Google Responds: Is Desktop SEO Still Necessary?

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John Mueller from Google addressed a query regarding the necessity of continuing optimization efforts for desktop versions of websites, given Google’s shift towards solely indexing mobile versions. The inquiry stemmed from a recent announcement stating that starting July 5, 2024, the limited subset of websites previously crawled by desktop Googlebot would be transitioned to mobile Googlebot. Post this transition, indexing would exclusively occur with Googlebot Smartphone. Consequently, websites lacking mobile device accessibility would forfeit indexability.

Stop Optimizing Desktop Version Of A Site?

In my new role at the company, there’s a debate underway regarding the approach to optimizing our website. The development team is heavily invested in creating a mobile-only version using dynamic serving, rather than opting for a responsive design. My argument against this stems from the fact that maintaining two separate code bases would necessitate double the effort in terms of crawling, analysis, and optimization. However, the counter-argument presented is that due to the shift towards mobile-first indexing, there’s no longer a need to prioritize SEO optimization for the desktop website. Despite scouring Google’s documentation, I haven’t found conclusive reasons to justify continued improvement of the desktop site in terms of crawlability, indexability, and adherence to correct HTML standards. Could you provide insight into any compelling reasons to support ongoing optimization efforts for the desktop website?

Mobile-Only Versus Responsive Website

John Mueller emphasized the advantages of employing a responsive design for websites, highlighting the elimination of the need to manage two separate versions. Additionally, he underscored the importance of ensuring desktop compatibility for visitors accessing the site through desktop browsers. In his response, he stated:

“Firstly, the concept of not adopting a responsive design in today’s digital landscape appears outdated to me. While I understand that there may be legacy systems or outdated practices to contend with, if you’re embarking on the development of a new website…”

Maintaining A Desktop-Friendly Site Is A Good Idea

Mueller elaborated on the importance of maintaining a functional desktop version of a website, highlighting factors such as other search engines, crawlers, and site visitors who utilize desktop devices. While many in the SEO community recognize the significance of catering to all site visitors for conversions and revenue generation, focusing solely on optimizing for Google overlooks the broader perspective.

He emphasized that while Google prioritizes the mobile version for web search indexing, there are numerous other search engines, crawlers, and user agents, including desktop ones, that warrant consideration. Mueller underscored the multifaceted purpose of websites, emphasizing that they serve more than just being crawled and ranked by Google.

Overall, I don’t believe it’s wise to dismiss entirely what’s presented on desktop in terms of SEO and related factors. While prioritizing mobile may seem preferable, particularly if Google SEO is the primary focus, it’s crucial to recognize that websites don’t operate in isolation. Businesses have broader objectives beyond just appeasing search engines, and diversifying traffic sources is essential for long-term stability. Additionally, if you’re hesitant about making this decision, opting for a responsive design could alleviate the need for such choices.

Regarding the decision to focus on mobile, Mueller suggested viewing it as choosing your battles wisely, especially in an ongoing project. Transitioning to dynamic serving represents progress, even if it’s not the ideal scenario. Sometimes, launching with a less-than-perfect version sooner can be more beneficial than waiting indefinitely for perfection. However, it’s essential to remain mindful of the dynamic-serving aspect during development, utilizing appropriate tools for diagnosis, monitoring, and tracking. While it may entail additional effort, ensuring that the desktop version isn’t neglected is crucial. There may even be opportunities to gradually introduce responsive elements to enhance the site’s adaptability. Wishing you the best of luck with your endeavors!

Choose Your Battles Or Stand Your Ground?

John Mueller makes a valid point about the importance of picking your battles wisely rather than stubbornly insisting on uncompromising positions. However, it’s crucial to ensure that your recommendations are documented and that any resistance or pushback is also recorded. This way, if things don’t go as planned, accountability can be properly assigned to those responsible.

Original news from SearchEngineJournal