What Google’s Mobile First Index means for your business

What is the Mobile First Index?


Google announced its Mobile First Index officially on the 4th November, 2016.  Speaking at Pubcon, Google’s Webmaster Trends analyst Gary Illyes said that Google would create a Mobile First Index within the next few months in 2017.  This announcement wasn’t a shock to SEOs however, who have already prepared for ‘Mobilegeddon’ in 2015.



How can I make my site Mobile Friendly?

Google have already made strong indications as to us what they would take into account in a mobile first index search console and other tools in the last few years.

  1. Check the Mobile Usability under the Search Traffic menu in Google Search Console and optimise your site.
  2. Using Search Analytics under the Search Traffic menu in Google Search Console you can drill down into how different devices are interacting on your site.
  3. The Accelerated Mobile Pages tab under the Search Appearance menu also shows that Google sees this as one of the core parts of their approach to Mobile in 2017 and onwards.

Mobile is the new Primary Platform


2016 saw more people than ever before are searching on mobile devices.  ComScore reported in 2016 that mobile now represents 65% of digital media time.  Desktop as a platform has reduced by 12 percentage points since 2013.

What the new mobile index means:


  • Ranking signals will come from the results of Google crawling your site from a mobile perspective.
  • Important mobile factors such as site speed are more important than ever.


Google has said in this blog post, that:

“Our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site.”

Paul Haahr from Google also  reiterated this by saying:

“Index of mobile pages for mobile users and index of desktop pages for desktop users won’t happen.”


Mobile Optimisation Checklist


  1. Use Responsive design
  2. Ensure best-in-class Page speed
  3. Ensure fastest possible Hosting speed
  4. Keep key CTAs (Calls to Action) clear and above the fold
  5. Keep menus short, accessible and to the point
  6. Allow easy navigation back to the home page
  7. Prioritise key content and products
  8. Make site search easily accessible
  9. Ensure site search results are relevant for the user.
  10. Design efficient forms for mobile users.
  11. Optimise your entire site for the mobile user-experience first.
  12.  Don’t make users zoom in to view content on mobile.
  13.  Optimise product images and CTAs for mobile experience


Is your site Mobile Friendly? Check with these Mobile Optimisation Tools:


  1. Mobile-Friendly Websites — https://developers.google.com/webmasters/mobile-sites/
  2. Mobile-Friendly Test — https://search.google.com/search-console/mobile-friendly
  3. Mobile Usability Report — https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/6101188?hl=en
  4. Website Test with Google — https://testmysite.withgoogle.com/
  5. Google Analytics – Site Speed Suggestions — https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1205784?hl=en
  6. Make the Web Faster — https://developers.google.com/speed/
  7. AMP — https://www.ampproject.org/
  8. Bing Mobile Friendliness Tool – https://www.bing.com/webmaster/tools/mobile-friendliness
  9. Ready.mobi – Mobile Visualisation Tool – http://ready.mobi/ 
  10. Varvy – https://varvy.com/mobile/


Common Mobile-usability errors

The Mobile Friendly Test tool can identify the following usability errors:

1. Flash usage

“Most mobile browsers do not render Flash-based content. Therefore, mobile visitors will not be able to use a page that relies on Flash in order to display content, animations, or navigation. Google recommend designing your look and feel and page animations using modern web technologies. Read more about Look and Feel in our Web Fundamentals guide.”

2. Viewport not configured

“Because visitors to your site use a variety of devices with varying screen sizes—from large desktop monitors, to tablets and small smartphones—your pages should specify a viewport using the meta viewport tag. This tag tells browsers how to adjust the page’s dimension and scaling to suit the device. Learn more in Responsive Web Design Basics.”

3. Fixed-width viewport

“This report shows those pages with a viewport set to a fixed width. Some web developers define the viewport to a fixed pixel size in order to adjust a non-responsive page to suit common mobile screen sizes. To fix this error, adopt a responsive design for your site’s pages, and set the viewport to match the device’s width and scale accordingly. Read how to correctly Set the Viewport in our Web Fundamentals.”

4. Content not sized to viewport

“This report indicates pages where horizontal scrolling is necessary to see words and images on the page. This happens when pages use absolute values in CSS declarations, or use images designed to look best at a specific browser width (such as 980px). To fix this error, make sure the pages use relative width and position values for CSS elements, and make sure images can scale as well. Read more in Size Content to Viewport.”

5. Small font size

“This report identifies pages where the font size for the page is too small to be legible and would require mobile visitors to “pinch to zoom” in order to read. After specifying a viewport for your web pages, set your font sizes to scale properly within the viewport. Read more about font size best practices in Use Legible Font Sizes.”

6. Touch elements too close

“This report shows the URLs for sites where touch elements, such as buttons and navigational links, are so close to each other that a mobile user cannot easily tap a desired element with their finger without also tapping a neighbouring element. To fix these errors, make sure to correctly size and space buttons and navigational links to be suitable for your mobile visitors. Read more in Size Tap Targets Appropriately.”

7. Interstitial usage

“Some websites have begun advertising their mobile apps by opening an interstitial popup when users browse their site on a mobile device. This is a bad user experience since screen space on a mobile device is limited; in most cases, an interstitial obscures the page content, and often it can be difficult to dismiss. If you want to promote a mobile app on your website, consider using iOS Smart Banners, Chrome Native App Banners, or App Indexing to show an install button for your app directly in Google search results.”


Watch a video on Google’s Mobile First Index below:

Barry Schwartz explains the Mobile First Index and other updates in the video below.

The Rise of the Personal Assistant in Search

I found an article in Search Engine Land recently that discussed one of the hot topics of 2016 – the rise of the personal assistant and its effect on search and SEO.

This wouldn’t be that out of the ordinary, but for the fact that I predicted this was likely to be where Google were heading back in my 2015 post over a year ago here.  I even referenced the same movie as an example of where we are heading:  That movie was of course, Her.  


The snippet below is from SEL:


“Behzadi also showed a clip from the movie, “Her,” and noted that “Star Trek” was imagining a future 200-plus years away (the show originally aired in the 1960s), and “Her” was envisioning a future just over 20 years away. Behzadi, on the other hand, believes that this will unfold in less than 20 years.” – Search Engine Land


“We actually got some initial insight into this right at the beginning of the keynote. Google’s goal is to emulate the “Star Trek” computer, which allowed users to have conversations with the computer while accessing all of the world’s information at the same time. Here is an example clip showing a typical interaction between Captain Kirk and that computer” – 

Search Engine Land

The “What is” search

I think as the months go by, it is becoming increasingly obvious for SEOs that we are seeing a lot more answer boxes in the SERPs than ever before.  Pretty much every “What is (a)” search is covered as well as many other variations.  Also interestingly, a mix of results can appear in this box, showing that it isn’t just the preserve of sites like Wikipedia that specialise in this type of content.   A lot of the search results that appear in the boxes don’t have the structured markup that you might expect these types of results to have.

“What is the difference between…” Searches

Some of the problems with these boxes are that they are not really providing “The best” answer, they are just merely pulling an answer that ticks a lot of boxes.  As you can see from the description, this can hardly be described as a fantastic answer – even the image snippet shows a SERP page from the olden days.



Position #0 FTW

The coveted “Position Zero”, if you like, is now the holy grail of the SERPs – being placed effectively above the organic results in its own little box.  (Google finding another new way to push organic results further down the page, and below the fold on mobile, ensuring their business model stays intact…genius)!  A lot of voice search answers are actually using this position #0 data and reading it back to the user verbatim at the moment, this poses quite significant questions for the results page in the future, as instead of having multiple results it would seem the personal assistant would just choose the one that most accurately fits the users intent from its question.
Tailoring content to fit this new enhanced position #0 brief will be the new challenge for 2017 and for some SEOs this has been a focus for a while.

Crawl Budget Optimisation

What is Crawl Budget?



Crawl Budget is the number of pages search engines allocate to crawl different websites.   The number of pages Google crawls depends on the authority of your site.  In an interview with Eric Enge, when asked about Crawl Budget Matt Cutts said:
“… the number of pages that we crawl is roughly proportional to your PageRank”

Does your website have a crawl budget issue?




Use this list below to find out if you website has a crawl budget issue:

  1. Use your XML Sitemap to determine how many URLs you have on your site
  2. Go to Crawl > Crawl Stats in Google Search Console and record the average pages crawled per day.
  3. Divide the number of pages by the average pages crawled per day.
  4. If you end up with a number higher than around 10 you should optimise your crawl budget.


How to increase your website’s crawl budget

There are at least 4 key ways to increase your crawl budget:

  1. Reduce Status Code Errors: 4XXs, 5XXs
  2. Block access in Robots.txt to unnecessary pages
  3. Eliminate Redirect Chains
  4. Link Acquisition


1. Reduce Status Code Errors

4XX and 5XX errors waste Googlebot and other crawlers time.  They are dead ends and can be easily identified by using a crawler such as Botify, Screaming Frog or Google Search Console.


2. Block access in Robots.txt to unnecessary pages

Robots.txt can be used to discourage search engines from crawling certain sections of your site.  Therefore it is a useful way to signpost to Googlebot or other search engine bots what exactly should be crawled on your website.


3. Eliminate Redirect Chains

Redirect chains can be frustrating for Googlebot.  They are not always followed immediately and can take a long time to crawl.  Make sure you try to keep redirect chains to an absolute minimum.  Tools such as Botify are useful to identify these types of problems site-wide, or the Ayima Redirect path chrome plugin is useful for ad hoc on page checks.


4. Link Acquisition 

Link Acquisition, Link earning, Link Building: Call it what you like but it is still an essential part of SEO.  Heading back to Matt Cutts’ original quote, a strategy that aims to increasing high quality links to your site is the long route to increasing your crawl budget over time.


How do I understand what pages Googlebot is crawling on my website?

The only true way of understanding this is to analyse the server log files.  Once you have access to the server log files, you can analyse them using a program such as Screaming Frog’s Log File Analyser.


Watch the Crawl Budget Video by Neil Patel and Eric Siu for more information on Crawl Budget


SEO Basics: How can I optimise my site for Google?

Optimising your website for search engines allows you to increase your search rankings for your core keywords.  It enables you to increase the performance of your website, leading to more traffic and hopefully conversions and revenue.  Taking the time to optimise your website properly will enable it to improve its performance over time. Discover below how search engines rank sites, and find out which keywords can attract new visitors to your site.

Optimising your site for Search Engines

  • Create Relevant Content
  • Make Quality Content
  • Provide Unique Content
  • Publish Regular Content
  • Focus on a High Quality User Experience
  • Optimise Site Speed
  • Make your site Mobile Friendly
  • Optimise internal linking structure
  • Add Schema Markup
  • Publish ‘Evergreen’ Content
  • Use Meta and Title Tags Strategically
  • Research Keywords in your niche
  • Acquire Links from High authority sites
  • Create an XML Sitemap
  • Use Alt Text for all Images


How to Optimise your site:

  1. Create Relevant Content – Create content that your visitors to your website are interested in.  Use SEO Tools such as the Google Keyword Planner to find out exactly what your audience are interested in and provide the content that they are looking for.  Google rewards websites that provide answer
  2. Make Quality Content – Make sure your content is well written, rich with media and offers 10x that of any other website in its class.
  3. Provide Unique Content – Give users something that is fresh, new and different by creating your own unique content.  Search engines such as Google are likely to reward your website if you adopt this strategy.
  4. Publish Regular Content – Publishing regular content is an excellent way to take advantage of searches for topical news events and and also show your visitors that you are an authority in your business.
  5. Focus on a High Quality User Experience – Creating high quality content isn’t enough if the navigation to your site is below par.  Make sure visitors can access your content easily.
  6. Optimise Site Speed – With the growth of mobile having content that is fast loading is now more important than ever before.  Test your site using the Google Page speed test.
  7. Make your site Mobile Friendly – With the introduction of Google’s Mobile Index in 2017 this is now essential.  Make your site responsive if it isn’t already.
  8. Optimise internal linking structure – Internal linking can often be overlooked, but it is a good way to guide visitors to your key pages and to signpost to Google exactly what your website is about.
  9. Add Schema Markup – Schema Markup for e-commerce sites is essential for Google and other search engines to understand your website on a micro level.
  10. Publish ‘Evergreen’ Content – Focus on creating content that lasts for more than one year.  Creating tools or interactive content that people can really engage with on a regular basis can help achieve this.
  11. Use Meta and Title Tags Strategically – Understand the market you are working in and use the data from your keyword research
  12. Research Keywords in your niche – Use SEO tools such as Keywordtool.io, Answer the Public, Google Keyword Planner and Ubersuggest to research your keyword niche.
  13. Acquire Links from High authority sites – Create a link acquisition strategy and use tools such as Majestic to understand the Trust Flow of the site in question.  Harness Digital PR to make an outreach campaign that acquires links naturally.
  14. Create an XML Sitemap – You can use tools such as Screaming Frog to create an XML Sitemap.  Submit the Sitemap in Google Search Console afterwards to give the URLs the best chance of being indexed.
  15. Use Alt Text for all Images – Provide clear descriptions within your alt text on your images.  Make sure your images have clear filenames as well to provide increased clarity.


How To Optimise your Website Video

This is an old video, but still has some SEO basics included to get you started and on the right track.