“Mobile is exploding,” said every headline for the last decade. Google is all about traffic and mobile is both largest segment of traffic, as well as the fastest growing!
Google’s search results will be based on the mobile versions of web pages, including the results that are shown to desktop users. This is even if your prospects are primarily using desktop (if you are in manufacturing and a few other industries), desktop drives most of your actual conversions, or maybe you just like the look of your desktop site better.
Up to now, Google has been indexing web pages as desktop browsers see them. With the new ‘mobile first’ approach, Google will start indexing web pages as mobile phones see them. The rankings will be calculated based on the mobile results.
Google says there will be minimal rankings changes, but this is a pretty major announcement. It is likely that mobile-friendly sites will see minimal ranking changes, but mobile unfriendly sites are likely to see an increasing loss of visibility. Looking at your website’s rankings in Google’s mobile search results gives an indicator of whether your site is vulnerable to losing traffic and here are some important tips to make sure:
1. Check your mobile rankings, check your risk
Looking at your website’s rankings in Google’s mobile search results gives an indicator of whether your site is vulnerable to losing traffic. It’s only an indicator, however: Google is basing mobile rankings to some extent on crawls of the Desktop version of your site. So better keep reading…
2. Be accessible
Some sites hide content behind popups / interstitials. Google is specifically planning on penalizing intrusive popups on January 10, 2017. If you have an email subscription popup or survey layer, you may be penalized. And we all experience frustration with those ads that come up when we are trying to read a news article. Some vendors, such as Ometrics have been on top of this since the day of Google’s announcement! Make sure all of your vendors are.
If you have a separate mobile site, make sure it is crawlable and be sure to register it in Google Search Console! Old best practices – blocking the duplicate content on a mobile version of your site – could potentially kill your traffic.
3. Be responsive
Responsive mobile design allows for the best (compromise of) user experience across the many mobile, tablet and desktop displays. It adapts the page, and allows a single URL for mobile and desktop versions of the site. If you haven’t changed to responsive mobile design, ask us for a list of great web designers.
4. Be fast
Speed on mobile is quite important. Research has shown that 40% of consumers will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load. Wireless internet connections are usually not nearly as fast as wired connections that desktop users experience. Optimizing image file sizes and resolutions hasn’t been this important since the days of the modem.
5. Don’t mess up AMP
Staying ahead of the curve takes advantage of the greatest opportunities: Being the first among your competitors to implement mobile-friendly, mobile responsive, schema and AMP creates traffic. The period in which your site is in Google’s favor – and competitors are playing catch-up – can mean serious revenue.
With these 5 tips, you will be ahead of the pack (for a short while). As Google implements more changes, search is likely to keep changing at a breakneck pace. Watch your indexing, ranking, traffic and conversion to keep ahead of the curve.
Oh and PS: Bing will still use Desktop crawling to determine mobile rankings.
Every year brings new SEO challenges and surprises. The year 2017 won’t be any different, but we do expect these topics to be important considerations in the new year:
Interstitials / Popups on Mobile Devices
We’ve all seen mobile sites with a popup covering the content we were trying to read. These popups will be punished by Google in early 2017. Like ads above the fold, Google feels these popups harm the user experience – and they do not want to send visitors to such sites. Many survey and tool vendors such as ometrics and surveygizmo have been proactive to make sure their clients are not at risk, but some vendors may not be aware.
SSL / HTTPS
Google is really pushing SSL, and this is the year they accelerate their plan to make the web secure. Having your entire website served over HTTPS used to be rare, and only credit card or health privacy transactions were secured. And even that was spotty. But Google has begun a campaign since 2014 to secure everything. Two years ago, Google introduced a rankings boost for sites entirely on SSL. Last year they provided better features in Search Console. And we started to see SSL as “must have”. But progress has been voluntary in many regards, with other business objectives prioritized first.
Next year, new developments will force your hand: Warnings will start appearing in Chrome. Come January 2017 the Chrome browser will show increasingly dire warnings for any site that hasn’t moved to HTTPS. Starting with pages that have credit card or password fields:
Initially, users will be warned:
With more dire warnings for insecure sites later in 2017:
AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)
AMP is the super-speedy loading of pages you’ve likely seen in some mobile results. After you setup AMP on your site, Googlebot places your content on it’s super-fast servers – but making it look like your URL. AMP was just for news sites, but now Google has opened AMP up to other sorts of sites – and 700k+ sites have been using it! If mobile traffic is important to your site, AMP will likely become vital over the next year.
Google just loves schema. We’ve seen over this last year as schema has helped increase pages indexed, and expect it to play a greater role every year. As artificial intelligence is used more and more in the “Rank Brain” algorithm, sites that can be easily categorized by Google will received more visibility. I for one welcome our new overlords… subject to future review.
Links are still an important part of Google’s algorithm. But sustainable, authentic link earning is always the best longterm approach in link building. So how can you get these links?
1. Content marketing
Produce great content, and reach out to authority sites and influencers in your space.
2. Business Development Link Building
All of those traditional activities such as sponsoring a baseball team, joining the chamber, or participating in online communities/forums are actually great ways to get links.
Publicity is that powerful branch of public relations that provides links and visibility from media sites.
These methods of earning links have the best longterm potential, and are quite powerful for building and keeping rankings.
The shrinking organic traffic (more ads at the top), increased competition, and ever-changing nature of organic search require more effort than ever. Gone are the days of getting your site “SEO-ed” and expecting free traffic. All traffic is either earned, or easily taken away. May you experience a great new year with SEO!
Having a good mobile experience is increasingly important for websites. Advances in technology have made it possible for many more sites to be viewed on mobile devices, but the experience is usually much less pleasurable than viewing via desktop. Google wants to change that, and is again trying to move website design in the correct direction.
Google and Bing are currently locked in a battle to be the best search engine for mobile. They know users will judge them by the sites suggested during a search. When searchers encounter unusable sites from their query, they change search engines. Wouldn’t you rather have ten good sites given to you from a search than a hit-and-miss list?
Mobile is growing fast: Comscore estimates that mobile usage will outpace desktop usage this year! Google has already started showing “Mobile Friendly” icons in search results – and has even tested “NOT Mobile Friendly” icons recently!
So what to do? Here are some quick tips:
1. View your site in mobile
Try using this free testing tool from Google:
Google tells you if fonts are too small, there are missing “viewport” metatags, and other mobile usability errors.
2. Easy URLs
Keyword rich URLs have lost much of their power in the last few years, but are likely to lose much more: They aren’t as easy to type into a smartphone.
3. Responsive design
A responsive design is usable at any size. Previous efforts to provide different sites to different kinds of devices have failed as the many types of devices have exploded and crossed over into other categories, such as 2-in-1s and giant phones. Having several versions of your website might have also meant a nightmare in keeping all of them updated, and in sync. Googlebot in all it’s wisdom couldn’t figure out which version was canonical, either – and which to return a certain user to, based on their device.
Google’s new Mobile Usability reports (in Webmaster Tools) show the following issues:
– Flash content,
– missing viewport (a critical meta-tag for mobile pages),
– tiny fonts,
– fixed-width viewports,
– content not sized to viewport,
– clickable links/buttons too close to each other.
4. Access to site resources
Need a good interactive agency or website design firm? We’ve worked with many, and partnered with the best. Talk to us about your needs, and we’ll introduce you to the right match!
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