They’ve been saying it for a while now; “Mobile will surpass desktop as the most frequently used device” and it’s coming true. Well, for some it is. Google has this notorious habit of pushing things on everyone even when it doesn’t really apply. As you can see from my post in April, Mobile hasn’t really had much of an impact on a lot of my clients. Unfortunately, mobile absolutely dominates consumer, news, social, etc., and it’s pushing Google’s hand. Their response? A mobile-first index.
What is a mobile-first index? A mobile-first index is one where Google indexes a website with a mobile bot first, not a desktop bot. If your site doesn’t work for mobile, that bot won’t “see” it correctly. It won’t see content above the fold, it won’t see a right-sized view of the site to fit on a user’s screen, the site might take forever to load because it isn’t properly optimized. Basically, if your site hasn’t taken mobile into account, it really won’t do well. You’ll probably hang onto your rankings for a while if the sites you compete against organically also have non-mobile friendly sites, but as people update their sites and you don’t… it won’t go well.
We’ve been seeing the collateral effect of Google’s mobile-first shift for a while now. It seems that they’ve been biasing the results since late 2014 / early 2015. The bias really started to be apparent in February 2015 when Google started sending warnings about non-mobile friendly sites through Google Webmaster Tools.
The writing has been on the wall for a while. In case you missed it, here’s Google’s message: “Mobile friendly or die!”