Late last week, Google dropped a (not entirely unexpected) bomb on the search world. In their words:
Today, most people are searching on Google using a mobile device. However, our ranking systems still typically look at the desktop version of a page’s content to evaluate its relevance to the user. This can cause issues when the mobile page has less content than the desktop page because our algorithms are not evaluating the actual page that is seen by a mobile searcher.
To make our results more useful, we’ve begun experiments to make our index mobile-first.
In the last seven or eight years, mobile (smartphone) usage of the web has grown rapidly, with web platforms and design trends shifting to enable better mobile experiences. In that same time, Google has made shifts in its search engine ranking algorithms to take mobile-friendlieness into account. As I’ve taught a variety of workshops for photographers, it seems that about once a year I need to make an update to that curriculum to reflect the latest in mobile trends for photography websites.
What Does a Mobile-First Google Index Mean?
A mobile-first index means that for the purposes of establishing search engine ranking, Google will now be indexing your website as it is seen by a mobile browser instead of a desktop browser.
Should you panic? Depends on your current situation.
- If your site is responsive, where the same content is served to both desktop and mobile visitors (although it may be formatted differently for browser window size), you are fine and don’t have to worry.
- If you have an entirely separate site for mobile, you should consider updating your site with more modern technologies (if you’re using WordPress, you may be able to update to a new theme). Until you do, know that only the content on your mobile site will be used for search engine rankings.
Want to know what Google currently thinks about your site? Use Google Search Console.
How Does This Tie to Photography?
So… you’re a photographer. How does any of this tie into your web strategy?
You ought to be considering mobile. As of 2015, not having a mobile-friendly site will heart your search rankings, and we now see Google taking additional steps to use mobile as the key for search indexing.
Beyond Google, think of your clients. By not providing your website’s information in a usable form for mobile users, you’re preventing your current (or potential) clients from easily getting your information on their smartphone or checking out your images.
If you’re still using Flash galleries, you need to drop everything and make a new website your highest business priority.
Mobile is here, and it’s important.
Google is now ranking sites based on their mobile version (instead of desktop). Are you ready? https://t.co/GMqIJNWlmm
— Photowebo (@photowebo) November 7, 2016