Is Desktop SEO Still Relevant Today?

  • June 10, 2024
  • SEO
No Comments

John Mueller, a key figure from Google, has provided insights on the topic of optimizing desktop websites or – short Desktop SEO, in light of Google’s move to exclusively index mobile versions of websites.

This inquiry is in response to a recent announcement by Google:

“…the small set of sites we’ve still been crawling with desktop Googlebot will be crawled with mobile Googlebot after July 5, 2024. … After July 5, 2024, we’ll crawl and index these sites with only Googlebot Smartphone. If your site’s content is not accessible at all with a mobile device, it will no longer be indexable.”

Should We Cease Desktop Optimization?

The inquiry was made by someone new to their company, questioning if it is justifiable to cease optimizing the desktop version of their website and focus solely on its mobile-friendly version. This query arose because the new entity is at an advanced stage in developing a mobile-only site.

The question posed:

“I am currently in a discussion at my new company, where they are implementing a separate mobile site via dynamic serving instead of opting for a responsive design. While considering requirements like the HTTP vary header, I argue that maintaining two codebases necessitates crawling, analyzing, and optimizing two separate websites. However, this reasoning was dismissed with the notion that due to mobile-first indexing, optimizing the desktop site for SEO is no longer necessary. I have reviewed Google’s documentation but found no valid reason to continue improving the desktop site for SEO. Could you provide any insights?”

Mobile-Only vs. Responsive Websites

John Mueller underscored the advantages of a responsive website, which negates the need to maintain separate mobile and desktop versions while ensuring compatibility with desktop browsers.

He remarked:

“First off, not making a responsive site in this day & age seems foreign to me. I understand that some websites may be outdated and require temporary maintenance, but creating a new site necessitates a responsive approach.”

The Importance of a Desktop-Friendly Site

Mueller elaborated on the importance of sustaining a desktop-friendly website, considering other search engines, crawlers, and desktop users. Comprehensive SEO includes being accessible to all site visitors, as conversions and revenue generation extend beyond Google’s indexing alone.

He explained:

“While mobile indexing means Google focuses on the mobile version for web search indexing, there are other search engines, crawlers, and requests that utilize a desktop user-agent. Websites function beyond just being indexed and ranked by Google.”

Mueller emphasized that disregarding desktop optimization entirely is not prudent unless the sole purpose of the site is for Google SEO, which is counterproductive as a diversified traffic source is essential for stability.

“Ultimately, it’s not advisable to entirely dismiss what’s served on desktop regarding SEO and related aspects. If the primary goal is Google SEO, focusing on mobile may be beneficial, but it is an artificial constraint. Websites don’t operate in isolation; businesses engage in a range of activities beyond Google SEO. To avoid this dilemma: go responsive.”

The inquirer shared that the decision to focus on mobile was made, to which Mueller advised choosing battles wisely.

“If this is an ongoing project, the shift to dynamic serving is already significant. Choose your battles wisely. Depending on the existing site, launching a sub-optimal yet improved version earlier can be more beneficial than waiting for the perfect version. Ensure the desktop version is not overlooked. Explore smaller segments of the site for responsive improvements. Good luck!”

Choose Your Battles or Stand Firm?

John Mueller advises a balanced approach, choosing battles wisely rather than rigidly opposing changes. However, it’s crucial to document recommendations and resistance to ensure accountability if issues arise.

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Luis Molinero

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