December 14, 2016 Kevin

Mobile, mobile, mobile. Preparing for search in 2017

It wasn’t long ago that Google announced it would use the mobile-friendliness of your website as a ranking factor and that mobile-friendly websites would be highlighted in the rankings.

Now, that highlighting of mobile friendliness is being removed.

Why?

Because the expectation is that your website works on mobile. If it doesn’t… well, you’ll have seen your site plummet in the rankings a long time ago.

So, what’s next and what does it mean for your search engine optimisation?

Google has already announced that in January it will begin to use the presence of interstitials on mobile websites (pop ups and other obtrusive sign up forms) as a ranking factor. If you use pop ups or above the fold sign up forms that get in the way of the content your site will be negatively effected.

There’s no mention of desktop pages. This is specifically about how your website looks on mobile devices.

What this really heralds is the start of the mobile-first era.

From here on out you have to focus on your website from a mobile perspective.

Mobile is going to dominate the search landscape. Google will move away from desktop as the primary index to mobile.

For anyone on a modern, responsive website that won’t be an issue. But if you are still running two websites (basalt.digital for desktop and m.basalt.digital for mobile, for example) it’s time to assess your search strategy.

Google is going to prefer your mobile site. And let’s be honest, they’re doing you a favour. Why in this day and age would you want the hassle of maintaining two sites?

Preparing for voice search

The next big thing, that is perhaps a little further off, is voice search.

You can’t have missed the proliferation of voice search tools.

Amazon’s Echo is built on voice search, Amazon’s Fire TV uses voice search, Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple Siri.

This is going to present a massive shift in how people search.

Up until now mobile has normally seen shorter keywords with searchers removing all but the vital words to indicate their search intention.

Generally mobile searchers want a quicker answer and they don’t want to fiddle around with the small keyboard on their screen.

With voice search we will see a shift to a politer, longer tail search. It’s already clear that people are using these systems.

All the while, Google is moving towards semantic search results. It will become less relevant weather you’re searching for “weather in Guildford” or “Guildford weather”. Google knows your search intent. It knows to deliver you the temperature and the prevailing conditions.

Now with voice search, you can ask Alexa if you’ll need a coat today and it will map that voice search to the equivalent of “weather in Guildford” and jauntily announce whether or not you’ll need your coat.

Voice search is only just gaining traction, so it’s not a priority now. But it’s a really interesting development and we can’t wait to see how to make the most of it

So. What should you do?

First things first, check your site with Google to see how it rates for mobile-friendliness. Go to testmysite.withgoogle.com and enter your domain name. Google will check and give you a score out of 100. Don’t worry about the speed results for now, we’ll look at addressing those later, but look at the first box. Anything less than good is really quite terrible so you need to resolve the problem straight away.

how to check if your site is mobile friendly

The next thing to do is to investigate everything else you do. Are you sending out emails? How do they look on mobile devices? If 50% of your website traffic is coming on mobiles you can bet any money that an even greater proportion of people are reading your emails on mobile.

Ultimately, whatever Google says, you need to be looking at your site and your email communications on a mobile device yourself. Take the time to look at your site. Can you read everything? Can you click on the links? Are the images resizing properly? If you can’t view your site properly then it’s likely nobody else can either.

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