October 25, 2016
For some time, Google has been trying to use its position as the world’s most popular search engine to push websites towards becoming “mobile-friendly.” The first step was to offer guidelines and testing tools, with pages getting the reward of a “Mobile Friendly” label in search results if they complied with enough of the guidelines.
Less than two years later, Google said that 85% of the pages in mobile search were “friendly” according to their criteria, and that the label would be going away. Web publishers shouldn’t have taken that as a sign that Google’s push to make the web a mobile-led place was over.
For many websites, traffic from mobile devices has already surpassed desktop, but the mobile experience isn’t always comparable. The creation of an entirely separate index for mobile search results should be an alarm to any site with a disjointed mobile experience. While it’s doubtful that Google will completely abandon desktop signals or connections between mobile and desktop pages, the move to mobile (pages) first does threaten to leave significant portions of content behind.
Traffic, whether from search, social or direct, has undoubtedly shifted to the mobile web and apps but that doesn’t mean the user experience has. Many e-commerce sites report significantly lower conversion rates from mobile devices, with smartphone users converting well below desktop users. That raises the question of whether being mobile-friendly goes far enough in providing an optimal mobile experience.
There are many details yet to be announced, but there’s nothing ambiguous about Google’s position – they’re adapting to user preferences, and if websites want their associated traffic, they must adapt as well.