Search Marketers Not Ready For Mobile-First Indexing

As Google moves closer to pushing out its index based on mobile searches rather than desktop, it's not clear whether marketers are keeping up with the pace of change.

During this week's Google webmasters hangout, John Mueller of Google did not have a major update to share on the index other than to say (23:21) that the team continues to build a variety of ways to confirm when sites are ready for mobile indexing, "which is taking a bit of time."

The deadline may soon expire based on the number of searches moving from desktop to mobile.

About 57% of search traffic now comes from mobile devices -- mostly smartphones and tablets -- as consumers look for quick answers and an easier way to make purchases, confirms a recent study that also analyzes how those queries rank on search engines for websites and web pages.

Research from BrightEdge found that among its customers the identical keyword query on the same search engine ranked differently on mobile and desktop 79% of the time. The variability was also visible when analyzing just the top 20 ranking positions at only 47% of keywords generating a different ranking position on different devices.

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The reports argues that marketers need to see mobile campaigns through a different lens. The shift challenges the relevance and accuracy of campaigns for marketers who see their mobile campaign through a desktop view.

About 35% of the time, the first page for domain queries rank differently on mobile compared with desktop search engine results pages. "If brands do not track and optimize for both device channels, they are likely to misunderstand the opportunities and threats affecting them, likely on the mobile side and in their largest channel organic search, which makes up an average of 51% of traffic," according to the findings in the report. 

Marketers will need to design and optimize websites for speed, use a responsive site unless the business is app-based and large enough to build traffic through app distribution, and understand different online consumer intent signals across desktop and mobile devices.

The report also suggests that marketers track, compare, and report mobile and desktop share of traffic continuously; measure and optimize the page load speed of the mobile and desktop sites separately; and track organic search rank for mobile and desktop separately.

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