We’re predicting that 2014 is going to bring major changes in Google search this year. The main target – mobile search.

In 2013, we saw major changes to the Google Algorithm. In fact, we saw the Hummingbird update that was actually a replacement of the whole Google Algorithm. Typically, Google will make between 300-400 changes every year to the algorithm in order to provide what it believes will be the best results with each query. Many times, these changes are small and affect only a small number of queries, or queries that affect very specific industries. Other times, the changes are bigger and are designed to prevent spam (we had one company approach us for advice on SEO, and we warned them that they were in danger of getting hit with a big penalty with current algorithm changes. They ignored it our advice. Can you see where the algorithm change hit in the graph below?).

In 2014, there will certainly be more changes to the Google Algorithm. We strongly believe that the next changes we are going to see will be targeting mobile websites. This won’t be a penalty, like many webmasters and marketers worry about. Rather, it will reward sites that have mobile capabilities in order to give mobile users a better experience. Consequently, it will primarily be an update that targets users searching on mobile phones, not desktop users.

Why do we believe there will be a mobile update?

There are a handful of reasons we believe that a mobile search algorithm change is coming, and the stars are perfectly aligning.

  • Mobile Usage Is on the Rise: There is a steady increase in the number of users who are viewing websites in a mobile format (tablet and phone). Our clients have 25% of their users on mobile on the low end, and are reaching as high as 50%. That’s half of a site’s users coming from mobile!Most of these clients are B2C, and we know that B2B websites are seeing lower percentages. However, this is still a significant percentage of the web viewing population, and it’s still getting bigger. Mobile usage is expected to surpass desktop usage by 2015.
  • Needs Are Different for Mobile Users: Mobile users have different needs than desktop users. Mobile users are typically closer to taking an action than desktop users, who are more likely to be browsing and information gathering. Mobile device users stay on websites for a limited time before moving on. They need information quickly. And, because of the different screen sizes/resolutions, information has to be presented differently. So, a mobile optimized site will certainly give a mobile visitor a better experience – especially if done right.
  • Google Wants to Give a Good Experience: Google makes its money through ad revenue. When users continue to use Google because their search engine provides good results, their ad revenues go up. So, they want to make sure that users are happy with the sites they are clicking on. If your website has a custom mobile version or even a responsive design, it will be a better experience for the end user. Desktop usually doesn’t provide a good result for mobile users. Text becomes hard to read, there’s scrolling in too many directions, and large images take up too much room. Going mobile makes the user happy, and that’s going to make Google happy.
  • Local Search Results are Enhanced by Mobile: Google has been putting a lot of effort into the local search arena as of late. We’ve seen the local search results continuing to evolve at a rapid pace over the past 2 years. Local searches are especially important for mobile. So, if Google is giving the big attention to local search, you can bet that it is going to parlay it with mobile search adjustments in the near future.

What does a mobile search change mean for you?

The bottom line is that you will need a responsive design for your site, or a separate mobile version. These days, we’re recommending a responsive design over a separate mobile site for most users, and you can see why here: Why Responsive Design Is the Way to Go.

If you’re a medical practice (and many of our clients are), this is no longer optional. Your patients are on the go and looking for you while at their kids’ soccer games, in a referring doctor’s office, and just about anywhere on the fly.

If you haven’t already begun thinking through a mobile site, we suggest that you move on this sooner rather than later. Here is an area that you don’t want to wind up playing “catch up” on. Get in front of the pack with a mobile site. When you want to see what your options are, let us know and we’ll help you make the best decision for your business.

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