In March 2018, after a long digital drumroll of anticipation, Google announced that it was rolling out mobile-first indexing. What does this mean for your SEO?
In short, if your ecommerce site isn’t optimised for mobile, you’re losing out on a huge source of traffic.
After much research into the way people are now interacting with search engines, the conclusion is that there has been a marked shift towards mobile. In typical Google fashion, what searchers want, searchers get. So, it was decided that mobile would be a top priority.
But how dramatic has this turn towards mobile been? The answer is definitely substantial enough to warrant this new shift in Google’s priorities.
According to this Statista report, in 2018, 52.2% of all web traffic comes through mobile channels. While that is indeed significant, it is not the most telling fact about the current state of mobile traffic. What is even more noteworthy is the steady pace with which this form of traffic is increasing. The same Statista study shows a rise from 50.3% the year before, which built on 35.1% in 2015. This is not a trend which is fly-by-night.
As you already know, when it comes to eCommerce, the success of your business depends on keeping up with search engine best practices and ranking criteria. These best practices can help you boost your ecommerce search traffic. With this in mind, you simply cannot afford to ignore mobile-first. Before I tell you how to adopt this for your eCommerce store, it’s necessary to explore what mobile-first indexing entails.
Let’s dive in.
What is mobile-first indexing?
In a nutshell, mobile-first indexing refers to a method of search engine ranking that makes use of the mobile version of websites to organize SERP items.
Google looks for relevant data to decide how best to answer the questions their searchers are asking. If the army of crawling bots find relevant information on your site, you may be moved up the ranks. In the past, Google rankings were based on desktop versions of websites.
With mobile-first, the move is towards crawling and indexing mobile sites, rather than their desktop companions. This means that websites must be responsive and suitable for use on mobile, or mobile versions must have the same comprehensive content as the desktop.
If you are breaking into a cold sweat as the realisation dawns that all your SEO efforts have been concentrated on your desktop site, take a deep breath. As Google has said, the move is gradual, and will not happen without notification in the Search Console. If they deem your site ready for the move over to mobile-first indexing, you will receive the following notification:
It’s important to note at this point that the Mobile-first index is not a separate index. Google continues to only have one index, as it always has. The shift means that the mobile version of websites will be prioritised, rather than being a move towards an additional type of indexing system. But how can you optimise for this change?
3 key steps to mobile optimisation
1. Switch to one responsive website
As Littledata recently outlined on this blog, moving to responsive web design can be a very good move. What is this responsive design I speak of? Quite simply, it refers to web design that works well across a range of platforms. It prioritises user experience to ensure that the person interacting with your site is able to navigate it with ease, regardless of which device they use.
A major perk of this is that whomever is in charge of the upkeep of your store does not have to monitor two (or more) different versions of your site. They have one site to take care of which will, if intelligently-constructed, work for an optimal user experience.
If you do prefer to keep things separate, make sure that you pay attention to the mobile version of your site, rather than it merely acting as a subsidiary of your desktop site. As we will look at in step 3, it’s not a given that your SEO efforts will migrate over to the mobile version without some cognisant intervention on your part.
2. Get speedy
Hopefully, page loading speed has already been a major priority when it comes to your SEO efforts. Sales in the eCommerce sphere are highly dependent on being able to keep your shoppers engaged and open for conversion to a sale. If your page does not load quickly enough, your customers will not stick around.
Note: Check out these case studies on HubSpot for examples of how the speed of your site can affect your profit margins.
When it comes to mobile-first however, page load speed is even more integral to your success. It is most certainly a top priority for Google in terms of how they allocated their ranking positions, and should be for you too. Luckily, there are numerous methods to both test and increase your page load speed:
- Start by looking at what Google’s very own Search Console has to offer. Through their Webmaster Lab Tools, you’ll quickly be able to see how well your site is performing and whether you need to step up your game.
- Third party tools such as Think With Google can be excellent accompaniments to other Google Analytics tools when it comes to deciphering how your site is faring.
- Ensure that your web design is not slowing down your whole operation. If you don’t have the technical knowhow yourself, get a developer to run an audit to see if your server speed, content configuration, or baseline coding is placing any obstacles between your users and an instantly-loading page.
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3. Ensure your SEO tactics are still powerful
If you have spent a lot of time and energy ensuring that your desktop site is fully ”SEOd”, make sure that your efforts carry over into the mobile iteration of your eCommerce store.
Here’s a very brief checklist:
- Is all that beautiful content you created crawlable in the mobile version of your site?
- Those titles and descriptions that you put so much effort into? Make sure all your metadata carries over!
- Is the mobile version of your site verified with Google’s Search Console?
Some final tips
As an eCommerce shop owner, your concerns are not only getting customers to your site, but ultimately converting them. When it comes to mobile, there are specific trends that CROs are highlighting when it comes to transforming your customers into paying ones.
In this comprehensive analysis by Shopify, they take an in-depth look at a study done by inflow on Mobile Conversion Optimization Features used in Best-In-Class Retailers.
What is particularly useful in this report is what they refer to as a don’t and a do in terms of what is currently leading to optimal conversion rates for eCommerce business owners. As a parting gift, I’d like to share these two insights with you as ways to bolster your own efforts.
- Say no to hero slider images. In-depth research into mobile conversion rates has illustrated that customers are less than moved by them.
- Usher in the age of the top navigation menu. A relatively unused feature in the eCommerce world, all the data is pointing towards its efficacy in terms of mobile conversion rates.
Point 1: Don’t panic. Google will notify you if they’re switching you over, and will prioritise sites they deem more ready.
Point 2: Start thinking with an on-the-go mindset. Make sure your store’s UX for mobile is as streamlined as possible. Make sure that your SEO efforts have carried over.
Point 3: Don’t stop at optimising your mobile site for traffic - optimise for conversions too. Understand what will compel mobile customers to a sale.
This is a guest post by Charlie Carpenter. He is the co-founder and CEO of Kite. He is a mobile advocate with over ten years of industry experience. After working for large and small agencies for many years, he co-founded Kite; a software solution for print-on-demand, zero inventory merchandise, and personalised photo print goods. As well as an entrepreneur, Charlie is a seasoned product strategist with experience of various types of digital projects which include: Responsive and Adaptive Websites, Mobile & Tablet Apps, Hybrid Apps, Cross Platform App development. You can connect with Charlie on LinkedIn, and follow him on Twitter.