2016 has finally been the year when mobile searches have overtaken desktop and with Google’s recent announcement of a mobile first index does this herald the end of desktop SEO as we know it?
It all began with the notice on annoying mobile interstitials (overlays that make content less accessible) but the more recent announcement on a mobile first index is really confirmation of what we’ve known for some time: Mobile is the future of search.
At the moment, I’ve been describing this as a known unknown. In that sense, we definitely know that the mobile first index is happening but we have no real timeline for when it will be rolled out.
Initially there was a lot of speculation on how this might affect “m.” sub domains, especially around how a new index might affect things like alternative annotations. For now Google have confirmed webmasters should leave annotations as they are. The other thing that was causing a bit of worry was schema because this is about the only thing that Google mentioned in their official blog post.
Putting the potential technical SEO challenges aside I think this is really exciting. We know that it’s going to cause some disruption but I think this is going to be a good thing.
Another topic that I would like to touch upon is Accelerated Mobile Pages. Google have been pushing AMP pages for the last 12 months and already there are over 150 million AMP URLs in its index. Fantastic for publishers and content producers and supported by wordpress, it’s clear that AMP adoption is growing at a considerable rate and it doesn’t appear to be negatively affecting publishers. In fact, quite the opposite is happening. Faster web pages mean increased viewability and increased engagement. In 2017 I think AMP adoption is going to continue to grow, this time in combination with another web technology called PWA.
So what exactly are PWA’s? PWA stands for progressive web apps. In a nutshell, Google believes PWA should combine the best of the web with the best of apps. For example, imagine a website that can send you push notifications.
- Progressive - Works for every user, regardless of browser choice because it's built with progressive enhancement as a core tenet.
- Responsive - Fits any form factor: desktop, mobile, tablet, or whatever is next.
- Connectivity independent - Enabling service workers to work offline or on low-quality networks.
- App-like - Feels like an app to the user with app-style interactions and navigation because it's built on the app shell model.
- Fresh - Always up-to-date thanks to the service worker update process.
- Safe - Served via HTTPS to prevent snooping and to ensure content hasn't been tampered with.
- Discoverable - Is identifiable as an "application" thanks to W3C manifest and service worker registration scope, allowing search engines to find it.
- Re-engageable - Makes re-engagement easy through features like push notifications.
- Installable - Allows users to "keep" apps they find most useful on their home screen without the hassle of an app store.
- Linkable - Easily shared via the URL; does not require complex installation.
If you are more of a visual person like me, here is a really good video outlining what they are.
For SEO’s the key points are that they are discoverable and linkable. To help Google have recently released a handy PWA guide for SEO. This checklist contains best practice guidelines on things like crawlability, URLs and Canonicals.
At Google’s recent dev summit there was a great talk about how to build Progressive Web Apps PWA on AMP. If you’re interested in seeing this in action there’s even a really useful AMP PWA demo site.
Finally, mobile tracking has seen big advances in 2016, especially with the launch of Google’s free app tracking solution Firebase. Over the next 12 months I’m expecting to see a lot more focus on improvements regarding the quality and quantity of mobile data collected, especially when it comes to search query volumes. If I were a betting man I’d expect Google to improve their existing mobile data offering. Currently both Google Trends and the AdWords Keyword planner don’t really offer any useful mobile specific data.