Google's Mobile-First Algorithm Update Is Hurting Companies' Organic Ranking... A LOT!
In the past month and a half, an unbelievable amount of websites have lost footing on their rankings, due to Google’s mobile-first algorithm update. We will discuss what the changes are, and how to make the necessary changes, in an effort to boost your organic search rankings or recover from the changes made.
What Is Mobile-First?
63% of all internet usage in the United States comes from mobile browsers, meaning 37% happens on a desktop. Google introduced the mobile-first algorithm update on March 26, 2018, in an effort to offer the most relative content, on the platform by which people are searching for it. This update is not meant to penalize companies’ websites, rather offer the most relevant information to the readers available.
How Will Mobile-First Affect You?
Most companies are already realizing the effects of not having a mobile responsive website, but some were compensating content and frequency of publication to stay ahead of the curve, making up ground for their losses. This will no longer be a viable option for staying on page 1. Google pushed their mobile responsive update live on April 21, 2015, and has given companies nearly 3 years to make the changes needed for their digital footprint, but some have used the wrong methods for adapting to the previous update. If you are currently using a makeshift platform for mobile, you DO NOT have a choice in making the right changes to conform to the mobile-first update.
“We do use H tags to understand the structure of the text on a page better.”
Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google
Which Forms Of Mobile Sites Take Priority?
Desktop Only– Your content will not be found in organic search by mobile users. Your content will only be relevant to desktop users.
Responsive Web Design– There are no changes in this update. Your desktop and mobile experience will hold equal value in search results.
Canonical AMP– The same as responsive design. There are no changes to this form of mobile search.
Separate URL’s– Google will provide more weight to the mobile version of your website (i.e. m.gingerhippo versus gingerhippo)
Dynamic Serving– Google prefers the mobile version for indexing.
AMP and non-AMP– Google will prefer the non-AMP URL’s for indexing.
We will break this down further, as you keep reading the article.
The Responsive Website
There is literally no change to the algorithm for responsive websites. A responsive website merely optimizes the desktop version of a site for mobile rendering. If your site is mobile responsive already, no significant changes need to be made.
Further down in your reading, we will discuss changes you will want to make, in an effort to stay ahead of the curve for upcoming algorithm updates by Google. We don’t know for certain these changes are in the works, but very rarely are we wrong in these areas.
Why? Because the changes we suggest follow a best practice format for ever changing use statistics and methodology.
Canonical AMP websites are built using AMP HTML coding. AMP is an open source effort to improve the content ecosystem for everyone. AMP separates content, keeping render blocking content from slowing down the load speed of the main content.
The methodology is to provide content to the reader as fast as possible. Is AMP HTML the best solution for everyone? We say no at GingerHippo. AMP is great for data, but bad for user experience.
If your business model is geared towards user experience, AMP is probably not the best way to push out your information. Some disagree with us on our opinion. We understand.
Separate URL’s offers different content for different platform types. Each page has a page for desktop users and a separate page for mobile users.
We try to ensure digital consistency for clients at GingerHippo, so we work with clients to ensure a uniform approach to website design, navigation, and user experience.
After all, if you find a really cool website on your phone and want to dig deeper into that site later on with your desktop, wouldn’t you prefer to see that same cool content, rather than trying to figure out a new way to navigate through your experience? We would. Brand consistency is something we strive for, and feel everyone else should want in their website.
If we just look at the amount of effort needed to provide separate URL designs for mobile and desktop, we are actually doing at least double the work, in an effort to achieve the same result. More importantly, when making changes to desktop versus tablet, versus mobile, we are required to give triple the effort.
Dynamic serving offers visitors unique content for the device they are using. Instead of reformatting existing content for text font size, imagery reductions, animations, etc., this method will show you a completely different version altogether.
As with separate URL’s or AMP content, the user experience is interrupted and confusing, if the visitor revisits the site on a different type of device.
The winner so far is still responsive design, based on a clear and precise user experience, along with branding consistency.
AMP And non-AMP
non-AMP mobilized content will be served with higher priority than AMP HTML. This pushes AMP content into the category of irrelevance.
This is an outstanding decision on Google’s part, because media companies generally use AMP HTML to serve their content as fast as possible, and gain organic position faster than non-AMP HTML, based on frequency of publication. It seems as if Google made a change we were hoping for at GingerHippo with their mobile-first algorithm change, in the sense that quality is being served over quantity, which allows more defined content to be driving search results moving forward.
For those who have been writing authoritative content and getting beat out by major media, your digital day of limelight has come to fruition.
The Importance Of Using Data Highlighter Moving Forward
We are going to simplify data highlighter and it’s importance. Data highlighter can be found in your Google Search Console, but a little bit of work needs to be done, prior to highlighting your content.
If you really truly want to be relevant and found organically, you will use the data highlighter tool effectively for your content. The way to do this effectively, is to break up your content into market verticals, define your categories, then place the content in the right category for what you are writing. This helps to define the meaning of the content to search engines, and also signals to them that your content is important.
Think of it as a filing cabinet, or more importantly the aisle of a grocery store. If there were no organization or categorization of food items in a grocery store, how would you ever find an item you wanted to buy?
Common Mistakes For Mobile Sites
- Ensure your video content is playable. Use HTML5 standards for your animations, and embed video content that is playable on all devices.
- Eliminate faulty redirects, and ensure your redirects match the designated URL for the desktop version. Interrupting a visitors user experience by causing them to navigate to a page they don’t want to see, creates a negative user experience.
4. Correct your mobile only 404 errors. When someone reaches a 404 error, there is a 97% chance they will lose value in your messaging and content. Make sure your 404 errors are eliminated on both desktop and mobile versions of your website.
5. Avoid Interstitials. The overlay pop up ads to join a mailing list or download an app will cause website indexing disruption, if not done properly. The correct format for interstitials is to allow navigation and consumption, while recommending the app download, similar to LinkedIn’s mobile rendering out of their app on a mobile device. If you are causing disruption in navigation and user experience, your indexing and ranking will reflect the disruption.
Content Guidelines To ALWAYS Follow
Make sure your room is clean. What does that even mean for websites and content? Let us share with you EXACTLY what this means:
1. Make sure your content is both informative AND answers the visitors questions or solves their problem. Writing incomplete or shortened content causes content irrelevance, which leads to it not gaining authority.
2. ALWAYS use H Tags in your subheadings, and use ALL of them. The H Tags identify the form and flow of your content. We constantly hear arguments regarding the importance or weight of H Tags in our industry, and we can’t stress the importance of using them enough. Using H Tags further identifies the importance and meaning of your content, and while there are no significant case studies regarding the weight for or against, even Google’s John Mueller has plainly stated they are relevant.
4. ALWAYS use alt image attributes for imagery. This is an area we see tremendous opportunities in for a majority of the digital world. Using relevant imagery to the topics, and defining what those pictures are, could be the difference between gaining ranking organically or not.
5. Optimize the imagery for your website. The smaller the file size, the faster your page load speeds are. The faster your page load speeds are, the better your content will rank. Test your page load speeds here.
6. Important, but not overly relevant to this specific article, is to reduce or minimize the amount of gated content. Content gating deters engagement, if trust and value haven’t been established. Visitors will give you their valuable information only when you have gained their permission, and never before. Predatory gating techniques always devalue your brand.
7. Most content that ranks organically on page 1 of Google, has at least 2,000 words. Google wants to help readers answer questions and solve problems, without needing to search multiple sources to form a conclusion. The days of 300 word articles ranking on page 1 are nearly gone; along with the relevance of the emails people receive from overseas firms, claiming an ability to gain page one ranking organically, regardless of the content type, length, page load speeds, website errors, and publishing frequency.
GingerHippo’s Last Piece Of Advice
Be sure to ask your website developer, marketing company, SEO’er, and every single person about the significance of what we talked about in this article. If their response is to discourage the importance of what is above, find a different employee, contractor, or consultant. Anyone who tells you that anything stated above isn’t important, run as fast and as far away from them as possible.
If you take our advice on running away and are looking for a new solution, GingerHippo would truly love the opportunity to sit in the emptied seat. We are never more than a phone call or email away, and we are always grateful for every opportunity we receive.
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