How a mobile-first Google will affect your business
Head of Search, Social and Media
Google has officially gone mobile first. Finally.
On Monday 26th of March, just 16 months since their initial announcement of the mobile-first index, Google announced they were migrating over to mobile-first indexing.
This announcement makes official what we knew already. Search is now predominantly in the hands of the users, not on their desks; and Google is the arbiter of change.
So what does this change mean for your business?
A Hitwise report in 2016 revealed that in certain industries, more than 70% of searches are conducted on a mobile device. Failing to adopt a mobile-first mindset will have a significant impact on business performance.
Whilst Google has provided some assurances, stating “sites that are not… [optimised]… don’t need to panic”. The implications of a mobile-first shift are greater than just the way Google chooses to gather content. This change is a consequence of the constantly evolving search behaviours of you, I and everyone else.
We are more mobile and no longer confined to the desk to conduct research, shop or catch up on current affairs. Our mobile devices have become our tool of preference.
And mobile continues to serve a larger role in answering our questions and finding us things. Gone are the days of location explicit searches, replaced by “near me” and “where to buy”, while the all-encompassing catalogue of every product by every retailer gives us the power in our hands to get what we want, for less.
And we want it fast. Really fast. A study by Akamai found that more than half of internet users will abandon a page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. We are an impatient bunch, and improvements in technology only make us more impatient.
These rules are device agnostic, as web users expect the same web-browsing experience on desktop and mobile. A Kissmetrics study discovered that 58% of users expect their load times on their phone to be equal or faster than on their desktops, yet 73% of mobile internet users say that they’ve encountered a website that was too slow to load.
What can you do to ensure your website is mobile-user ready?
1 - Embrace mobile first advertising
Think back to the way we are using our mobile devices. We want places, prices, and an instant answer.
Mobile devices have less screen real-estate and more information on our location. This results in a dominance of paid links in our search results through map pack ads, shopping carousels and paid-for search results.
If you are not competitive in this area then you may see a dent in your traffic and revenue driven by search.
2 - Go responsive
A responsive built website is your best chance of providing your customers with the best experience possible, regardless of the device being used to access your content.
A responsive website ensures your content, meta-data, structured data and experience is the same on all devices, without the added process of publishing content across both seperate mobile and desktop versions.
Avoid large multimedia files which demand an Olympic level wifi network to load. If you must have multimedia, find ways to make the file as small as possible without compromising on quality.
Implement progressive rendering so web browsers can display content as it becomes available incrementally, rather than waiting for all the content to load at once. More on this can be found here.
This is all about experience. Make sure yours is the best on handheld devices.
4 - Check for yourself
Google have released this handy tool to help you determine your mobile-friendliness. Stick your domain in and see what the damage is.
To support this change, Google have also released a handy document on the best practices for mobile-first indexing. We recommend reviewing what the likely impact is on your website based on the mobile set up you have.
To sum up, it’s true that this official mobile-first announcement is a significant statement in the evolution of search, but a statement is all.
Online businesses must prepare for the continuous evolution in the behaviour of search engine users. Thinking mobile first from the perspective of the search engines will mean we are always a step behind, and instead we should be thinking about mobile-user first. This should motivate us to constantly innovate to improve the experience our websites are providing.