In the past month, the internet has made a giant leap towards a mobile-first future—but it’s somehow passed by without much noise from marketers. Given that it signals a major change for many in our industry, I want to share some thoughts.
So what’s been happening?
The world’s biggest search engine and most marketer’s favorite ad partner, Google, has started to change the way searches—and website indexing—work on mobile. We’ve known for some time that Google prioritizes sites that have a mobile version. What’s happening now, however, is that Google is using mobile-first indexing for all searches.
We’ll get on to what that means in a moment. But it’s safe to say this is the biggest shift in the algorithm that we’ve seen for some time—and, according to Google’s blog, a year and a half in the making.
What does this mean for marketers?
Before, Google searches prioritized the desktop version of a website—all based on keyword rich content, metadata and other elements of a site. Google’s latest move signals a major shift. Now searches will increasingly use the mobile version of a web page for indexing.
And this all makes sense in today’s climate. More and more people are using mobiles over desktops to access the internet. Almost two thirds of APAC region access to the internet is via mobile and in Southeast Asia it’s even higher. We live in a mobile-first world, and so perhaps it’s surprising that the internet’s taken so long to catch up.
The good news is Google have said that they don’t envisage mobile-first indexing to affect search rankings right away. To start with, the focus is on changing the way they gather content rather than rankings. Still, we can see where the future of search is going.
The challenge for marketers, then, is what to do while time is on their side.
It goes without saying that optimizing mobile sites will become an essential part of the marketer’s arsenal. That’s because a smaller, highly optimized mobile site can now compete with a huge corporate behemoth—even ones with hundreds of pages and years of development time.
And there are some fantastic desktop sites out there. Those that are content rich, receive heavy traffic and, perhaps even, drive the majority of a brand’s sales. It’s safe to say that, for many, these sites are an essential part of their business, not just their web presence. The challenge for these brands will be how to replicate this success within the constraints of the small screen.
For brands enjoying less success online, they can think of it as a clean slate. They can now focus their energies on mobile, whether that’s small steps like making their site responsive or sharpening their skills in mobile marketing. Or they can kickstart a whole new mobile first strategy, putting innovative thinking at the heart of their business—and driving success that goes far beyond site indexing on Google.
This latest algorithm change might just be the opportunity they need.
Luke Janich is CEO of RED²