As previously reported in October 2016, Google has announced that they will soon roll out their new, mobile first index, with their current desktop first index taking a backseat. But what exactly does that mean and what will be the impact on small businesses? Let’s look at the facts.

What is an index?

An index is the way Google stores all of its information in order to ensure fast and accurate retrieval. Essentially, it’s the reason why a search results page appears in the order it does and takes nearly zero seconds to display results. Google and other search engines are constantly updating their indexes to keep up with the times; in this case, to keep up with more searches being performed on phones and other mobile devices.

But Google already works on my phone. How is this different?

Google is constantly updating their algorithms to be more mobile friendly. From removing ads on the side of search results, to adding click-to-call options on local map listings, Google has consistently been improving their search engine for mobile first actions and the new mobile first index is their next big step.

Currently, Google ranks sites on all devices based on the performance and optimization of their desktop site version. For sites that see most of their traffic coming from mobile users, this can mean a lower ranking, despite a high amount of traffic overall.

In fact, over 50% of all searches are now conducted on a mobile device. With this stat in mind, it is no surprise that Google is pushing to ensure the mobile user experience comes first and is using that data to create a faster, more accurate way of showing you the information you need, when you need it.

What does this mean for SMBs?

For small businesses, this means that having a mobile responsive site is more important than ever. While Google will still index all sites, the shift to a mobile first index means that for a site that is not mobile friendly, it is likely to see a drop in rankings and therefore a drop in traffic.

Think of the last time you went to a website on your phone. Chances are you were much more likely to explore the site if it loaded quickly and was easy to navigate even on a smaller screen. As more and more searches are performed on mobile devices, sites that are not optimized for that experience both in terms of design and page load speed, will start to see a sharp drop in traffic.

When will all this take effect?

We don’t know. Google has hinted the release will be some time in 2017, but Gary Illyes, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst (AKA data cruncher) has indicated that the release may not happen until 2018.

While that may seem like ways off, it’s important to realize that search traffic is already coming from mobile, whether Google is indexing it first or not, meaning there is no better time than the present to improve your site for the small screen.

This advice is particularly valuable for SMBs running SEM campaigns. Although some industry experts believe the day will come when Google gives preference to SEM campaigns that have mobile friendly sites over advertisers without mobile friendly sites, this day has not yet come. What has come, as previously mentioned, is that 50% of search queries come from mobile devices. It is therefore imperative for SEM advertisers to ensure their sites perform optimally for mobile users as users are more likely to bounce off a site if the experience is not mobile friendly, thus wasting the advertiser’s SEM budget.

How can Spotzer help?

At Spotzer, all sites we develop are mobile-friendly with a responsive design. This means our sites look and perform flawlessly no matter what device the site is viewed upon. If you’re an enterprise company looking to take SMB website’s into the mobile first digital age, find out more about what Spotzer can do for you.