Mobile First Index
Google has bamboozled us slightly by commencing the roll-out of the mobile-first index, originally slated to begin next year. In their defence, they had originally said 2017 would mark the start of the roll-out but as 2017 progressed it looked less likely and a 2018 start date was bandied around by many in the industry. The roll-out is only starting amongst a small number of websites so it is more likely that the main roll-out will still be occurring in 2018.
Googler Gary Illyes has confirmed that there will be no official announcement when it is fully rolled-out because there will always be “outliers” which means Google just won’t be able to tell us when it is completed.
To recap, historically Googlebot would crawl and index the content of desktop websites and use that to determine where your mobile website should rank in the search results. However, this was a problem because some companies had really comprehensive desktop sites that deserved to rank highly, but when a user on a mobile clicked on the search result that was awarded that rank due to the desktop’s content they were taken to a rubbish mobile website instead.
Now, the reverse will happen, the quality of your mobile site will be used to rank your desktop site.
The best thing for you to do in light of this announcement is audit your mobile site now. If your website is “responsive”, i.e. the same website is rendered on whatever device you visit it on, it’s just the layout that adapts to fit the screen size best, then you shouldn’t have to do anything else.
However, if you have a separate mobile site, you need to ensure it is as content rich and well optimised as your desktop site. As well as making sure all your canonical and rel=alternate tags are in place.
Something interesting to note is that apparently Google had a go at introducing the mobile-first index a couple of years ago but it did not go well so they have started again, hopefully with better results this time!
Google My Business Updates
Google has been updating the functionality of its Google My Business listings …again. I feel like I’m reporting on this every other week.
So, in this recent batch of updates, we can now book a table, haircut, shave etc, all from a handy button that displays on the local knowledge panel, right in the Google search results. So now your customers can book with you online without even visiting your website.
All you have to do as an owner of a listing is register with one of the approved partners, like Bookatable, and your button will magically appear. If you’re in the US that is… the rest of us will have to wait a bit.
And slightly related, Google recently tested a feature in its Google Maps app for iPhone which would tell you how many calories you could burn if you walked to your desired location rather than drive, and to make it even more guilt inducing, you were told how many mini cupcakes this equates to. No Google, I don’t need to know how much of my Saturday night binge I could be working off by walking to work instead of driving. Apparently other people felt the same because the feature got removed in less than 24 hours.
Google Announces Online & Offline Features
In paid search news, Google has announced that it has a host of new features ready for the holiday shopping season. Mainly around better online-to-offline tracking of things like people visiting your store as a result of a search and other changes to Google shopping ads including a better filtering system for users.
Most exciting, I think, is the inclusion of stock levels being pulled through to Google Shopping search results, so if someone asks their mobile “OK Google, where can I buy a Beauty and the Beast tea-set nearby?” Google will bring back a list of shops with the tea-sets actually in stock. Very useful for that Christmas Eve panic hunt for this year’s must have toy that you promised your kid but everywhere has sold out of!