For site owners that have been putting off the conversion to having a mobile-friendly site, it is now time (ok, the right time was a year and a half ago, but now it is really time). Google announced today that within the coming months they plan on changing to a mobile first index; this means that even on a desktop search, the mobile version of your site will be used for ranking. While they plan to maintain the index of desktop pages, they do not plan to keep it up to date, and we can assume that as it gets stale, it will be phased out altogether. This change makes sense; mobile search is more popular than desktop search (over 50% of searches), and that trend will only continue to increase over time.
This news is big. Since April of 2015, Google has considered whether a site is mobile-friendly in its ranking when the search was performed on a mobile device, giving mobile-friendly sites a boost. This latest news means that Google is taking the next step towards mobile by prioritizing their mobile index, regardless of where the search is performed. Obviously, if you do not have a mobile-friendly site in a mobile first search environment, your site will lose visibility. Again, now is the time.
Site owners that have already made the switch to responsive web design should be in good shape. One thing to consider, however, is how much of your site content displays on mobile. In the past, some site owners hide selected site content from mobile users in an effort to streamline the user experience and increase site speed. With a mobile first approach, site owners need to ensure that important content is not hidden from mobile users. You can test what google sees via Google Search Console using Fetch and Render. If your important (and keyword rich content) is not displaying, it is time to make some adjustments.
While the exact date of this change is not known, Google is giving site owners months to update and prepare. If your site needs to upgrade to responsive web design, setting a target date of year’s end makes sense. We can help!