26 Nov Mobile First Index: One Year Later
The World Wide Web revolutionized the way people shop, consume media and interact with friends and loved ones. As cell phones became smartphones, users could access data from anywhere at any time with just a few taps. No longer were people tied to a desk and stuck in front of a monitor. They were free to surf the web from anywhere. More than half of all searchers used a smartphone for searching the web. In 2018, Google began rolling out its mobile first index to improve the user experience and provide more relevant results.
Today mobile dominates. For the first time, desktop users are not Google’s primary target. Websites that load slowly or are difficult to read are less attractive to searchers. Over time it impacts the number of website visitors and the quality of website traffic. The algorithm continuously adjusts the way it ranks and indexes sites for mobile devices based on user trends. It also provides the baseline for rankings. The smartphone agent helps by identifying websites following mobile best practices. This shift in focus greatly affects optimization.
SEOs who thought they had figured out technical and content optimization found hit a wall. Learning how mobile differed from desktop searches became imperative. A year after Google rolled out the mobile first index changes, we can see how it affects website design and content.
Website Design Factors
Mobile SEO has become a priority for digital marketers. A website and the right keywords used to be the focal point. Now a successful digital strategy includes a variety of other factors as well. You want to maintain or improve ranking on SERPs and attract more high-quality visitors. If your site uses outdated functionality and layouts, it could be taking a hit in the rankings. There are several technical aspects of a website that can make it easier for search engine indexing.
Adopt a Mobile Format
Mobile-first doesn’t mean mobile-only. Crawl bots still index desktop-focused websites. However, if you optimize for primarily for them, it may negatively affect your ranking in the search results. It also leaves an opening for competitors with a better mobile experience to boost their placement and gain an edge. If your site is undergoing a redesign, make sure it looks good on desktop, but design it for smaller screens. The primary considerations for a mobile format include the following:
- Simplified design
- Shorter nav bar or hamburger menu
- Increased white space
- Large, clean font
- Two-column maximum
- Links to additional information
Most people don’t read every word on the screen. They scan content looking for specific information. Mobile-first layouts help visitors do that while giving them the incentive to click links and explore the site further.
Optimize for Page Speed
Searchers won’t wait long for the images and video load. After a few seconds, most will move on to another page. To combat this, make graphics as small as possible, while still maintaining the quality. It enables your website visitors quick access to the information they need for a positive user experience.
Set Up Structured Data
Also known as schema markup, this data provides essential data to Google, helping it understand your website content. The more the search engines know about your site, the easier searchers can find it. There are hundreds of options available. You can provide precise content details of the overall website and the individual pages.
Although metadata may not have the same importance for SEO that it did in the past, it’s still an essential website component. Make sure it has relevant keywords and related information. Include social metadata such as Twitter cards and OpenGraph tags. This helps search engines but also enables visitors to share your content easily.
If you have a separate URL for mobile and desktop, the content should be the same. Keep it concise and focused on the needs of your visitors. This doesn’t mean you need to reduce the amount of data on the pages. Break it up into easy-to-read chunks using headers, bullet points and menus. Utilizing photos, infographics and videos can attract more visitors and point them in the right direction. It cuts down the word count without cutting out quality content.
Optimize for Query Types
Mobile devices account for about 60% of all online searches in the United States. The improved accuracy of voice search helps pinpoint user intent. SEOs should take this into account when developing their search strategy. Webpages need to have more than a few keywords that relate to a general topic. There are a variety of query types that searchers may use:
- “How do I?”
- Local search
The mobile first index helps users find the exact information they need when they need it. Research the questions most used by searchers and provide the answers. If your webpages are not optimized for these types of queries, you could be missing out. Keep the conversation going by answering the questions your target audience is asking.
Tune for Personal Search
Searches using “my,” “me” and “I” have increased in the last few years. In many cases, the users speak into their device as if speaking to a person. They expect a natural, conversational response in return. These searches typical fall into one of three categories:
- Getting things done
- Exploring the nearby area
- Solving a problem
Users generally ask that elicit advice, directions or offer instructions. Each query is unique, so the way Google ranks it is too.
Understand That Time Changes Intent
The intent behind every query is different, so each one calls for a different result. People use their devices differently throughout the day. The diversity of devices has changed the way people use them and interact with the world. The increase of touchpoints makes it crucial for marketers to understand how and when searchers use the devices. This can help to ensure they deliver the right content at the right time.
The device, as well as factors such as convenience, information and speed, often influence the type of query. During the day, searchers may use a desktop, whereas mobile is typically dominant in the early morning and evening. The mobile first index changes add another layer of what is relevant and when. A detailed evaluation of the analytics can help identify how visitors use your website.
Determine Relevance for Mobile SEO
The focus on user intent dramatically changes the meaning of “relevant content.” People searching on a mobile device typically search differently than on a desktop. They often search for different things, as well. Google’s algorithm changes relate to the way it understands user needs. SEOs that concentrate only on click-through rates may miss part of the story. Google can’t identify if the SERP solved a problem if users do not click through.
Zero-click searches are growing. In many cases, this is because the SERP displays the answer searchers need. Users get the answer they need without clicking a link. This may occur with searches that center around several different types of queries:
- Direction-style searches – Often, they include “near me,” such as “taco place near me.” Used predominantly in local search.
- Database-style searches – Time zones, currency or metric conversions, dates, ages, people, or products are common.
- Dictionary-style searches – Queries center around “what is” or “why are” questions. Searches of this type may also include a request for a definition.
More than half of mobile searchers and over a third of desktop searches result in no clicks. Knowing the demographics of your visitors is an essential component of mobile SEO. It can help you optimize for the age group asking a specific question on a particular device.
Predicting Useful Content
Google’s algorithm tries to understand which type of content satisfies a typical user and intent for each query. It then provides the answers that meet the needs of the largest number of users. When you look at the SERPs, you might see review sites, educational essays and informational articles. These are an indication that users want to solve a variety of problems. Marketers can use the results to tune the content on their website pages. Content using outdated methods may have been generic. Now each page must have more focus so that Google understands what type of question or need it answers.
Mobile first index is not about user-friendliness; it’s about convenience. The attention span of the average web searcher is 10 to 20 seconds. Browsing behavior enables Google to predict what information searchers might find useful. It takes into consideration a broad range of factors:
- Quality raters
- Viewport time data
- Webpage Usability
If your content is clear, easy to read and focused, your mobile SEO ranking can improve.
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Search engines help users find what they’re looking for fast. As the mobile revolution continues, it becomes imperative that the search is also simple and provides relevant results. Google’s mobile first index strives to do precisely that. Attract high-quality visitors by implementing best practices in website design and content. Boostability can help your target audience find you more easily. We address all aspects of your website, from the mobile-friendly design to the right keywords and links. Contact us today to learn more about how we can make you more visible and you grow your business.