The Future of Mobile Search

Adam Gordon
Adam Gordon

On 21st April 2015 • 13 min read

DeepCrawl CAB

Why is this update happening? What has motivated Google to push this out?

Jacqueline Urick (Sears PartsDirect)

If you’ve ever tried to get information on your phone from a search result that led to a mobile unfriendly site, I think it’d be pretty clear why this is happening.

But the cynic in me feels that Google just wants to sell more mobile advertisements. If the kind of pushback their ad teams receives is “but we don’t have a mobile optimized experience along our funnel” or “our mobile traffic converts at an abysmal rate,” now they can say, “well, now you have to create a great experience for your mobile users if you want to compete in the organic space and since you’re doing that, may as well advertise, right?”


Bastian Grimm (Peak Ace)

Google has actually been a “mobile first company” for quite some time now. However, the strange thing with Google nowadays is that they have started “pre-announcing” updates, or officially announced that something will become a ranking factor (yes, looking at you, HTTPS.)

In some ways this feels more like a PR thing: trying to “fake” importance of some company strategic aspects rather than a “real update”. Another big difference is that Google is not really using deep linking for iOS. I believe that this will eventually be changing – once they roll out that update.


Kieran Bass (ROAST)

Google doesn’t normally announce updates, but when they do, there’s usually an ulterior motive. Normally they give no warning – so we can assume they want to change things – move the industry along in some way. Look at examples like Google Authorship, https or schema. It’s a way of encouraging change in the industry and pushing things forward.


Neal Bicker (Lead SEO)

We know that mobile is growing 10x faster than desktop. I think the change is for the better, if not only to bring the issue to the attention of a wider audience – forcing their hand, if you will.


Previous updates have caused shock, surprise and even dismay in the SEO community. How great a change will this update bring, and how big is the risk for those who are not prepared?

Michael Utz (UBS)

According to the current rumours, this could be the biggest change ever in terms of rankings.

This time, it’s much more ‘on-off’ than a gradual change of the pages’ ranks. Simplistically: No mobile content = no mobile visibility, and substantial hits can be expected for brands that cover mobile (shops) via apps only.


David Sottimano

It’s always a guess as to how much change an algorithm update will bring. However, it feels as if this update should be fairly significant, because:

  1. They told us in advance
  2. They’ve provided a test and mobile usability error analytics in Webmaster tools
  3. They’ve sent out, oh, 100 million messages to webmasters through webmaster tools telling them to check mobile usability errors
  4. Googlers have been quoted here and there saying “this is important”
  5. The “mobile friendly test” keyphrase has officially overtaken “roast beef sandwich” in global search volume, so the internet thinks it’s important too.


Ilyas Teker (iProspect)

There’s no doubt that sites who have not prepared themselves in advance will see less traffic, and therefore lose sales and revenue.


Fili Wiese (Search Brothers)

Be aware that according to earlier studies 77% of mobile searches happen near a PC. Now ask yourself: if a site loads badly on your mobile when you are doing a search from the couch, will you get up and start up your desktop or laptop, connect to the internet and then load the website in a desktop browser? Or will you go to the next search result that may be mobile friendly? Now fast forward a few months and you see the same mobile unfriendly site again during a mobile search. Will you try again or just skip it?


Bastian Grimm

Also, as Google have said many times, the update is going to look at “mobile friendliness” on a per URL basis – which makes a lot of sense; simply because this could prevent a domain from getting tanked all together, like with Penguin.

Of course, this is only if at least the crucial landing pages are consumable by any kind of mobile device. Looking at some recent studies, there do seem to be a decent amount of domains out there that simply don’t care. However, it is confirmed that your desktop rankings won’t be affected at all – maybe that explains part of the laziness of the remaining sites?


Neal Bicker

It is rare of Google to set hard and fast dates for things like this, so that might add to the fear factor somewhat. The fact of the matter is that mobile is a different game than desktop, I consume my content differently. We are not talking two different versions of the same site, we are talking two different experiences. It makes perfect sense to me to have two separate indexes each of these.

If your site does not add value to my experience when searching on a mobile device, you should not be listed in my mobile search results.


Do you see a future where mobile is the dominant platform? Is this where search is heading?

Jacqueline Urick

I see the future as seamless and multi-platform. I should be able pick up from where I Ieft off, whether that’s from my PC, tablet, phone, TV, fridge, house or car.


Michael Utz

Without any doubt we will see a significant growth of the mobile user base. Three reasons:

  1. The explosive uptake of mobile devices in developing nations.
  2. These countries show a clear trend of jumping from “offline” to “mobile” without going through the transitional “desktop” stage. This is supported by rapidly expanding wireless infrastructure – much cheaper than traditional non-wireless connections.
  3. Smart gadgets will enable users to interact with the web in some way that will require even more mobile optimized content given the reduced set of features offered by their GUI, e.g. speech recognition.


Kieran Bass

When you’re out and about looking for information or in the pub, and want to settle an argument, you reach for your mobile. But as Dave Naylor pointed out in his talk at BrightsonSEO, mobile is not always the answer. For example, car insurance is something people just aren’t likely to purchase through mobile during their daily commute. Even with a TV or fridge, people might do loads of research on mobile, but chances are they will choose to buy on a desktop platform.


Bastian Grimm

That surely depends on the searcher’s intent paired with a lot of other variables such as context, location, query, environment, etc. – however I strongly believe that the variety of devices will be increasing massively; there is a very good reason Google actually bought NEST. Companies such as Samsung are already shipping refrigerators with Wi-Fi where you can browse (and search) the web.


Neal Bicker

Without a doubt, and I’ll tell you why: there are as many devices (if not more) than there are people in the world. It is obvious that mobile search will rise accordingly. However, add to that the fact that people are doing more and more voice searches on these devices and you start to see where that growth will continue to come from. Typing out searches on my desktop browser, or simply asking Google anytime, anywhere… you tell me which one wins.


Final thoughts?

Ilyas Teker

Nowadays, people basically live with their mobile devices. Phones are at the centre of their lives. This is a serious situation, and mobile should be the focus of our attention. Optimising sites to attract mobile traffic has never been more critical.


Neal Bicker

I would encourage people to focus on their own information. There is always a huge volume of information available online regarding any Google update, but the best learnings will come from your own data. What applies to some will not always apply to you.


Fili Wiese

Mobile is here to stay, so be sure to invest in it. And not just for Google’s sake. Instead, do it for your users!


Kieran Bass

This is not a surprising update. Look at Google’s investments – Uber and the like. This is a transitional period to what you would call the “internet of things” and however you look at it, mobile is going to be at the heart of it. But SEO isn’t just about being prepared for changes, because there will always be something you can’t predict. Sometimes it’s about being the fastest to react to changes.

You have to be constantly prepared for change, with your ear to the ground. At ROAST we handle 50 million keywords on both mobile and desktop. We use a combination of STAT and DeepCrawl to constantly track fluctuations. You need constant reports, constant data to make sure you can always stay one step ahead. That way, if anything does change, you know exactly where to look to solve the problem.


Michael Utz

However mobile will develop, the trend of ‘now’ and ‘here’ – smart, dynamic, location based content – will remain and further intensify. Content providers need to cater for their customers’ needs and adapt in that respect – otherwise they won’t be visible to their users any more.


Learn more about the members of the CAB.




Adam Gordon
Adam Gordon

Product Manager at DeepCrawl.



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