Google announced that they will post-pone the Mobile-First Index launch until the first quarter of 2018 at the earliest. There are several good news about this.
First of all, Gary Illyes from Google said at SMX Advanced that the company will “communicate a lot” to webmasters and SEOs. The second good aspect of this is that SEOs/webmasters will have a lot of time to prepare their and their clients’ websites so they can make the most from the upcoming changes in the algorithm and avoid losing too many opportunities.
The purpose of the following expert roundup is to help webmasters and SEOs learn the best tips and strategies on how to prepare their websites for the upcoming mobile-first world.
But the best part about this blog post is that you will not just get couple of generic tips with little to no explanation. You will get detailed strategies and tips from some of the best SEOs from around the world.
So, sit back, relax and get ready to learn the top mobile-first index tips that will help you in the mobile-first world. There are 23 experts involved in this blog post. Some of the contributions are very detailed. It can be hard to read all of this at once. This is why I created the list below. Simply click on a certain name and you will be scrolled to their contribution.
Google have been quite elusive on what they actually mean by ‘mobile first’ (surprise surprise), in terms of what is actually going to change. But we do know that it must be a large technical challenge, for them to keep pushing the launch data back, and to say things like ‘it might take 5 years to reach an index that is only mobile-first’.
The thing is, in order to see what content looks like on a mobile browser, you need to render it on a mobile browser. In my opinion, this is what
mobile-first is actually about: ‘crawling and rendering as a mobile browser.’
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The fact that rendering is both more technically challenging and more demanding of resources might explain the constant delays, and the potential 5 year completion period.
So my number 1 strategy to prepare would be to make sure that your content renders properly on mobile. And this means more than ‘does it look nice?’ You need to make sure your content and internal links work the same as on desktop, as well as indexing signals like canonical tags.
Marcus Miller, Head of SEO And PPC, Bowler Hat, @marcusbowlerhat
The biggest issue here is one of philosophy. The computing and by a natural extension the web has been a desktop environment for a long time. And whilst mobile is well and truly here it is still the new boy. This is evidenced in trends like responsive design that takes desktop websites and folds them down for smart phones. I was talking about responsive web design in 2012 on the Bowler Hat blog so responsive has been here for a while.
Yet Google is now moving to a mobile first index. So, what that tells us is
Google sees the world through a mobile device.
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This is the primary and often first device used to access the web. So our digital marketing strategy should shift from a desktop first to a mobile first mentality. There is a whole lot more to creating a truly optimised mobile experience than simply adding responsive design. There are jobs that are just best suited to a mouse and keyboard and certainly I don’t want to fill out forms or type much on a phone.
So primarily I see this is a philosophical switch. Think mobile and build up from there. Apply that to your marketing, your website and anything else digital. In a recent post I looked at 5 key areas and 25 tips you can use to create truly mobile first web experiences. If you apply this checklist covering your homepage, site search, commerce, forms and usability you will not go far wrong!
The reason that Google started to prioritizing mobile-fist indexing is the high usage of mobile among users. Africa, South America, Central America, Middle East and Asia have gone mobile. In Europe mainly in North Europe;
usage of mobile has increased compared to the past. There is an APP for everything…
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Here are my strategies when it comes to adapting to a mobile site.
First I verify the website’s mobile version, then run the URL through structured data testing tool and if there are some problems I fix them for the client. The majority of websites have structured data issues, this is why I have a service called website analysis and SEO audit. At this stage I fix structured data problems, mobile friendliness and programming issues for clients.
Then I fix site configuration for mobile and apply appropriate size for website’s elements. Many people use WordPress these days. Some of responsive templates are not fully mobile friendly for example: some images and fonts are not compatible with mobile version. So I take time and fix them for clients in order to have a better user interface for their mobile websites. Then I move on to fix robot txt issues if customer’s website isn’t accessible through mobile. There you have it.
Their websites are ready for indexing. If they add more pages, they get indexed faster than their competitors.
We are still far from mobile first indexing going live. I think there is a lot of unnecessary hype and drama around mobile first going live. Google representatives mentioned a few times that it won’t happen overnight. It will be a soft, gradual launch.
If you want to get ready for mobile first, make sure your website experience is the same on mobile and desktop. Something we (SEOs) were doing for years already. One thing that will be the upside to mobile first is the fact that hidden content (e.g. Ajax loaded tabs) will be indexable again.
This should definitely help with eCommerce design and UX. Mobile first is not a dream concept for SEOs, but compared to all the other challenges we face as SEOs,
I believe this change should be fairly smooth for us.
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Replace/modify content that is not mobile friendly
Pop-ups that are hard to close.
Pages that look very congested, where the whitespace is very low.
Links that are difficult to click.
Formats that don’t work on mobile.
Other elements (ads, sidebars, menu bars) on the page that disrupt the user experience.
Images/videos that are not optimized in terms dimension and filesize.
You can use this free tool from Google to find out whether your website is mobile friendly or not. Developers can also use this API to check individual pages manually. There are many more tools out there in the market. They will help you find out where and how you can optimize your website to make it mobile friendly.
Optimize for voice search
Google recently reported that, 20% of all searches are voice searches. This number is only going to improve as we go on. So
It is crucial that we make our content optimized for voice searches as well.
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Here are a few ways to do that:
Optimize your content to answer questions – where, what, when, how etc.
Most people use voice search to satisfy immediate needs, so, make sure the answers are concise and easy-to-understand.
Read the official user guides on how to use Siri, OK Google and Cortana.
The main thing that you have to prepare for when it comes to the mobile world and generation, is making sure your website is properly optimized to work on all mobile devices and smart phones, which means not only generating a great user experience, but also taking into account optimization factors, looking at is it truly responsive, does it load quickly, are the menus optimized and other aspects that affect your mobile rankings in terms of Google.
It is also important to think about calls to action on mobile phones. People spend less times browsing on phones, they are more often looking for quick information and easy access to contact details or ways to make a purchase, so it is important to make sure your website is quick to load, loads the right information and offers a quick solution to what they want to do. If they want to call, make sure a phone number is always available, same with email, and if they want to purchase then make sure it is easy, follow the Amazon approach, which is so simple people use it more and more
The mobile generation are so used to things being quick, easy and simple
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, that if you make a complicated, slow or hard to use site, you will lose the customer, they will go elsewhere, so you have to look at these users slightly different to traditional PC users, who often have more time to surf and find what they are looking for.
In general, we all know responsive sites work already but we have to take it 1 or more steps further.
Get Google’s Page Speed Insights tool. That’s all you need for testing. Don’t over complicate it.
Step 1. Make sure your site is responsive. Run a test and you’ll see a list of things you need to improve. For normal WordPress sites, handling those scripts for caching is easy so you won’t have to worry much.
If you are running a site that’s built totally from scratch using your own tech and servers, then rely on your development team to do the optimization, which is what I’m doing with my current startup’s site https://seriousmd.com
The Page Speed Insights Tool will also tell you your issues with mobile and suggest placements.
Step 2. Make sure your images are optimized. Again if you are on WordPress, a plugin like ShortPixel will handle that. If you aren’t, then sites like TinyPNG will help you with that.
Step 3. Your content needs AMP. Not all your pages will need it but if you have a blog, you definitely have to add this in. For WordPress, there are a ton of free plugins for this, including how to edit the template. Just use those and it’s pretty straight-forward, but be sure to test the AMP pages to see if they are working.
That’s it for now. Just keep in mind, you just need to speed up your site and
don’t forget user-experience because mobile users will behave differently.
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Getting ready for a mobile-first world translates to adapting your website toward mobile users first and foremost; which requires a super-lightweight, fast-loading and responsive design, putting your content up in your pages and giving direct answers to your visitors.
If you come up with a mobile-first, content-first kind of website or blog with mobile users in mind, you’ll satisfy both kinds of traffic: that coming from mobile devices and that originating from destkop computers.
The benefits are obvious: greater love from Google, higher rankings, more traffic, subscribers and income.
So… why wait?
The faster you adapt the better for you both in the short and long run.
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Shounak Gupte, shounakgupte.com, @ShounakGupte
The best way to get ready for mobile-first world is to make sure your website is mobile friendly. Make sure your website is light weight, all images are less than 100KB and doesnt take more than 5 seconds to load on mobile devices.
It’s scary to think how many website are STILL not mobile optimised… however what’s even more scarier is that most people think just making their website mobile responsive is enough to get the tick from Google.
What people who think all they need to do is make a site responsive to take advantage of the mobile revolution are in for a surprise. Here’s what I mean by this.
My number 1 strategy to not just adapting but taking advantage of the mobile-first world is to optimise the mobile experience around the target market.
We ask ourselves… what are these mobile searchers looking for, what do they need to see, hear or do to get the lead, enquiry or sale.
Many times all the text that’s on a desktop site, the images etc aren’t needed on a mobile site.
The mobile site needs to be geared to mobile traffic – many times it’s quick action buttons, not much content and pushing the traffic through to the action you want them to take.
This is our No.1 tip and strategy –
don’t just make your site responsive,
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but optimise it to the exact mobile action you want your mobile visitors to take.
Here are a few recommendations that will serve you well:
Optimise your snippets for mobile users – keep your title tags to no more than 65 characters so they display in full on mobile devices.
If you are a local business include your city and state in core site elements such as your title tag, header tag and url – this will help get you more traffic from
local searches which are increasingly performed via smartphones by people on the go. …
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Code your website for the mobile user – this means responsive design, fast loading and free from popups.
Moosa Hemani, setalks, @mmhemani
As far as the mobile-first index there is nothing to be panic about. I mean Google already said that they are quarters away from launching it and they are trying to find a way that they can index mobile-first pages in a way that it does not hurt websites that are desktop only.
But, let’s face the truth, the mobile searches are higher than desktop and its increase over time, so
if you don’t have a mobile website, the first thing you should do is to invest in…
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Another important thing is to make sure that your mobile website does not have following issues:
-Page load time issue
-Content should be placed nicely, and readability does not hurt
-Do not create a completely different content for mobile and desktop websites
If you have a mobile friendly website and you are not having page load issues, your content on your mobile website is readable, and you are not using a compressed version of your desktop content on your mobile website, you are ready to rock in the Mobile-First Index world!
Apart from the most obvious points like rendering, indexing Progressive Web Apps, mobile UX and speed. I see that there is a big issue with going mobile index first by Google.
Imho the biggest issues are the abundance of internal links and a way to score pages that are either hybrid responsive (mobile UX focussed) or on a m. domain (separate mobile pages).
When you start optimizing the mobile UX it makes sense to only show the things that are relevant to what you want a user to do. For publishers this might not be a huge issue, but for any transactional website this quite often means leaving out internal links and seo focussed content. Especially the links will have quite an impact on the ranking and indexation of a mobile UX focussed design.
Thinking solution wise if I would be G then I would introduce a mobile canonical tag to leverage the Desktop index for now until I find a better way to rank in the mobile index. But then again these are just my 2 cents.
It is without question that more people within English speaking Countries are performing searches on Google via their mobile devices than on traditional desktop PC’s. Google have always used the source code from your desktop version of your website to determine where to rank you on both Desktop and Mobile BUT this new mobile-first update, whenever it is released will use the source code from your mobile version of your website instead.
Personally, I believe that if you are only just thinking about mobile-first then you are already way behind the times as you should have been implementing my below tips already during the past two years at least.
Without going into too much technical detail, to ensure you are ready for the upcoming mobile-first update, you should consider the following:
It is without question that the very first thing you need to ensure is that your website is fully mobile responsive. The first place to check is through Google’s own Mobile Friendly Testing Tool. You need to run all the various sections of your site that use a different page template to ensure they all result in the message ‘Page is mobile-friendly’. It is not enough just to test your homepage. There are lot’s of other testing tools around that go into much more detail but I always find that the good place to start is Googles own tools as it is their way of confirming your site is OK.2
2. Mobile site speed
It is a myth that Google are and will give priority to fast loading sites. What they say is they will be devaluing slow loading sites. What does this mean for you? Basically, you need to test the mobile speed / load times of all your competitor’s sites that are ranking for your main search phrases to make sure the load time of your pages match or are faster than your competitors. I have found that the best tool to use for this is DareBoost as you can specifically set it to crawl the mobile version of your selected page.
3. On-page content
We all know that content is so important but there are still so many sites that block large content sections of their pages from appearing on their mobile responsive version. If you do this then that content section that you have blocked might have been contributing to the rankings of that page, so when Google go mobile-first, the chances are – your site is probably going to de-rank because you are basically telling Google not to use those sections of content anymore.
4. User experience and call to actions
It goes without question that you should always be putting the user first. The whole purpose of a website is to make sure people who are interested in the product or service you provide can find you plus your site needs to convert those visitors into new customers. I have been in this industry for 16 years and it shocks me to see that so many sites do not think about the CTA’s. Basically, you need to tell your visitors what you want them to do. If you don’t ask them to do anything. Guess what? They won’t do anything. It has been proven that great user experience (UX) has a direct correlation on higher rankings and even more so with the new mobile-first update.
Without doubt, the most important thing to think about is to make sure your site has been created with the sole purpose of driving targeting visitors and ensuring you speak to those visitors in a tone that they can relate to so you drive a constant flow of leads and sales.
SEO is just business development
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and if you have this mind-set, you will run a successful campaign ensuring updates like the mobile-first only helps you.
Numerous studies have shown that content is easier to find when a website has a broad-and-shallow information architecture (IA).
With the mobile-first approach, the information architecture usually migrates to a narrow-and-deep format. Meaning? Now desirable content will often be more difficult for users to discover and locate.
The biggest mistake I see when migrating to a narrow-and-deep IA is using the wrong tools. A/B tests have their place in determining the best conversions. However, when it comes to determining mobile information architecture, there are 3 tests that people should use instead:
If you have never conducted these types of usability tests, hire an information architect. Even better, get a knowledgeable, experienced information architect as a mentor and learn how to do it yourself. The Information Architecture Institute has a great mentorship program.
Use the right tool for the job. A/B tests are the wrong tool for this type of job.
Your mobile website must have a clear, consistent navigation system
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from the users’ point of view.
For most sites, there should be 5 types of site navigation:
The two types of navigation that are the most problematic are supplemental and contextual navigation.
Supplemental navigation includes items such as a (wayfinder) site map, a site index, and guides.
I like to think of a site map or site index as a form of error prevention. In the event users get lost on a mobile website, a site map or site index can help them reorient themselves. They can also make it easier for them to quickly locate desired content.
Guides can also help users quickly locate desired content. They also have the added benefit of being good targets for link development.
So don’t skip supplemental navigation on your mobile websites. They help users as well as search engines.
Contextual navigation becomes more important on mobile interfaces. I recommend curating contextual navigation as much as possible. Simply programming 3-7 related content types at the end of an article, for example, is not good enough.
Well-placed inline text links carry a lot of weight. Just make sure you don’t use too many inline text links. You want your content to be readable.
Unless a marketer has lived in a cave for the past 4 years, mobile marketing should not be something new. However, how we handle mobile and how we think about it has evolved quite a bit. We work with our clients not to think of mobile as just iPhone and Galaxy, or get caught up in Smartphone-focused strategy, but instead to see the big picture and
plan ahead for technologies beyond hand-held
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,such as those integrated in the IoT, VR and AR devices, in-car computers and from anything a user might perform a search from.
There is a major difference between being mobile-friendly and being optimized for mobile. One is a simple viewport or style sheet test, the other is a data-driven approach requiring ongoing testing and re-calibration.
Imagining a hands-free communication world 5-10 years from now, our goal is to build a framework to always be simplifying the context and landing pages users arrive at to give them the information they need as quickly as possible; sometimes that means earning Position Zero for Voice/Assistant searchers.
Buyers are reading less and will quickly leave your website to purchase your product on their Amazon App if you don’t give them a reason to buy direct, such as free add-on’s, membership exclusivity, and loyalty rewards. The mobile user doesn’t care if your website passed Google’s Mobile-Friendly Testing Tool, they care if they can get what they need without a lot of scrolling, flipping or navigating. Businesses should be testing Progressive Web Apps, running focus groups and experimenting with tools such as Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to see what their users respond to.
The best example I have on how we addressed this in the past can be seen by performing a simple search for “sell rolex” (or any semantic derivative), where you’ll likely find Bob’s Watches near the top of the results. Note the short two field form and video above the fold. Navigate to archive.org and view the landing page pre-2015 to do a side-by-side comparison. This page resonates with users like it never had before, ergo the great rankings (and higher conversion rates).
Basically, focus on optimizing with AMP and prioritize your site speed. Since ideally, most of your content pages will be shared on social media, your users will be more likely to click on links shared on their feed. Having your pages optimized with AMP takes out most of the bulk from your code thus making them faster and more readable for the readers.
Lastly, always make it your primary focus to have your site load faster. In this mobile-focused generation, most users will have to rely on their phones to quick check everything. Compress your codes and images while designing your layout to be touch-oriented rather than cursor-oriented.
These days, when it comes to getting information across, speed is definitely king.
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I think in general, having a good mobile-friendly design is pretty much a must right now.
Just way too many people are looking up information on the phone
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, so you really can’t afford to not have a mobile-friendly site.
As far as Google saying they will rank mobile-friendly sites, etc. first, I can see how that would be a thing. I do not think there is anything more to do than just make sure the site is mobile-friendly. Otherwise, I would just focus on creating high quality content that completely and thoroughly covers the entire topic.
I would focus on writing how-to guides and putting the steps in 1, 2, 3 format. Google is very heavily focusing on its “knowledge card” feature and its a great way to get your content ranking on the top of the search engines 🙂
David Leohardt, THGMwriters, @amabaie
There are so many things to do that help rankings on mobile, but one of the most important is to make sure that your website appeals to mobile users. If mobile users hit the back button too much, Google will see that and it will hurt your rankings.
Beyond the obvious of making your pages fully-responsive or creating AMP pages, there are ways to design content for mobile.
For example, shorter paragraphs are a must! If you fill a screen with text, it will scare readers away.
Breaking up the text is also a must. You can use images, bullet lists, subheadings and call-out quotes. Whatever breaks up the text is good.
Counter-intuitively, shorter text is better. You might read that longer text is better for rankings, but users have to scroll a lot more on mobile. One thing I do on pages like http://thgmwriters.com/writing/plain-language-readability/ is use the <details> and <summary> tags to make chunks of information easy to access but not clogging up screen space. You’ll see three places where it says “Tap or click to read more…”
An interesting study mentioned at https://www.nngroup.com/articles/mobile-content/ tells the importance of keeping context present all through the text. This means writing differently, too. Don’t assume that people remember something you mentioned 20 paragraphs ago. It’s no longer on the screen, and there’s a good chance that they scrolled past it with their thumb anyway.
The good news is that everything you do to make your page easier to read on mobile will also make it easier to read on desktop. And that will help both ranking s and conversions. But for mobile, it’s even more critical.
I would say the best way to adapt to a mobile world is to realize it is already here. In fact, it’s a mobile-first world and everything should be done with that frame of mind. Writing content, planning search ads, tracking organic rankings, testing page speed, it doesn’t matter – all of it needs to be done mobile-first with desktop following behind.
Google already indexes mobile first, and depending on what market niche you’re in (like news most publications) you probably already get more mobile traffic than anything.
the real question to ask is what comes next.
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Voice search, personal assistants, artificial intelligence, and smart devices make the internet of things much more passive and therefore much more ingrained into everyday life. Preparing for that is what you should do now.
Most importantly, we keep site load speed low by making sure we don’t host any large images. We stick to a compromise between size and quality with our images so it loads ok on desktop, and doesn’t tax mobile users. We do not have any sidebars because it usually doesn’t render well on mobile, we have most of the opt-ins for our mobile version. We also consistently check our page via mobile to make sure nothing is incongruent with our desktop version.
I just want to say a big, HUUUGE “Thank you!” to everyone who participated in putting this post together. I am sure that this will be a long-term resource that many SEOs will be able to refer to when they start adjusting their sites in the near future. I hope that everyone appreciates the great tips on mobile SEO that were covered in this post.
Many important changes in SEO are about to happen, the mobile update being one of the big ones, and I hope that this article will be of use to SEOs with different types of websites and experience. Did you find this article useful? Are you going to apply at least one of the tips listed here?
Do you have any mobile-first index tips that were left out but can still be useful? Please, share these in the comments below.
Also, if you found this resource to be usesful, I would greatly appreciate it if you can spread the word about it.