Responsive web design or mobile-friendly website means a website can be viewed at any screen size without the user having to resize (zoom in or zoom out) the site for it to fit the screen size of the device or be able to see images and read texts better. It aims to provide an optimal viewing experience by easing website navigation and minimizing screen resolution resizing and scrolling.
Over the past couple of days, reports have come out that Google finally implemented their mobile-friendly algorithm update. Dubbed as "mobilegeddon" by tech experts and netizens alike, it is definitely poised to dramatically alter search results in the weeks to come.
It's tempting to refer to this as a "mobile-specific" update but to do so would be tantamount to making a very costly mistake. The fact that Google actually announced this more than two months before its implementation shows how very serious the company is and how they want others to prepare as well.
On Google's Algorithm:
Google is no stranger when it comes to rolling out seemingly endless updates, averaging at a rate of 500~600 times annually. Out of these 600, at least one of them will be a very big one. Google Panda, for example, was launched in 2011 and while its release was controversial, to say the least, it still had the effect of making website owners more particular with how their site was being displayed.
All these updates modify Google's algorithms to a certain extent. In layman's terms, the algorithm is the formula which Google uses to make the whole search engine thing work.
Emphasis on Mobile-friendliness:
What swayed Google to go through with this should not be surprising for most users. Lowered costs of smartphones (by rising China brands for example, such as Xiaomi) and availability of internet access worldwide has increased the volume of searches placed on mobile devices these past few years.
Changes for smartphone optimization have already been present as early as 2013, when Google first addressed the problem users had when it came to browsing web content via their smartphones or simply accessing mobile-versions of certain websites.
In 2014, Google announced that it made changes to its existing algorithm to warn users if their smartphones might not be able to fully-access the content as a result of a site's incompatibility with mobile devices.
In conjunction with Apple's huge sales for the start of the year and the unabated rise of all kinds of smartphones in the market, the message is pretty clear. Web browsing, which used to be an optional feature for phones, has become the standard today.
If the current statistics still holds true, 4 out of 5 smartphone users use their phones to shop. Aside from the income Google generates from all its advertisements, its becoming easier to see why catering to the mobile market is now more important than ever.
What to expect from the update:
While Google has stated that it might take a while before we see any noticeable changes, various outlets have already reported 1~2% differences with their search results. What used to be top site on select searches have now found themselves on the second or third spot.
Some sites have reportedly been indexed out completely while appearing completely unchanged in the desktop results. The result of this is pretty much clear: Websites that aren't optimized to be mobile-friendly run the risk of not being on the first or second list anymore.
We're already privy to the fact that people tend to focus on the first three or so results and ignore the pages that follow unless they're desperately searching for something. While the desktop ratings and results will primarily remain the same, it's important to know that cumulatively, a loss in priority for mobile searches leads to a huge drop in hits for any company that is adamant at not adapting to the times.
If Google is to be believed, the indexing is done on a page by page (and not the website as a whole) so some users may be able to circumvent the potential loss by simply making sure that their topmost pages are redesigned to be mobile-friendly while the rest of the site isn't.
Knowing how often Google rolls out updates, however, it's best not to go with the band-aid solution and truly conceptualize on how to make one's website hit the top of the list for mobile devices.