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How to stay ahead in the era of mobile-first indexing

One of the most interesting SEO trends on the cards for 2018 and beyond is the mobile-first era.

Announced in 2017 by Google, mobile-first indexing has become something of a hot topic over the last few months. Essentially, all this term means is that, from 2018, Google will begin indexing mobile websites first, rather than desktop websites.

In theory, this does not have to mean any cause for panic. In reality, much like any Google update, there has been a fair amount of confusion at play.

The era of mobile is not only affecting SEO, however.

The rise of mobile has changed the way that people interact on many levels, from social media to online searches and even online shopping. As Google began to notice a continued shift in mobile searches, it also noted that the way that people search for information on a mobile device is very different to how they search on desktop.

Mobi sites, once considered a major trend, were eventually replaced by responsive websites that were able to benefit from both mobile and desktop searches. Outdated websites that had not planned for mobile are still currently in the game, but this will not last forever.

Over the next few years, as mobile-first indexing gets underway, desktop websites will eventually be pushed back in the rankings, putting mobile and responsive sites first.

What exactly does this mean from a ranking point of view, though? And, more importantly, what can you do to ensure that you don’t get left behind?

Invest in responsive design

The simplest solution is to ensure that you have a website that can easily move between the best of both worlds.

If your website is optimised for mobile as well as desktop searches, with a design that can easily be loaded on any device, you will not have too much trouble once this indexing becomes the norm.

If you only have a desktop website, however, and it cannot be trawled on any device, you will find your hard-won rankings quickly vanishing.

Stop seeing mobile as a separate entity

Although mobile-first indexing is a major SEO focus for the year ahead, it is not only relevant to SEO.

Ecommerce is also slowly but surely having a mobile moment, with a growing number of purchases completed on mobile devices. Social media is also largely mobile driven, while various other marketing strategies are closely linked to mobile.

The mobile era is not going away anytime soon, which means that your entire digital marketing strategy needs to put mobile first.

Consider a website audit

How do you know whether your efforts are paying off? How can you be sure that your website is not getting left in the dust? For starters, taking a cold, hard look at your current efforts is well worth the effort.

Remember that mobile-first indexing will apply to all areas of your website — content, keywords, images, links, navigation, tags, metadata, and everything else that helps your pages get found online. These elements will all need to be optimised in a way that ensures easier crawling.

Now is a good time to do a spring clean, take an assessment of your site, and determine whether you are ready for the mobile-first era. This is easily the simplest way to be sure that everything is in place, well in advance.

A little effort goes a long way, as the saying goes. For best practice SEO, a little effort can save you a lot of headache down the line once mobile-first indexing becomes standard across all searches.

AMP – Accelerated Mobile Pages

Announced in 2015 and the first AMP pages appeared on Google mobile search pages in early February 2016. The AMP project led by Google is an open source technology to improve the overall performance and speed of web content.

When searching on Google Mobile, AMP results are shown next to the title with an icon. AMP is basically in plain English a framework for creating mobile pages and consists of three parts AMP HTML, AMP JS (Javascript) and AMP CDN (content delivery network).

Using AMP on your website doesn’t permit fancy things such as form elements and third-party JavaScript, some other HTML elements may be used on AMP pages.

In a nutshell, with the mobile first index approach of Google, it was announced in July 2017 that website speed will be a ranking factor. With integrated AMP pages on your blog and website, you can be sure to take advantage of speeding up your web content with AMP.

Feature image: Frank Vex via Unsplash

Author | Anton Koekemoer

Anton Koekemoer
I'm your friendly neighbourhood digital marketing specialist. I specialise in helping brands connect with targeted customers by enhancing their online presence through emerging web-based communication channels. I translate business objectives into comprehensive initiatives that focus on humanising brand identity while maximising measurable business results. More
  • Tyron Love

    How can you talk about mobile-first and not mention AMP?

  • Yep, you are right about AMP. Will add it to the article.

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