All roads lead to mobile search - that's certainly been the story for some time in the world of SEO, but it looks like Google could be taking this one step further.
Speaking at SMX, Google's Gary Illyes announced that they were still working on a mobile-only search index, which could mean big changes in the world of SEO if and when the project develops. As things currently stand, there is little difference between the ranking signals used for desktop and mobile searches, which means that there isn't a huge disparity between the search results for desktop and mobile.
To test the validity of this claim, we used Rank Tracker to assess the desktop and mobile search rankings some terms associated with one of our client's sites. We ran searches on 56 terms in total, and found that only 5 of those showed up in the same position on both desktop and mobile. While this would suggest that there is, in fact, already a notable difference in how pages rank for terms on both devices, the lack of diversity in these results helped to support the original claim that mobile and desktop results are not very different at all.
On average, there was only a difference of around 3.5 positions between searches conducted on either device, which proves that while mobile and desktop results are rarely identical, there is also very little chance of them being completely different either. It would be interesting to witness how much a separate index would alter these results, but there's also no denying that it would also be a somewhat daunting prospect from an SEO perspective, if webmasters are attempting to compete in a completely separate set of search results simultaneously.
Of course, we've experienced a similar set of speculations and worries in the lead up to last year's 'Mobbliegeddon', AKA Google's mobile friendly update, which while having some impact, was vastly over-estimated in its ability to alter search results. Despite this, it's clear that if a mobile-only index does become a reality in the next few years, it would almost certainly be capable of altering results far more dramatically than any current or future mobile updates. We're all aware of the fact that mobile search has officially overtaken desktop, and a mobile-only index could be Google's first move towards officially cementing itself as a 'mobile first' service.
Currently, it is almost impossible to assess how this will alter how we implement SEO and adapt websites for mobile, due to the fact that we have no idea how different the ranking signals used for this separate index will be. We also have no idea of how this new index will be set up in analytics and webmasters, and whether or not it will be integrated into the current system, or be kept as a completely new and independent set-up. What we can be sure of, however, is the fact that having a mobile-friendly online presence is becoming increasingly important for businesses and organisations, regardless of how much time and effort they currently spend on SEO.
If Google is planning to prioritise mobile search, this could not only impact the existing requirement to provide a positive user experience on mobile websites, but could spark the need to develop completely new online marketing strategies, which are focused solely on mobile audiences. It may no longer be a case of providing an equally useful and positive result across platforms, but could mean that marketing and SEO for mobile becomes entirely its own territory.
If you'd like to improve your website's performance on mobile devices, or if you require a tailored SEO strategy to help you succeed in the search results, Designer Websites are here to help. Whether you're looking for a professionally designed responsive website, online marketing expertise, or both, get in touch with our team today, either by calling on 01446 339050 or by requesting a free quote.