Mobile-first indexing refers to the predominant use of the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking. It uses the historic desktop version of a page’s content while evaluating the relevance of a page to the user’s query indexing since its introduction by Google long back. It basically refers to the mobile version of your website that becomes the starting point for indexes and the baseline in determining rankings by Google. You can also witness an increase in traffic from Smartphone Googlebot along with the cached versions of pages which will usually be the mobile version of the page.
Since it is not a mobile-only index, it’s called “mobile-first” which means that desktop site can still be included in the index even if a site doesn’t have a mobile-friendly version. However, the lack of a mobile-friendly experience can impact negatively on the rankings of that site making it a better mobile experience that would otherwise potentially receive a rankings boost even for searchers on a desktop platform. Mobile-first indexing is enabled for all new websites by default regardless of any websites being new to the web or previously unknown to Google Search. Google monitors and evaluates pages based on the best practices for older or existing websites.
However, the desktop site is prioritized by SEOs and marketing teams and treated as the most comprehensive version of a website, with full content, structured data markup, etc. On the other hand, mobile versions have lighter content, and may not include the same level of markup and structure.
Changing Needs for Mobile-First Information
Every search query is different and the way it is ranked in Google can also be different. Hence, it can be inappropriate to generalize the best content for a mobile-first index. However, here are a few kinds of queries that you can consider:
- Personal Search
- Research queries
- Long Tail queries
- Local Search queries
- Transactional queries
- Informational queries
- Conversational Search
Personal search has seen an increase in the search which includes highly personal and conversational language and words like I, me, my etc over the past two years with 60% growth in mobile searches under the texts ‘__ for me’ in the past two years. It has also witnessed an 80% growth in mobile searches for ‘__ should I __’ during the same time interval. Personal searches fall under three categories namely:
- Solving a problem
- Getting things done
- Exploring around me
While on the other hand Conversational Search in Mobile is a reference to the use of natural language in search queries. It implies that users are literally speaking to their devices and expecting a natural response. This is another factor that has changed the way searches are optimized for the general public and creating new opportunities while creating content. S a matter of fact, many publishers have also experienced an increase in traffic by refashioning existing content to meet the needs of mobile users more effectively.
Google’s web pages tell us that mobile searches for ‘do I need’ and ‘should I’ have grown over 65% for each one while mobile searches starting with ‘can I’ have grown over 85%. Those are some amazing figures. Thus, we can say that Personal and Conversational Searches are the latest evolution in search optimization which are driven by mobile searches. Users are searching on phones which have created a huge opportunity for content created to optimize the search results accordingly and take these results into consideration while creating your search strategy.
Content Relevant Trends are Mobile Search Trends Driven
The queries represent a meaningful change in what people are looking for. Both personal and conversational searches are trending upwards which means content must adapt to that. Each kind of search query can be answered by different kinds of web pages and content length along with diagrams, maps, depth, and so on. Mobile users do not have a general preference for short contents and therefore, one simply cannot generalize and say that Google is more inclined towards short-form content. You must think in terms of what most mobile users might prefer for a specific query. You also need to come up with the best solution for most users and think about the problem that specific search query is trying to solve. Hence, crafting an appropriate content-based response to that situation is requires initially.
This is a crucial task and identifying the problems that users are trying to solve can lead to multiple answers. SERPs provide you with different kinds of sites that can either be review sites, informational or educational. However, the differences are indications that users are trying to solve multiple problems and Google may order the SERPs to satisfy the quarries of most users according to the most popular user intent.
Therefore, SERP guides you with the answer on the page which means you should be looking out for them. This means that most users may be on their mobile and may prefer short content but not always and while other times users might prefer in-depth content or multiple product choices. The mobile index is not changing much but simply adding an additional layer, to understand which kind of content satisfies the typical user either on mobile, laptop or desktop and the user intent.
Time Influences Observed User Intent
Search queries demand a specific kind of result due to the difference in user intent behind each query. Moreover, mobile adds an additional layer of intent to search queries. Proliferating the devices have changed the way people interact with the world around them. It becomes crucial that marketers develop a complete understanding of how people use their devices so that they can be useful for their customers in the moments that matter. Along with understanding the need of users, it is equally important to analyze the time of the day a given query is made. It can influence the device being operated by the user which implies something about users’ needs in terms of speed, convenience, and information.
According to Google’s research, mobile platforms take leads in the early hours of the morning but eventually become dominated by computers by 800 hours. This is when people usually begin their workday. This pattern is taken over by mobile again in the late afternoon when people might be on the go and later continues to increase in the evening, spiking around primetime viewing hours. This new era of considerations is mostly about how your web page is relevant to someone at a certain time of day on a certain device. It all depends on your skills and how you’re going to solve the most popular information need at that time of day.
Defining Relevance for Mobile-First Index
Google focuses on the user intent but in a mobile-first index, the definition of the phrase “relevant content” changes to what it actually means. People on different devices search for different things and the mobile index itself does not change what is going to be ranked. The user intent for search queries has been constantly changing. While some of those core algorithm updates could be related to changes in how Google understands various topics that satisfy users, SEOs are still worrying about click-through data. CTR is not the only measurement tool for search engines. A metric similar to Viewport Time is used by various search engines for variations to understand mobile users. However, the SEO industry is still wringing its hands about CTR.
Google’s understanding has immensely improved in terms of what satisfies the user, which, in turn, impacts the rankings. Subsequently, the ways in which these best experiences are provided for queries should also change. Understanding the demographics of the user using a specific kind of device is one of the important ways to solve the problem. The age group has become one of the factors that might influence who is asking a certain question on a certain device. You must also know that relevance has nothing to do with neither the number of synonyms on your page nor about the keyword synonyms. Relevance refers to the problem-solving ability at certain times of the day and within specific devices to specific age groups.
Mobile First isn’t about User Friendliness
One important thing to note is the importance of the quality of the mobile-first index while satisfying user intent. Convenience plays a vital role while determining if the user intends to seek for a quick answer or a shorter answer. You can add a phrase, on mobile, tablet, desktop and so on in order to make it easier on the web page to find the answer.
Allowing a Visitor to Understand Your Content
It is very important to realize if your audiences are able to understand your content or not. Users vote with their clicks if they understand your content which is analyzed by Google. While viewport time data and quality raters create another layer of data about certain queries which helps Google predict the content a user might find useful. This is where machine learning comes in and as mentioned by Google in the context of User Experience (UX), Machine learning is known as the science of making predictions based on patterns and relationships that are automatically discovered in data.
If the topic on any website is complex and an equally complex answer solves the problem then that might be judged as the best answer. It is considered useful to understand the state of the art of search in general and trains a machine to understand what satisfies users. Models of interestingness must be proposed in a site that aims to predict the level of interest a user has in the various text spans in a document. These interest patterns are obtained naturally by observing user’s browsing behavior in clicks from one page to another.
This isn’t strictly a mobile-first consideration but it is increasingly important in digital matters where people of diverse backgrounds are accessing a site with multiple intentions and interests on multiple kinds of devices. Hence, achieving universal popularity becomes increasingly difficult. It is only advisable to appeal to the broadest array of people in a mobile-first index.
Google’s Algo Intent Remains Unchanged
Google’s desire to show users what they want to see has remained consistent. If there’s something that has changed it’s the users’ age and their interests. Also, when they desire it and on what device they desire it. The mobile-first index is seen as a logical response with the changing user demographics. It must be thought of marketers and web publishers adapting to the needs and interests of their users and not that Google is forcing web publishers to adapt to Google.
Ultimately, we must approach the problem as a response to the evolving needs of the user and not as a response to what Google wants and it indeed is the best way to think of the mobile-first index in that way.