The Google Index. You know, the crown jewel of google. The very thing Google uses to represent the information housed in the World Wide Web, connecting consumers to whatever they seek. It’s one of those “black boxes” of the Internet that digital marketers know exists but try not to obsess about. Days and months can go by without thinking about it.

But sometimes, a shift happens or Google makes a change that reminds us all of the company’s power. One of those moments is upon us.

Soon, Google will split its Index, essentially acknowledging the pre-eminence of the mobile Web. There will be a mobile index and a desktop index. To paraphrase Ron Burgundy in “Anchorman,” this is…kind of a big deal.

To be clear, Google announced (at the industry event noted in the story link above) that this change in the Index coming.  Google hasn’t announced a specific date for the transition but the company’s active public discussion of this shift should send a very clear signal to all marketers, and to search and mobile marketers in particular.  That signal sounds something like: “Complacency about a mobile optimized site or mobile engagement is career suicide.” (I made that up. Google didn’t say that.)

If you’ve optimized your site by using either responsive design principles or a mobile adaptation approach, then the update is likely to be pretty smooth. Do remind yourself to alert teammates or executives who occasionally look at page rankings that Google split the index.

If you haven’t taken heed of the past year or so of Google (and Bing) tweaking algorithms in response to consumer adoption of mobile devices (and really, where have you been?) the index split will have serious consequences.  Google execs have noted that if you do a really  good job of matching relevant and compelling content to queries, your search engine results pages might be reasonable.  The possibility exists, however, that the new mobile index might only feature mobile-optimized content — a potentially serious problem for those of the non-mobile-optimized contingent.

So if you want to live dangerously and pin your hopes on being really good at matching relevant content to queries, without optimizing your site for mobile, you’re very likely to subject your customers and prospects to pages that load very slowly and a site that’s difficult to navigate. We’ve all experienced this syndrome and we all do the same thing: look for the next search result that is mobile-optimized.

So, interesting times, eh? Are there any of you still betting that you can afford to postpone your site’s mobile-optimization project?

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