How to Optimize for the Mobile-first Index

Most websites have been ‘mobile friendly’ for quite some time now; however, Google is still pushing on with their effort to create a mobile-friendly web for all users, and this switch to a mobile-first index is their way of forcing websites to conform.

Google will be rolling the launch of the mobile-first index out slowly. In fact, they started towards the end of 2017, rolling out the index to websites that were deemed ‘ready’ enough for the change to have a minimal impact.

As 2018 rolls on though, Google will begin to roll out the mobile-first index across more and more sites, but this phased roll out will give webmasters time to get their websites in order.

What is the mobile-first index?

The mobile-first index is Google’s strategy to determine your rankings based on the indexing of your mobile website. At the moment, all rankings are taken from the desktop version of your website, even your mobile rankings.

The mobile-first index will take your mobile website first, and you potentially might see an increase in Smartphone Googlebot crawls to your site.

For most websites there won’t be an enormous shift. For anyone who has a responsive website, the content on desktop and mobile is usually exactly the same. If the content you choose not to show has strong SEO benefits on desktop, you are going to need to take a close look at this and work out how to bridge that content gap while still providing an excellent UX.

3 Key areas to focus on to optimize for the mobile-first index

1. Site Speed

Google’s primary objective with the mobile-first index is to construct a better UX on mobile devices. This makes a lot of sense given that mobile search has overtaken desktop search. With that in mind, one critical area they are trying to improve is the page load speed.
A fast loading website on mobile will usually provide a significantly better UX (assuming the content is relevant), so any improvements you can make to either your m.domain.com site or your mobile responsive website will help prepare for the mobile-first index.

Here are three ways you can speed up your site on mobile:

  • PWA – Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are an alternative to moving to AMP. Their main selling points include:
  • Reliable – loads instantly
  • Fast – responds quickly to user interactions
  • Engaging – feels like a natural app on a device with an immersive UX
  • PWAMP(!) – a term first introduced by Google’s Gary Illyes at SMX Seattle, PWAMP is a combination of a PWA built on AMP HTML, JS and CSS. While PWAMP sites may not validate as AMP pages, they are lightning fast and provide all the benefits of a PWA as listed above. They could be the future and one to keep an eye on.
  • AMP – The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project is an open source initiative to improve the mobile ecosystem. Thanks to the pared-down HTML that is used by AMP, it allows you to load your web pages much faster than regular HTML. Google also caches your content within their cache to speed up load time even more. All this results in a much faster, sleeker user experience and should, in turn, lead to improved visibility in the search results.

2. Content

The next critical area to focus on is the content itself. To rank your content from your mobile site, Google needs to be able to access it. That means you need to make sure the mobile version of your website has all the high-quality, valuable content that exists on your desktop website including images, videos, links, and copy. Make sure all the content is crawlable and indexable.

To find out if there are any differences between the content that Google sees on your desktop site and mobile site, you can use the awesome Screaming Frog tool to find out where those gaps appear. Simply crawl your site using the different user agents and then analyze these results. Moz recently published an awesome blog post on conducting parity audits that could just save your bacon.

3. Technical

The final aspect to consider is the technical elements of your mobile set-up. There are a number of areas to consider, and making sure that you are deploying the same technical elements on your mobile site as you are on desktop will be critical.

Here are a few areas to focus on:

Google Search Console Verification – if you currently only verify your desktop site in Google Search Console, you will need to ensure the mobile version of the site is also verified so you can get live, up to date information about crawling, indexing and any issues on your site.

XML Sitemap and robots.txt – make sure any links to your XML sitemap are accessible from the mobile version of your site. The same applies to the robots.txt file as there could be ramifications if this is not accessible and you have pages that you control using the disallow command or other key instructions.

Structured Data – if you are using structured data markup on your desktop site, you also need to make sure this is deployed on mobile too. URLs shown within structured data on mobile pages should be the mobile version of the URL.

Metadata – ensure that the key metadata elements (page titles and meta description) are equivalent on both versions of your pages. The reason Google recommends ‘equivalent’ rather than ‘identical’ is to potentially optimize your titles for the shorter real estate in the mobile SERPs. However, you do need to make sure you are including the same keywords in your page titles on mobile.

Social Tags – Open Graph Tags and Twitter cards (as well as other social metadata) should be included on the mobile as well as the desktop version of the site.

Summary

The mobile-first index is happening now, so it is time to get into action. Begin with audit of your desktop and mobile websites, highlight any potential problems then get to work on fixing them along with making those all-important website speed improvements and you will find that you will soon be set for the change.


Jamie FitzHenry is the founder of Grizzly, an SEO Agency based in Bristol, UK.

Effective SEO Techniques That Will Work in 2018

Search Engine Optimization has been a rapidly evolving field. From the early days of merely stuffing keywords onto a page to the more recent trend of having a large number of high authority links, the techniques have adjusted to match our current technology. With 2018 fast approaching, the SEO landscape is once again poised to make a noticeable shift. Here are five techniques that will be crucial to outranking your competition.

1. Use Structured Data to Stand out Among Other Websites

It used to be that the only ways to drive clicks from search engine rank placements were either to rank high or have a very targeted title tag to convince users to click through to your website. Now, Rich Snippets do even more to draw the eye towards your site, giving you a better chance to win clicks.

Rich Snippets are META data tied to your site which can be highlighted text, author profile pictures from Google+ or images found on your website. There’s a whole host of code markups that search engines use to categorize the pages on your site, and many can be found on Schema.org.

2. Optimize PageSpeed for Faster Loading

If your website takes longer than 3 seconds to load, chance are it will never outrank strong competition in SERPs. Your visitors will try to find relevant information on your page, be annoyed at waiting, and leave the page. A high bounce rate due to slow page loading can have a negative impact on your rankings.

To combat this and provide a better user experience, Google has their own PageSpeed tools to help you analyze and optimize your website’s code. By starting there and taking the proper steps, you can decrease the load times and retain more visitors.

3. Lockdown Your Branding for Linkless Backlinks

Backlinks have always been a key element of SEO, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. Google and other search engines need some metric to track just how credible your website is, and linking to it is a sure vote of confidence. But it’s even possible to earn clout on the web without a URL pointing to your website.

The more high-quality websites are talking about and mentioning your brand and website; the more search engines will take that into account. With SEOs having found how to game the system with links for years, search engines have had to determine who the real influencers are and how people are talking about them. By tying your brand and website together effectively, you can be recognized by more than just your website URL.

4. Quantify Objectively High-Quality Content

For years, Google and SEO experts have said quality content was the best way to influence higher search results. While that’s been a correct assessment, it’s been exceedingly subjective what that meant. Hiring a professional writer or creating a lengthy, exhaustive guide for your niche has had mixed results. The truth of the matter lies with what other websites are doing and how you can improve on their efforts.

A quick scan of what your competitions’ websites are aimed at can give you a big clue into what both your visitors and Google are looking to see from your site. Educating your potential customers on the confusing aspects of your niche can also help, similar to what is found on Brilliance’s website. They have an extensive library of educational resources to assist new customers in understanding the process of selecting the right jewelry. Sometimes it might be tempting or exciting to reinvent the wheel, but simply taking your website from where it is to where it needs to be content wise can make a big difference.

5. Tap into The Expanding Mobile User Base

Voice search is convenient, quick, and highly responsive. Users on mobile devices are typically looking for an answer or problem solved quickly. By optimizing your website for mobile devices, you can outrank your competitors who may not have taken the same steps and are lagging behind.

Google is expected to launch their mobile-first index sometime in 2018, so taking steps to prepare for that is crucial. Catering to a new crowd can yield desirable benefits to your business.

As the SEO landscape changes, so too will the techniques required to navigate it successfully. By keeping up to date with these trends as they develop, your business and website will better be able to capitalize on them in 2018.


nick rojas

Nick Rojas is a self-taught, serial entrepreneur who’s enjoyed success working with and consulting for start-ups. Using his journalism training, Nick writes for publications such as Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, and Yahoo. He concentrates on teaching small and medium-sized enterprises how best to manage their social media marketing and define their branding objectives.

State of SEO: Trends to Watch Out for in 2018

As we’re recapping and wrapping up 2017, over the course of which we’ve witnessed a couple of Google updates including Fred, whose habit of targeting low-quality backlinks, worthless content, and excessive ads caused quite a stir, causing numerous websites to experience a huge drop in traffic, it’s time to hear what SEO luminaries predict for 2018.

Although machine learning and artificial intelligence will undoubtedly continue to shape the future of SEO, there are some other trends that don’t necessarily rely so heavily on sci-fi scenarios but will nevertheless have a powerful impact on SERP. Here’s some food for thought concerning your next year’s SEO strategy.

Know your ROI

Although it has become a standard marketing procedure for driving quality traffic to websites, SEO is still perceived as some kind of ghost-in-the-machine process. Many entrepreneurs still don’t get how it works, let alone how to calculate its ROI. According to Rad Basta, the executive chairman of the Hong Kong SEO agency Elevate Digital, this is the main reason why many business professionals are reluctant to invest in SEO. They turn to PPC instead, as this strategy delivers some quick results, while its ROI can be easily tracked. Easy come, easy go is the best way to describe the effects this short-lived approach has on overall branding efforts. On the other hand, with reliable analytics tools and the right metrics, it’s possible to identify the ROI of your SEO efforts and enjoy their long-term benefits. Hopefully, in 2018, the transparency of SEO ROI will convince business owners that this strategy is worthwhile.

UX will matter even more.

Back in 2016, Google revealed that RankBrain would be one of its three most important ranking factors, alongside links and content. Brian Dean from Backlinko says that this machine learning system, which helps Google rank websites by measuring how users interact with them, will become even bigger in 2018. RankBrain will take its cues from dwell time, which is by the way 3 minutes and 10 seconds for a top 10 result, and CTR. This means that if your content isn’t relevant to the search, and if it doesn’t provide unique value to your target audience, you’re toast. In other words, in 2018, user experience will rule the world of SEO.

The rise of voice search

Hi, Cortana, read me these instructions about how to change a flat tire.

A survey by IT research company Gartner estimates that by 2020, almost 20% of all phone interactions will rely on virtual personal assistants (VPAs). If you think that this prediction is way too much HAL 9000-esque, bear in mind that almost 44% of adults and 50% of teenagers use voice search on a daily basis. Naturally, Google as the most popular search engine has to stay on top of the latest tech trends, so the company tweaks its algorithms to provide the best and most relevant voice search results. Barry Schwartz, CEO of Rusty Brick, is convinced that the internet search giant will give webmasters analytics on voice search queries related to their own content, and offer valuable insight into how to optimize their websites properly, as it promised more than a year ago.

Visually rich content will explode.

Forecasts said that 2017 would be the year of video, and that was true. Although 87% of online marketers use video content, there’s still much room for improvement. Marcus Sheridan of the Sales Lion believes that companies will realize the extent to which video is essential for SEO. More than 500 million hours of video watched every day on YouTube make this platform an indispensable part of every SEO strategy regarding driving more web traffic. The fact that as much as 57% of videos watched during the first quarter of 2017 were played on smartphones indicates how powerful this medium is and how much potential it holds for SEO.

Tap into the power of influencer marketing

Teaming up with a couple of influencers from your niche could skyrocket your traffic, and that’s why guest posting should be one of your top priorities in 2018. Building (and earning) quality backlinks is a surefire way to expand your audience and capitalize on targeted referral traffic. All this, in turn, will generate organic links, thus signaling Google that your content is relevant and valuable. Although Google, according to Gary Illyes, the company’s webmaster trends analyst, doesn’t take social media into account when it comes to ranking, the shareability and popularity of your blog posts do impact your ratings. This provides an enormous potential for attracting links, not to mention how beneficial an association with an influencer will be for the overall visibility of your brand.

The domination of mobile

Mobile data traffic has grown 18-fold over the past few years, and this trend will continue in 2018. Companies who don’t optimize their websites for mobile will be hit by Google’s mobile-first index, which has been announced for 2018. Aleh Barysevich, a social media expert, predicts that only fast and responsive websites which offer search-specific, personalized content will be able to make it through the scrutiny of Google’s algorithms and reach the top of SERP. Using conversational keywords will boost your rankings, as search engines will be able to pick up strong signals sent by mobile voice assistants.
The evolution of the SEO landscape in 2018 won’t feature too many earth-shattering events. Instead, it will follow the existing course and fine-tune popular digital marketing trends.



oscarOscar Waterworth is content marketing and link building professional, a writer and one of the editors at Bizzmarkblog. I have been building links and writing content for the past 3 years.