re here to help!
Now Media Group offers a range of digital marketing services including SEO audit services, content development, social media marketing and more. Contact us today at (858) 333-8950 to kick off your business on the right note for 2017!