Last week, Google announced the launch of mobile-first search indexing for a “handful” of websites. Although Google’s search engine won’t be giving priority to responsive sites until later in 2018, it’s time to prepare. Bookmark this page and subscribe for all new developments as Mobile-First SEO goes mainstream. For now, let’s dive into everything you need to know to get ready.
It’s been said countless times, but mobile traffic matters. Every time mobile customers struggle to navigate your site, you’re losing money and market share. As recent studies estimate, over 55% of web traffic comes from mobile devices. Google affirms these numbers, saying “most people” are now searching from mobile.
Get Responsive, Fast
If your site isn’t responsive yet, it’s time to hop on the train. If the $2 billion racked up from mobile in Black Friday sales was any indication (especially considering the total for Black Friday online sales was $5B), your company better have a responsive site in development. The best way to ensure your SEO stays intact when the changeover occurs is to have your site completely mobile-ready in every way possible.
Mobile-First Ranking Difference
As Search Engine Land reports, “With desktop sites, Google said that content hidden in tabs, accordions, expandable boxes and other methods would not be weighted as high. But when it comes to mobile, Google’s Gary Illyes said content like this will be given full weight if done for user experience purposes. The idea is that expandable content makes sense on mobile and not so much on desktop.” While the leadership at Google expect mobile-first ranking to only have ‘minimal’ impact on changing current search results, sites who haven’t adapted properly may fall far from the first page.
As Tech Crunch reports, Google has publicly announced that, “Pages that already take advantage of responsive web design and implement dynamic serving don’t usually have to do anything to be ready.” However, while some sites have a mobile version, mobile sites occasionally hide content that’s found on the desktop version (think long product descriptions). If this is the case for your site, you’ll need to do some restructuring for a seamless transition. Your site doesn’t need to be completely identical across platforms, “but it should contain all the information users need to know about your business,” according to SEMrush. Providing as much content as possible, while keeping it fast and responsive seems to be the ultimate happy-medium.
How to Prep
So far, we already know that Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) will give your site an edge for ranking higher in mobile SERPs. Experts agree that while making big changes to SEO optimized mobile pages may be a daunting task (especially for eCommerce sites), they suggest implementing AMP to prep your Mobile-First SEO.
What We Don’t Know
How will Google index your “hamburger” navigation when it crawls your site? Will H1 and H2 tags be indexed the same on mobile and desktop so site UX can stay in-tact? Do certain photo-resizing methods give sites an upper-hand? How do mobile ads play into the new search rankings?
Flipping The Switch
It’s still unclear how exactly Google will initiate the switch-over. At the SMX West conference last spring, Google’s Garry Illyes said the new index will not come until search results are “quality neutral.” In a Google Hangout, Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller recently said Google might choose to switch-over batch-by-batch while others speculate there may be a day when Google decides to flip the switch for everyone. For now, however, it seems Google’s goal is to keep search results the as close as possible to how they appear today.
Jan. 19, 2018 — PracticaleCommerce confirms Google’s plans to make the speed of mobile webpages a ranking factor. Since “Shoppers Expect Speed,” this will be especially important for eCommerce sites. The “Speed Update” is slated for July 2018.
See some awesome stats on site speed & mobile user behavior here.
Feb. 22, 2018 — SERoundtable reported today that Google plans to phase-in the next batch of sites to the mobile first index in the next few weeks! Google’s Gary Illys made the announcement yesterday at PubCon. Again, the company said they will hold true to their promise not to move your site until you are ready… But you are getting ready, right? Let us know if you need any help getting your fully responsive store up and running!