It’s only been about 25 years since Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. In that relatively short amount of time, we have grown so accustomed to interacting with the Internet that we’ve reached a point where we can barely remember how we did anything without it. Furthermore, we tend to forget that the internet as we know it came in leaps and bounds; no one really remembers what it was like to surf the web in 1998 because it seems like the internet has always been the way it is now. Could mobile searches look the same in 25 years?
That isn’t the case, though. For a long time, something as simple as a search request for a particular term was a pretty difficult undertaking, thanks to primitive web browsers. Eventually, browsers got more sophisticated. Enter Mountain View’s Google, whose web search algorithm completely changed the way we interacted with the web and, subsequently, changed the internet itself. Now, Google is announcing that the way we use the web is changing again, thereby confirming what we all knew: the web is moving into the mobile era.
Mobile Searches Overtake PC Searches
We’ve known for some time now that mobile technology was going to be important. We know this is true just by looking around; people aren’t using their PCs as much as they used to. PCs haven’t quite gone the way of the landline, but they are becoming an appendage to the way we do things, rather than the dominant force.
This shift was made abundantly clear today when Google announced that searches from mobile devices – meaning smartphones and tablets – have now outpaced searches from PCs. More people are using Google on their phones rather than on stationary devices, which is a natural consequence of the release of the iPhone in 2007. If we take Google to be a reliable indicator of web use and browsing habits overall—and that’s a safe assumption to make— then it appears that we have reached a point where the internet is essentially a mobile phenomenon.
This has already changed the lay of the land dramatically. Google acceded to this reality late last month when they changed their search algorithm to reward sites that had a better mobile experience, a gesture that was tritely dubbed “Mobilegeddon.” This move took some businesses by surprise, especially those who were just beginning to realize the importance of mobile UX. Now, they have to adjust for mobile or be “punished” by Google. This isn’t a punishment, no matter what people like to say. It’s a way to reward businesses that acknowledge the trajectory that the Internet is following.
What This Means for Business
Even before Google changed their algorithm, businesses have had to evolve to embrace mobile technology. Four out of five Americans use their smartphone to shop (they’ll use their smartphones for everything else while shopping, too). If a business site is wonky or glitchy, people will skip it, meaning, they’ll take their business elsewhere. We have reached a point where we understand a business based on its mobile site— that’s nothing to sniff at.
Given the change in Google’s algorithm, it’s not good enough to have a user-friendly mobile site that impresses customers; you have to impress the search engines, too. 48% of consumers find a business site from a search engine as opposed to going straight to the site (that’s an estimate; there are no good numbers about how the site is found in the first place). I don’t search for a place to buy cheap books anymore because I know where I like to go. But I certainly used to. Now, if the place I go doesn’t have a good mobile site, I might never find it.
This reality can be scary for some businesses because it’s going to change the way we interact with the web. However, that change isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The World Wide Web started out as something utterly bizarre and before we knew it, it was completely mobile. The internet is finally everywhere.