The Google search engine has always crawled and indexed desktop sites. For a long time that’s how we all consumed websites – on once-expensive desk-bound Personal Computers.
Then when laptops became affordable, they started to become the new desktop machines [I’ve got two on my desk right now – Ed]
The mobile web took longer to take off as the technology needed time to catch up. Think about the first phones you used to browse the web – Our Digital Marketing Manager had a Nokia 7110 phone which was WAP enabled. He could browse a few lines of monochrome text-only versions of websites, if they existed, using his phone’s numeric keypad and a scroll wheel. That was 1999 when The Matrix was in cinemas.
It took quite a few years for phones to really be useful enough for web browsing. The full-screen experience of the iPhone wasn’t around until 2007 but that was when the marketing blurb said:
“Apple reinvents the phone”
The iPhone was really a glorified iPod touch with phone functionality but it revolutionised the world of mobile phones. We could now see a full-colour full-size screen with more than those few lines of monochrome LCD.
Fast forward to December 2009 and we saw predictions from Morgan Stanley that mobile would “eclipse desktop internet” within 5 years.
By November 2016 we had the statistical data to prove that mobile and tablet internet usage had indeed exceeded desktop for the first time.
However, it has taken the search giant Google until March 2018 to finally say that they are now rolling out “mobile-first” indexing. In a Webmaster Central Blog post, Google said they’d been “carefully experimenting” for a year and a half and were now ready to start indexing.
Why is Mobile-First Important?
Because we had historically built websites for desktop PCs, mobile versions were once an afterthought. It was a right pain as well because designers would have to create a pared-down version of a “full fat” website and serve the version dependent on who was visiting from which device. The markup language was also different so websites were effectively produced twice, once for desktop and then the other version for mobile, often text-only in the days of WAP. [We’re back to that with Google AMP – Ed]
Then we started to see “mobile-first web development”. It meant we had to consider mobile users first and build websites to address these limitations. Websites designed for the desktop are often full of text and images and this doesn’t always transpose well to mobile. Then there are the file sizes, big images, the size of the text, do you have to pinch and zoom to read, are the links so close together that you could click the wrong button and are you scrolling sideways to read a webpage? Not so good is it?
Mobile-first design addressed this by making sure that pages were designed in such a way that all these issues were dealt with so that both mobile and desktop users were satisfied.
Personally I think we’ve gone so far that we quite often see websites on desktop that are so obviously built for mobile but just happen to be served up on “the big screen”. The telltale signs are utter simplicity, no clutter, clear links and that giveaway “burger menu” icon.
What’s so Important about Mobile-First Indexing?
Because mobile is now the dominant mode of search, desktop takes a backseat there too. Google used to crawl the web, visit your website, look at the desktop version and then index that site in the search results.
The problem with this is that not everybody has kept abreast of developments and there are a great many websites that still don’t provide a good experience for mobile users. However, the most important sites have caught up and any brand or developer worth their salt has produced mobile-friendly websites.
What this means for website owners without the knowledge, the budget or the means is that they will now start to see more visits to their website from Smartphone Googlebot. Mobile versions of websites will be indexed first and foremost, including Google’s cached versions.
If you don’t have a mobile-friendly website then your desktop version will still be indexed. However, Google is now urging webmasters to start making the move to mobile because, reading between the lines, this “amnesty” isn’t going to last for ever. Sooner or later the desktop versions of websites will start to suffer in the SERPs and that can only mean one thing – Your traffic will go down.
When your traffic goes down you’ll lose leads and sales will be affected and, in general, your website will not be as effective as it has been in the “golden years”. But this is a new age and it pays to keep up.
So, website owners, it really is time to start going over to mobile.
Do you need help with going mobile? Clever Marketing aren’t just a premier Hampshire digital marketing agency but also your first choice when it comes to web design and development.
We will be happy to discuss the next mobile-friendly version of your website and you can be sure that we’ll give it our utmost attention when it comes to making it SEO-friendly too.