As part of a recent keynote address at Pubcon by Google webmaster trends analyst Gary Illyes - one of the most prominent and respected voices in the SEO community - Illyes noted that Google is looking to create two separate search indexes.
A mobile one, which will become the “primary” index that’s used to respond to queries, and a separate desktop index, which will be maintained but won’t be as up-to-date as the mobile version.
The full implications of such a shift are not immediately clear – if mobile is the primary, and priority, search engine, what does that mean for desktop queries? And if the desktop version is not updated as regularly as the mobile one, how often is it refreshed?
All of these questions have significant implications for SEO – and while social media marketing generates bigger buzz in the online marketing space, it’s worth noting that search engines still account for a significant share of overall referral traffic and audience attention. As such, brands will need to ensure they maintain awareness of this shift and ensure they’re monitoring their referrals to stay focussed on the right areas.
This is not the first time Google has explored the option of separate mobile and desktop search indexes. The idea was originally floated last year and given that mobile search now outpaces desktop, Google has obviously decided a change is needed to maintain the relevance of their varying search experiences.
If it does go ahead, the change will put increased emphasis on mobile optimisation, with optimised sites already appearing higher in mobile search results, a shift that’s likely to become more pronounced if search results are served in a totally different manner, based on how they’re conducted.
How will this affect your website?
As noted, mobile optimisation is now a must – if you’ve been putting off updating your site and/or making relevant changes to improve your mobile experience, now is the time to move on this element.
The majority of people now search via mobile, and it’s important to understand how that shift affects your target audience, how those behavioural changes are reflected in the people you’re looking to reach.
When people conduct a search for your brand keywords, if your business showing up? Are you losing traffic already because your website is not optimised?
Eventually, as more and more people conduct more of their daily activity via their smart phones, the reality is that you’re going to need to, at the least, maintain an awareness of what your audience is experiencing, and to develop and improve that wherever possible.
Given the rate of change in the online marketing sector, this can be hard to do, but there is always help available – and that may become increasingly important if changes like these do, in fact, go ahead.