Google Mobile-first indexing: What it means for your SEO and PPC campaigns

In October, Google (sort of) confirmed that it has begun its long-awaited mobile-first initiative. A limited number of sites are now being indexed from a mobile-first perspective, and now that this major project is in the wild, it seems likely that many more batches of sites will be affected over the coming months. With that in mind, we’ve taken a look at what mobile-first will mean for your PPC and SEO strategies

What is Google’s mobile-first index?

Globally, more than half of all Google’s search queries come from mobile devices. The mobile-first index is Google’s attempt to reflect this in its search results.

As the name of the initiative suggests, Google will switch to crawling the web from a mobile – rather than a desktop – point of view. While the search giant has insisted that the move shouldn’t mean a seismic shift for overall rankings, it could have a major impact for any brand or organisation offering a poor mobile experience to users.

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What does the mobile-first index mean for my SEO strategy?

Mobile-first is – unsurprisingly – all about ensuring users searching via mobile are being presented with a consistently strong experience.

Don’t have a specific mobile site? There’s no need to panic – Google has explained it will continue to index your regular site.

If you do have a mobile site, make sure you’re offering the same content as on your desktop site. If a certain page on the mobile site has less content than the corresponding desktop page, it’s likely that Google will only see the mobile version – and that will probably affect your ability to rank strongly.

Google has recommended favouring a responsive site that displays the same content to mobile and desktop users. That being said, Google’s Gary Illyes has said that hidden content (such as tabs, accordions and expandable boxes) will be given full weighting provided it improves user experience. Previously, this sort of content has been deprioritised by Google.

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What does mobile-first indexing mean for PPC campaigns?

Divya Patel, Senior Paid Search Executive here at Return, had the following to say about the impact of mobile-first on PPC performance:

“Although this change is directed more towards website SEO, it can still have a major influence on your PPC strategy. Campaign performance metrics such as bounce rate and landing page experience are website-orientated, and can affect how much you pay for a click and how much you get back for a click.

“A poorly optimised website will harm your bounce rate – users will drop off if they struggle to interact with your website, such as finding slow page load times, landing pages with poor grammar / spelling mistakes, and low-quality content that is difficult to understand.

“Additionally, if there is not enough relevant page content, your PPC ad could be penalised with a low quality score due to poor landing page experience. Low quality scores will result in a higher CPC (you will pay more for a click compared to your competitors) that could limit your campaign by budget. In the long haul this would affect the number of conversions your campaigns generate, leading to an increase in cost per acquisition – how much you pay for generating a lead / sale.

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“As mobile is now the predominant way for people to search, it makes sense for Google to ensure the experience on this device is as good as it can be. Overall from a PPC perspective, we would advise everyone to look at the mobile versions of their website: is the content from the desktop version visible or even accessible? You should be providing a consistent experience for users no matter the device they access the website on.

“Additionally, the speed of your website is an essential thing to consider, helping to improve usability – especially on mobile. Google already considers page speed when ranking a page, and this will be just as important when the mobile-first index is fully live. Keep on top of new developments and make small improvements to your mobile site where possible. Do this and you should be on track to ensure your website is future-proofed for an internet that is increasingly being accessed on our mobile devices.”

Want to find out more about Google’s mobile-first index and how it could affect your website? Get in touch today to find out how we can help!

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