“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!
Google is implementing a mobile update come April 21. They have been releasing small details, and here is what we know so far:
1. The penalty is on a page-by-page basis: Instead of judging an entire site, Google will assess the mobile friendliness of each page. This is very unlike Google Panda’s penalties: Usually a small section of a site can potentially impact the entire site by spewing duplicate and/or thin content. If your site is too difficult to change in time, worry first about your site’s most important organic landing pages: Make sure they are mobile friendly, and disregard other areas of the site.
2. Google is currently showing labels for mobile-friendly sites in their mobile search results:
Here is what the labels look like in mobile searches:
This is actually the most important of all tests: If your pages are showing the label, you’ve passed the mobile friendly test.
3. Come April 21, sites will start to see the ranking changes: Mobile friendly pages will see increased rankings, while unfriendly pages will see a decrease in rankings.
4. Bigger than panda or penguin: Google has relayed that this update is going to be larger than Panda or Penguin. The rankings of many pages are likely to be effected.
5. The update starts on April 21, and rolls out over a week: Do not breathe a sigh of relief on April 21 and stop checking. Instead check mobile friendliness labels, rankings and traffic levels daily for the week.
6. There are not degrees of mobile friendliness: Binary: There are not degrees of mobile friendliness. Even one issue is detected, and the URL will be treated as NOT mobile friendly.
7. The update is ongoing: No need to wait a year after you’ve implemented the fix. Instead, changes will be sensed on the next crawl of your page. Of course, you’ll want to use Google’s Webmaster Tools features to get pages reindexed quickly!
8. Some tests are inconclusive: When you spot the “Mobile Friendly” label on your page in Google’s mobile search results, you know your page is in the clear. But tool errors have been noted in Google’s testing tools:
- If pages are flagged in Webmaster Tools as Mobile Unfriendly, it can take a while for the errors displayed to clear once fixes are implemented.
- Some tests can fail or report a false positive when resources such as CSS or JS are blocked.
Google has never given notice of an impending deadline like this. It’s a bold experiment to get the web moving in what is clearly the right direction. But can sites be changed in time? It’s a tough deadline to meet for most companies.
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