By Max Brockbank – Head of SEO, The Media Image
If you’re thinking of launching your brand new website on or after July 1, make sure it works well on a smartphone, because that’s the day Gooogle starts enforcing Mobile First indexing for all new sites.
While this should have no direct impact on existing websites, Google has taken the opportunity to release an updated version of their Developer Doc on Mobile First Best Practice, which is handy read for anyone with a website that they want to succeed. It also links to guidelines on Structured Data and Robots.txt.
Google say they’ll “continue to monitor and evaluate pages [on existing sites] for readiness, and will notify site owners through Search Console once they’re ready”.
The statement continues: “As of July 1st, 2019, Google will index the phone-oriented sites by default for any new web domain it registers. If you’re starting a new site, you’ll want to be sure its mobile version is polished and full-featured”.
Google has also announced an update to its mobile search design to highlight a website’s name and favicon. Mobile results now look a lot more like a news feed, filled with posts from various publishers on a specific subject, and include a site’s favicon. Results can also feature Google 3D images and AR integration, a nifty feature which can show up virtual reality features on your smartphone.
Of course, every website should now be “mobile-friendly”, a point reinforced by a new study showing that the mobile:desktop search split is now 60:40.
Interestingly though, Hitwise found that mobile’s average 58.5% share of search was largely unchanged from two years ago, implying that the growth curve may have stalled.
That may change as Voice Search booms – accelerated by growing sales of Voice Assistants like Alexa and Google Home – because the biggest platform for Voice Search Apps such as Siri is still mobile. It should be remembered that the iOS App uses Bing results, not Google.
Meanwhile, the “real estate” of the mobile search results available to organic results is going to get even more valuable after Google’s announcement that there will soon be a lot more ads on phones.
Mobile results will soon include “gallery” ads that allow advertisers to display multiple images for users to swipe through. Users will also begin to see ads in Google’s “discover feed” — the list of news stories built into many Android home screens, inside the Google app, and on Google’s mobile homepage — though they’ll only appear in select locations for now. This means it will be more vital than ever to optimise for structured data, which has the added benefit of promoting sites for Voice Search.
Wider afield, signs of a big new update to the Google algorithm were being reported as early as last Wednesday (May 29), but in a change to its historic practice Google made a full announcement of the change on June 2, the day before it officially went live.
Remember that Google already tweaks the algorithm twice a day, making it more or less impossible to second guess exactly how it works, but “Core Updates” happen several times a year to improve the assessment of user intent.
All this comes in the wake of several minor updates last month to correct an indexing “bug” which at various times meant that sites’ new content was not being saved to Google’s database, or existing content was being deleted from it.
Now there is some speculation among more suspicious members of the SEO community is that June Core Update included a final “tidy-up” of all the previous fixes, as well as beefing up the Penguin algorithm – aimed at spotting and penalising spammy links – to make it harder for websites to engage in “negative SEO” by building toxic links to a potential competitor.
Google’s official stance is that the June update didn’t “fix” anything and wasn’t targeted at any specific “niche” market, it just made search more accurate.
Max Brockbank is Head of SEO at The Media Image. He previously served as Global Director SEO at Hilton Worldwide and Senior Client Success Manager at SearchMetrics. As a journalist, Max worked as a reporter and editor with regional and national newspapers including the FT and the Sun, and on global publications such as TIME Magazine.