Exploring Google’s Mobile-First Index and What it Means for the Future of Ecommerce

While it’s tempting to say the future of personal computing is mobile, the reality is that future is already here. The vast majority of searchers on Google these days are mobile searchers. What’s more, a huge percentage of online shoppers are using mobile devices to peruse and buy goods.

According to Google, four out five smartphone holiday shoppers used their phones to make purchases during their spare moments last year. Further, regardless of the time of year, downtime is now shopping time for a whole lot of people. Whether waiting in line at their favorite coffee bar, second screening while watching TV, or otherwise engaged in mindless activity, a huge percentage of mobile users are shopping on their phones.

Google has taken note of the trend toward mobile computing and is moving toward providing rankings based on mobile sites rather than desktop sites. Called mobile-first indexing, Google is currently testing an algorithm that uses the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages, understand its structured data and show snippets from those pages in its results. Going forward, this means your online presence better be mobile friendly, or eventually your site might as well be a brick and mortar shop alongside Route 66 in rural New Mexico.

Why is Google doing this?  

If most people are conducting mobile searches and your business model is predicated upon generating ad revenues from search activity, you’re going to follow the migration — right? With this in mind, Google is working to figure out the best way to satisfy future search demand in its quest to remain the preeminent search engine.

The good news is this is just an experiment for now. However, should it prove successful (and by all accounts it will), now would be a good time to make sure an enterprise eCommerce platform comparison of your desktop site and your mobile site registers favorably. Given the fact that mobile is here to stay—at least until the next big thing supplants it—there is no logical reason to delay prepping your mobile site for this new paradigm.

In other words, if you have yet to do so, now is a very good time to embrace responsive design. In a nutshell, your site should be configured to conform to your user’s behaviors and environment, based upon the size of the screen they’re using, the platform they’re riding, and the orientation of their screen. Said simply, your website should have the ability to automatically respond to a user’s preferences.

According to Google; if you have a site configuration where the primary content and markup are different across mobile and desktop, you’ll want to move to a responsive site or a dynamic serving site where the primary content and markup are equivalent across mobile and desktop. If your presence is already configured this way, you can relax; you are future-proof — for now. If it isn’t you’ve got some work to do if you want Google to continue to drive traffic to your site.

To help you determine where you are in all of this, Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool is available to help you verify the equivalence of your structured markup across desktop and mobile. Again, while mobile-first indexing is currently only in experimentation, there’s no question that the dominance of mobile computing will, by necessity, lead to a shift favoring mobile sites in search engine rankings.

The only question is; will your e-commerce site be ready?

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Andre Bourque (SocialMarketingFella) is Editor Emeritus of Technorati.

He covers emerging trends and news in social, mobile, cloud, and related technologies.

Based in San Francisco, he can be contacted via his social channels and at: andrefbourque@gmail.com

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