You’ve heard about it for months now, and it’s finally here: mobile-first indexing.
Google has announced that it is investigating ways to roll out their mobile-first indexing strategies which would put mobile devices at the forefront of the search criteria.
In other words, if your website is not mobile-friendly, now is the time to get started making sure it becomes mobile-friendly as soon as possible.
There have been other rollouts of mobile-friendly algorithms that Google announced, while they emphasized the importance of mobile user interfaces and navigation. But the mobile-first indexing aspect of Google’s search engine is the most critical factor to the success of website owners because of how it determines whether people will be able to find your site in the future.
What to expect from SEO in 2018
What about SEO? Will it still be around in 2018?
As the 8-ball says, “My sources say, ‘yes.'” Search engine optimization will still be around, and it will still play a large role in how people find your page. But again, the search criteria will shift to the mobile user rather than traditional desktop users. Why?
Statistics show that mobile users will soon outnumber desktop users by at least 2:1 and this trend is only expected to grow by leaps and bounds shortly.
With so many people accessing content via mobile devices, you can start to understand why Google plans to make this their priority in 2018 and beyond.
It’s not just a matter of knowing what SEO is… it’s also a matter of knowing how to set up your site properly for success.
Duda, a website creation platform, has focused their efforts on not only informing site owners and brands on how to best create their sites for mobile, they’ve actually just adapted it into their platform. While ‘mobile first’ is of extreme importance, it’s not something every site owner or brand thinks about when creating their site – however, that is no longer an issue for anyone creating a site on their platform, as it’s instantly done for them.
While it’s clear that the Duda platform has made it easier for site owners to create their sites without any tech skills required, and also making sure they are mobile-ready first — Duda is also making the resolution in 2018 to provide the best learning and resource tools for site owners and brands as well.
Even with all of this in mind, it may be some time before we start to see Google rank mobile-first sites higher, while pushing non-mobile friendly sites down in the rankings.
Many sources within Google such as Gary Illyes, of Google development and search, say it may be a long time coming as to when the new indexing system will be fully ready and implemented, so this is good news to web owners who are worried that they won’t make the grade when the teacher gets the grading pen out!
Possible outcomes in 2018 for mobile-first indexing
Before you panic and start outsourcing a team of mobile-friendly gurus to make your site mobile-friendly, know that the word in tech circles right now is that it will likely be a low impact update to start. Google may start with using the mobile-index on websites that they know won’t be impacted at first. These would be sites that are already mobile-friendly or that have passed the test previously for having a “responsive website.”
That being said, it’s essential that you know the day is coming when sites will be indexed first on their mobile aspect primarily, and you could get penalized later if your site is not up to par by the formal release date.
At the same time, it’s not just about making sure your site is mobile-friendly and good in the eyes of Google, it’s also important to make sure it’s loading fast as well. This is just one of the many parameters Google will be looking at when indexing a website.
To further back up this statement, just a single second delay in page response can decrease your customer satisfaction and engagement by a whopping 16%. Click here to read up on even more statistics about how a slow site can literally ruin your online business.
How to prepare for these changes
Now is a good time to prepare for the changes that will shift the focus to mobile formats. Start by running a mobile-friendly test from Google.
They are, after all, the ones who will be making the changes. So the more your site complies with these changes, the more likely you will be to maintain your standing once they roll out the changes.
How to make your site mobile-friendly
There are three different ways to make sure your website is up to par with the coming changes. They are listed below with a brief description of each.
- Responsive Web Design (RWD) – This type of design is responsive to its environment and will grow or shrink according to the size of the screen it is viewed on. If you already have a successfully-designed responsive website, you will not have to worry about the changes in mobile first indexing.
- Dynamic Serving (Adaptive) – This type of system delivers different content based on the device type. This is done by employing some user-agent detection that identifies the type of system it is on.
- Mobile-only websites – This system functions as a secondary website specifically developed for mobile users. When users click on a desktop URL, but they are using a smart device, they will be shown a mobile version of your website instead. This type of system is ideal because it focuses on mobile users, which is what Google plans to do with their new search and indexing algorithms.
Finally, you can also have a professional mobile app created. Having a custom app designed for your business will put you above your competition in many ways, since many companies will not have an app. It will ensure that you will bring in the people who are interested in your offerings while providing that they will be able to view your site in a way that is designed for mobile users.
However, not everyone will download your app. So, if you do opt to use this format, make sure you advertise your app on your main website and that your site is mobile-friendly. This will keep you from losing some people who may not download the app.
Mobile first index testing
Google’s John Mueller stated in a Google Hangout recently, that Google’s mobile-first index testing is going on now behind the scenes. No one can yet predict as to when the official rollout will be, but website owners should consider this as a wake-up call that it’s on its way.
Google’s search engine and the associated extensions are so immense that it would be impossible to roll out everything at once involving such a vast change which promises to focus on mobile first.
But the goal is to be able to roll out this system in the coming year, at the earliest.
Google states that they want web owners to have plenty of time to get ready for the changes so that you can be acclimatized to the changes when the day comes.
So, if your site is not yet responsive or mobile-friendly, start now and put it down on your list of new year’s resolutions to focus on your site. Look at how it is designed. Consider how you are doing with mobile users, as opposed to your desktop version of your site. Do you have as many users on mobile devices as on the desktop? If not, why not?
What about your shopping experience? Is it easy to navigate to various aspects of your site for your mobile users?
One thing you could do to get ready for the changes is to create an A/B split test. Using Google Analytics, you could set up two versions of your landing page and see which one results in higher mobile visitation rates. By carefully watching the results you get from even the slightest changes, you may gain some insight into how you need to monitor and adjust what you are doing on your website to reach your goals.
What about keywords?
Google reports that the search process will not change that much for the user once the mobile-first changes come about, but it will change to an extent for website owners due to the need to cater to mobile users first.
You need to think about the shortcuts that people may use to save time on mobile devices. For example, many mobile users use their voice-to-text technology through their Google search microphone which may result in some misspellings or grammatical errors. This can change the search results someone gets to some degree.
Using mobile devices, there may be more errors like the ones mentioned above that web designers will need to keep in mind when creating your keywords. People are more focused on the tasks at hand when they are on their desktop, as opposed to mobile searches which may result in more sloppy searches on the part of the user.
Remember to focus on quality
Focus on significant content that brings people to your site. Google will still put a high priority on indexing great content first. Even though mobile-first technology will prioritize for mobile devices, remember that quality should not suffer just because you are trying to appeal to your mobile customers.
Make the checkout and information process simple and easy to navigate by running your site through the mobile-friendly test and getting ready for the coming changes.
Continue to focus on high-quality posts, media, and content to get the best results. Google states that, even though the format that is emphasized will eventually change to mobile primarily, you should not forget about desktop users, nor should you ever sacrifice quality in the name of technology.
Google will keep web owners updated shortly as to when the official changes will take place. In the meantime, test out your site in some ways and spruce it up for the coming changes. It’s never too early to get ready.
Guest Author: Zac Johnson is a world renowned blogger and entrepreneur with nearly 20 years of experience in the online marketing space and has helped his readers generate millions of dollars online. He shares his story and guidance at ZacJohnson.com