So far, mobile and web search results were mostly identical. For this reason, when you ran a SEO campaign for a particular website (that has a mobile optimized version), you mostly saw the same ranks in both desktop and mobile organic search results. However, as mobile begins to grab a larger share of the global internet traffic, there has been talks about a time when identical ranks between mobile and desktop would change; mobile organic ranks will ultimately be adjusted to the mobile user, meaning there will be a fundamental shift by which websites which are optimized for specific operating systems and mobile devices would rank differently on desktop and mobile results. The new mobile user-agent of Googlebot might be an indication of the beginning of such a change.
Last week Google announced the release of a new Googlebot user-agent which was created for the sole purpose of crawling smartphones. This new Googlebot will be replacing the existing Googlebot-Mobile that had been used by Google up until now. The change was made due to technical issues revolving around the crawling of mobile friendly websites. Google claims that the old solution made it – “impossible to index smartphone content of some sites.”
The inevitable question that comes up (following such an announcement) is – will Google leverage the information gathered from their new mobile indexing capabilities to create an algorithm that is specific for mobile users and the mobile search experience? If so, how specific is this segmentation going to be? Is it going to include specific operating systems and devices or is it only going to differentiate between desktop and mobile? Will this generate the need for both a
mobile and desktop SEO strategy in the overall web industry? Real food for thought.
This also brings up a question of principle – if a website is considered highly relevant to users when searching on a desktop, why is it less relevant to them when they search on their mobile? Perhaps our own web analytics can answer this question. Comparing the user engagement metrics between desktop and mobile for non mobile optimized sites might be a good place to start in order to get a deeper understanding. Furthermore, Google has been determining the rank of
websites by their technical aspects for years now (upload time, number of server errors etc.) and as far as the user experience is concerned there is actually some logic in this possible approach.
Regardless of the answers to these questions, since the new Googlebot for mobile has just been released, it will probably take time to collect the data, analyze it and write a new algorithm based on it. We’re probably not going to see any big changes at least for the next few months, possibly for the remainder of 2014.