SEO in mid-2017 – Mobile First?
Mobile First Not Mobile Friendly
Mobile First Summary:
Google is deep into planning a large-scale revision of its core approach to indexing and ranking websites – namely a Mobile First approach. Note that this is going to be significantly different from a mobile-friendly website. Google is currently developing this new index and it appears to be taking a while longer than expected.
It had been expected mid-2017, but now appears to be due for release in late 2017 / early 2018. Google has stated it wants the new index, and resulting rankings to be quality neutral. Take care when interpreting “quality neutral”, it does not mean that rankings will not change, but rather that the quality of the pages ranked under this index will be broadly similar. New sites and pages could surface, and other drop. There will be a longer post on the Mobile First Indexed to be published shortly.
Mobile First: Key Factors to Consider:
- Content Visibility.
- It will be critical that content is visible to the end user when they load a mobile page. This means avoid content hidden behind tabs, or read more. Making users click to get information they want is not considered good UX.
- Cascading Surfacing.
- This means that Google has been pretty specific about its approach to surfacing answers to users’ queries. Namely that, if it can, it will display a direct answer in the search results, either by a direct answer (such as a simple calculation. The second class it wants to display is a Featured Snippet, pulled from a website. The third class of content it wants to display is Rich Snippets or Cards, such as for recipes, movies etc. Fourthly, it wants to direct users to the relevant app rather than website, before finally displaying one of the old-school 10 Blue Links, or normal organic links. Intermingled with these will be AMP results, which don’t currently get preference over standard web results, but it can’t be far away.
- Make no mistake, Google does not want anyone to click away from its search results pages. It wants to provide the answers and not send traffic. This is bad for site owners.
- Ecosystem Battles.
- A large part of this is driven by ecosystem battles. Google’s Android now runs the majority of smartphones. It really has no position in desktop. When you own the Operating System, it is natural to drive more people to use your OS and tie you into the ecosystem. That way your data is used for usage information and targeted advertising. Apple has a solid ecosystem, but is let down by its search functionality, which requires third party input. Microsoft appears to be abandoning non-business users as part of its ecosystem and has definitely abandoned mobile.
- But…overall visits are still much higher on desktop.
- Although Google has been trumpeting the fact that more than 50% of its traffic comes from mobile, for most websites this is still not the case. There are huge swathes of the internet where desktop still out performs mobile by a 65-35 split. Of course, having a mobile-first index will change this, forcing people to adopt mobile as the default way to search, and driving people into the ecosystem.
- It should be noted that most desktop vs mobile visit stats do not include App Traffic, and as discussed above, Google is surfacing App results before website results, so it is likely that some mobile traffic is disappearing down an App hole, skewing the split somewhat.
- But… overall conversions are still much higher on desktop
- It really is unfathomable that 5 years into the mobile transformation, conversions are still so poor on mobile. The reasons for this are many fold, but ultimately it comes down to poor design, poor analysis and poor thinking on the part of website owners. They still do not know how / where to position a call-to-action on mobile, nor do they care that a user is going to be put off by a 10-field form to purchase. Both Apple and Google are making strides towards overcoming this with auto form-filling, including credit card details, but that is a band-aid solution which fails to deal with the actual issue.
- When you take into account poor design and other factors, low mobile conversions become a QED proposition.
- Again, be aware that mobile vs desktop conversion data may not take into account conversions which take place through apps.
How to Create a Mobile First Website:
- If you have a mobile-friendly website, convert it to a Mobile First website. As this is likely to take some time for large-scale websites, you should have started this last year.
- If you have a non-mobile website, go straight to a mobile first website, passing mobile friendly entirely. Again this is something that ideally you would have started a while ago, which means you need to start it now, if you haven’t already.
- Work really hard on mobile conversions. Use A/B or multivariate testing to test design and response from mobile users, including form type and form-length – capture the right data at the right point in the process.
- Design your forms so that the field inputs align to the name used by Apple and Google for their auto form-filling software. It’s not hard, but you’d be surprised how many big websites miss this simple trick.
- Pay attention to Google’s priority in surfacing information. If you are going to rely on being one of the 10 Blue Links, be aware that you will be pushed further down the Organic SERPs, possibly to the point of traffic dropping substantially. Focus on being the authority for an answer, using structured data and rich snippets, creating an app (and getting it indexed), before AMPing your standard HTML pages.
- Get in touch if you’d like to discuss further.
- Google Webmaster Blog – Mobile First Indexing
- Google Developers Mobile Friendly Guide
- Google: Four Things to Get Right for Mobile First Index
- SEO Ranking Factors: Find Crawl Index
- Developing Mobile First SEO
- How You Can Improve Your Page Speed
TL;DR Mobile First 2017
You really need to get your site sorted for a mobile-first index from Google in 2017. Mobile-Friendly isn’t enough.
Enjoy & if you’d like to discuss further, please get in touch.