Let’s face it. Mobile is now an essential part of our lives. You will be hard pushed to find someone who doesn’t own a smartphone. For those of us who do, it literally controls us daily. Checking social media, texts, emails, calendars, browsing the web and everything else. We rely on these smart phones so much, and Google as a search engine knows this.
There have been numerous articles posted about the shift to mobile, users coming more from a mobile and eventually, they will take over desktop users and so on. And it’s happened. I didn’t even need to research a few of our clients to see the shift in analytics; I knew straight away which ones have already seen this jump and others who will be there.
But one thing I wanted to see was the actual shift on a client, how much has mobile taken over as a % of their overall traffic? Well –
Simply put, a lot. Back in 2011, over 80% of this client’s traffic was from desktop and only 12% from a mobile device. 2011 saw the release of the iPhone 4/4s, so it’s not as if we didn’t have the capability to search on the web with our phones. But the gulf between the two is amazing to see. Realistically though it’s not down to the device but more the software with them. As iOS has improved along with Android, different features and apps have been created and developed for us to use with these phones. And it’s made them more of a necessity in our lives, which has in turn, made them ideal for more of our daily tasks.
So, what’s been most surprising is that Google hasn’t really done much in terms of mobile rankings. In fact, the first major update for mobile came in 2015. Classed as ‘Mobilegeddon’ Google said the update would differ the mobile rankings for mobile friendly websites. The overall impact of the update was much lower than expected. This followed with another mobile-friendly update in 2016, which again had little impact. All in all, Google knew the increasing importance of mobile, SEOs knew the importance, but realistically the updates hadn’t changed much.
Well in late 2016 they announced the mobile first indexing. In the blog, they talk about how users are searching on Google more using a mobile device. But they also mention how their ranking systems are still using the desktops version of a page to work out the relevance to the user. And that the big issue with this, is that the mobile page a user could be viewing may have less content than the desktop version and in theory not give the user the answer they were looking for. They went on to say how they had begun to test the mobile index within the SERPs but didn’t give a precise date as to when it would be going live fully.
So what can you do to make sure you’re mobile ready?
Well, the first one seems obvious – build a mobile version of your website if you don’t have one.
While Google are saying not to stress and worry if you do not have a mobile site. It’s an obvious fact that if you can build one, then you should do it. You’re not only going to benefit from the mobile friendly push, but as we have shown before, mobile users are on the up, and they’re only going to increase.
Although if you do plan to build a mobile site, try and replicate as much as the content as you can from the desktop site. As we said they’re going to be continuing as one index, so any content you have on your desktop that is ranking, if you don’t pull it through to your mobile version, then you may lose out on the mobile ranking for that keyword.
That could be a lot of content?
Potentially, yes. The whole point of the mobile first index is that Google will look at your mobile site first. If they look at your mobile version for a page and then go to the desktop version of the same page and they see that the mobile version has less content than the desktop, then they may just ignore the desktop version and rank you based on the mobile. While this may seem unfair, it goes back to the point of this article. Users are using mobile search more and more. Eventually, the swing will happen, and Google wants to make sure they’re looking out for the user first.
One area you can look at is expandable content. We know how Google themselves had said before how they don’t want you to hide content. But things like accordions, expandable text boxes etc. are ideally made for mobile. Gary Illyes has said himself that content you find on mobile using the mentioned methods would be looked at correctly as long as it’s done for user experience purposes. So, when looking to build a mobile site, or update your current one, look at how you can add in more content using expandable content.
Technical – Will I need to change anything?
Google have said themselves, that areas like canonical tags will not need changing. You will still need to focus on having a correctly optimised page, but the big thing is page speed. There are too many cases where users are too impatient for a page to load, Google have come out to say that they estimate that a one second delay in page load time costs it around two million searches per year. Users are saying to aim for a load speed of below 2 seconds.
Consult Google if you need
Google have a couple of free guides which you can find here and here. Both these guides tell you the importance of a mobile site and how you can create one. While we have given you some tips and understanding of how mobile first will work, ideally this should be the first area to look at. Having a mobile site is important in today’s world, and Google knows this.
My advice, although I have mentioned maybe a few times above about having a mobile site… is take your time to get it right. Google have talked about the mobile first index, and there is a lot of chatter about it monthly. But they have said so themselves; they don’t expect this to be rolled out this year. And this isn’t going to be a regional thing either. Once they have completed their testing, they will be rolling this out globally. So make sure you focus on creating a mobile experience that is right for your user, a responsive design and try to match up your content with the desktop site. If you follow these steps, once the release comes you shouldn’t see any major impacts.