Google’s Mobile-first Index Will Transform Search

Lori Maupas
Lori Maupas, Senior Editor

Your customers and prospects are searching for you on Google, Bing and other sites — but not using their desktop computers. The shift to using mobile devices for search continues to accelerate, prompting marketers to adopt a mobile-first strategy.

Gartner research reports that, in 2018, more than half of the world’s population will turn to a mobile device first for anything internet-related. According to Google, since 2015, the majority of people who use Google search do so from mobile devices.

Smart marketers know this and have taken great care to optimize their websites for mobile — either through adaptive or responsive technologies.

But now there’s an additional challenge: Soon it won’t be enough to just look good on the small screen. You’ll have to optimize your content to rank high on mobile — or risk not being discovered by your target audience.

Google’s Mobile-first Index Will Transform Search

In March this year, Google began using mobile-first indexing — using the mobile version of a web page, rather than the desktop version, to determine ranking in search results. Google’s been rewarding sites for their mobile-friendliness for a while now, adding factors such as page load speed to its algorithms for search ranking. And since July 2018, slow-loading content has been penalized.

But it’s not just about how fast the content loads. It’s also about keywords.  

Google’s ranking algorithms have historically used the desktop version of a page’s content for indexing. The problem is that the mobile page view may not contain as much content as the desktop version. So, results may not closely approximate search parameters.

Google’s mobile-first indexing improves the odds that users find what they’re looking for the first time, given that most of them are searching from a mobile device.

“Siri, how do I rank high in mobile search?”

Adopting a mobile-first strategy must also take voice search seriously. Today more than 40% of adults use voice search every day — and that number is growing. Technology is evolving to more accurately parse natural language patterns into searchable keywords and phrases, making tools such as Siri, Alexa and Cortana more useful by the day.

What’s the trick to optimizing your content for mobile and voice search? Use the exact words and phrases that mobile searchers will either speak or type into their device. It isn’t always possible to create a perfect match, but the closer your content is, the higher you’ll rank.

Voice searches feature direct, simple language and rely on data about both the identity and attributes of a business — so, your data must be accurate, complete and as detailed as possible. AquaLand and Joe’s Pet Shop may be great company names, but you need terms such as “aquarium cleaning supplies” on your website and GMB pages, if you want to show up in search results when someone is looking to clean a fish tank.

And remember, Siri and other digital assistants offer up one result when they receive a query — just one. You want to be the one. To that end, you have to consider all of the factors Google uses to rank you — high ratings, number and recency or reviews, accuracy and completeness of business listings, page authority and more.

Engage in the Moment

Although a shift to mobile-first strategies may present some initial (big) challenges, it will provide far more opportunities to interact with customers in real time and initiate meaningful dialog, closer to that micro-moment during which consumers make a decision about where to shop.

Make sure you’re managing all aspects of your online reputation — reviews, listings, ratings, surveys and social —  and mobile search will put you in touch with your customers quickly and effectively, leading to more business and revenue.