Google announced in early November that they would index mobile pages first. And only as plan B, they will index desktop version of websites.
TL;DR: If you already have a responsive website and the content on both versions are the same, you don’t have to do anything. If you serve mobile visitors a stripped down version, and only rudimentary information, you should start to phase it out and make your desktop site responsive.
Google’s crawlers have traveled the internet as a desktop browser and collected information displayed on the site’s to desktop browsers. As a consequence, the search results were comprised of pages optimized for desktops. It had the terrible effect that should you happen to do your Google search on mobile devices; you might end up on a web page that has a terrible user experience.
Google started including markers for “mobile friendliness” in the displays, and AMP Accelerated Mobile Pages initiative also aimed towards a sensitive mobile approach. Google also implemented a speed ranking into its algorithm. Even if you had just a small mobile web site, you delivered to a mobile user; your site still received the Page Rank of the desktop site. Once the person came to your site, you served up the mobile site, which only contained a few links and maybe the latest events, directions, and the most recent blog post.
It’s a significant development for users traveling the web. What does that mean for site owners and nonprofit organizations?
Most business and nonprofit organizations we know already have a highly responsive website, and if that’s you, you don’t have to do anything. But if you have a separately maintained mobile site and it only displays basic information, you will see your relevancy on search engine result pages slip. In one example, the mobile site has five pages. Just the necessary information, the desktop version which not only has much more static information, it’s blog, gives the organization a much larger footprint in Google’s index, as there are 438 pages listed in Google’s index, now.
Now those pages won’t disappear but right now that content drives the organization’s page rank, even if the person searching was doing so on mobile devices. Not sure what happens when Google flips the switch. It’s still testing this approach, but we shouldn’t be surprised when search engine visibility will have drastic changes to the non-responsive site approach. With it, you will see significantly decrease in traffic coming from Google Search pages.
Google mentioned in their post: That they still will use the desktop version for ranking, but not give “mobile friendliness ranking boost.”
How can an organization with no mobile version and no responsive version save its page rank in a mobile first world?
It’s necessary to look at your current site and talk to your web developer. Making a site responsive is not just a few minor changes here and there. It’s more like a complete redesign of your website. That can get expensive, and if you haven’t done this in the last four or five years, it is certainly time to put several thousand dollars towards that into your next year’s budget.
What can you do in the meantime?
If your site is already on WordPress, there are a few plugins you and your web developer can test on your staging site and see how your site behaves. But make no mistake, these are all band-aids, so you keep your Google Search PageRank, but they will have a more general look and feel to it, and not match your organization’s branding and do not provide an optimized mobile experience for your visitors.
Here are a few WordPress plugins to make your desktop site mobile ready
- Jetpack offers a simple and responsive mobile theme
- WPTouch Mobile Theme
- WPTouch also published a Comprehensive Mobile-Friendly Guide
Do you have a non-mobile optimized site and need to talk to someone on your next steps, feel free to send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.