Are Desktop Sites Still Necessary? No, Says Google’s Mueller

google laptopYou don’t need a desktop website, according to Google’s John Mueller.

In a Hangout on Friday, Mueller, a webmaster trends analyst for the search giant, said that having a mobile site should suffice. He added that going mobile-first or mobile-only wouldn’t hurt a page’s rank, even in desktop search results.

“I think what I’d try to make sure is that it still works on desktop and that it doesn’t show an error on desktop, but rather someone on desktop can still access it,” Mueller said. “What generally happens is, we will just include the mobile site in our search results, like any other site, and we will present it to desktop users.”

Over the last few months, eMarketer has reported that mobile search surpassed desktop in 2014 with 66.5 million search queries, while cloud-based marketing solution IgnitionOne found that mobile search spend has increased 71 percent from last year. Despite these big numbers, Diane Pease, marketing manager for Cisco, doesn’t think we’re quite ready to abandon desktop just yet.

“It might be interesting to see down the road if [Mueller] might be right, but at the end of the day, there are things that you just find easier to do on a desktop,” Pease says. “You can use Excel on your phone, but if you’re trying to crank out some serious stuff, you’re going to want a keyboard.”

Multitasking is another reason Pease finds the prospect of mobile-only sites impractical.

“I usually have five to seven windows open at one time and I’ll be hopping from one thing to the next,” she adds. “Having multiple screens up – that’s tricky on a phone. You’re looking to move in and out of apps, and that’s not user-friendly, but at some point, will it be easier to do on a phone? Maybe [Mueller’s] statement can lead to that question: how could we get there and what are the things we find we still need our desktops for?”

It’s worth noting that while Mueller said marketers don’t need desktop sites anymore, he didn’t advise anyone not to build one. For Chuck Aikens, chief executive (CEO) of Denver SEO company Volume Nine, interpreted Mueller’s words as, if a mobile site can render in a way where the content is visible to desktop users, it should be fine.

“If I understand the algorithms properly, a desktop site that has a poor mobile experience shouldn’t rank for mobile queries. Shouldn’t a mobile site that has a bad desktop experience suffer the same fate?” Aikens says.

“I guess if you have a site that is exclusive to mobile and the vast majority of users are mobile, then you probably don’t care much about the desktop-ranking performance anyway, so why build a site? Maybe this is the situation that John is thinking about,” he adds.

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