How to Make Sure Your Site is Ready for Mobile

In the early days of smartphones, the ability to search the web on-the-go was a wonderful bonus. Few realized it would become the predominant search method for an increasing number of people.

Statistica reports that global mobile internet traffic rose from 31.16% in the first quarter of 2015 to 51.12% by the end of last year. However, the importance of the mobile information revolution goes beyond even that.

A 2017 study by the Pew Research Center revealed that 51% of people now use their smartphone to make online purchases. When you consider there are about 1.15 billion mobile daily active users, the commerce possibilities are mind-boggling.

In light of this, the world’s leading search engine is taking steps to make its rankings more indicative of user behaviour trends. Currently in testing, Google Mobile-First Indexing may well roll at some point this year, though there is no exact date at the moment.

As the name suggests, mobile-first indexing means the mobile edition of your website becomes the starting point for how Google determines rankings, replacing the desktop version.

It’s no longer enough for a business to have a website; it also must now be mobile friendly.

You have no doubt landed on sites that look tiny or horribly cropped when viewed on your smartphone. This makes a terrible first impression and makes one less likely to trust that company. Soon, it will also impact those all-important search rankings. Google will still crawl websites that don’t have a mobile version, but the search rankings for those organizations will inevitably suffer.

If you don’t have a mobile-friendly site, the Google Webmaster Central Blog offers steps you should consider:

Deliver an Equal Experience

Your mobile site must offer the same quality content and images as the desktop version. It’s quite possible that if the mobile version has less of either, Google will only index the former.

Strive to have your pages looking identical in both versions. Expandable content will remain important and should be fully accessible on mobile as well.

Structured Data and Metadata

Users expect the same degree of ease and navigation from a mobile site. Your structured data must be on both sites. The structured data’s URLs must also update to the mobile version.

Metadata must also be on both versions and should be identical. If some content has a different title in one version, this just creates confusion and can impact ranking.

Higher Traffic

You might have noticed from your site statistics that the mobile site’s traffic equals or maybe even surpasses the desktop. That trend will almost certainly continue, so if your mobile version is on a separate server, make sure it can handle this increased volume.

Separate Mobile URLs

When it comes to interlinking with separate mobile URLs (e.g. m.sitename.com), there are no modifications. If you use separate mobile URLs, you will simply retain the current link rel=canonical and link rel=alternate elements between the two versions.

Hreflang Attributes

Because you have the potential to attract visitors from all over, alternate language options are extremely important. Review hreflang links on the separate mobile URLs. For sites with multilingual capability, be sure to link separately between the mobile and desktop URLs. It is imperative that the mobile URLs’ hreflang points to the other language and region equivalent on the other mobile URLs. They must also link the desktop with other desktop URLs that use link elements.

Your mobile URLs’ hreflang should point to the other language/region versions on other mobile URLs, and similarly link desktop with other desktop URLs using hreflang link elements there.

Google has promised to roll out Mobile-First Indexing gradually to give sites time to make any necessary alterations. However, it’s always wise to stay on top of such changes as they will benefit your business in both the short and long term.
 

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3 Key Differences Between Voice Search and Text Search (and What It Means For Your Business)

The numbers speak for themselves. One in five searches on the Google Android App are voice searches. Over 60 million people in North America use digital voice assistants on a regular basis.

All signs point to 2018 being the breakout year for voice search.

It’s more than a novelty. Voice search is an evolution in the way we use search engines, and search engine giants like Google and Bing are already changing their search engine algorithms to adapt.

So, what does this mean for your business? To understand how voice search will impact your search engine optimization strategy, let’s look at the core differences between voice search and text search.

How Does Voice Search Work?

Voice search lets you use a search engine app by speaking to a device rather than typing the query on a keyboard or touchpad. The app uses voice recognition software to transcribe the spoken words into written text. Then the search engine algorithm strives to deliver the best possible results.

Voice search has been around in various forms since at least 2002 when Google launched the first incarnation of its voice-enabled search function. Believe it or not, there was a time when users dialled a phone number and received Google search results via text message! It was a far cry from the instant answers voice search delivers today.

Differences Between Voice Search and Text Search

Just as with a text-based search, the search engine algorithm aims to deliver results are as useful and relevant to the voice searcher’s query as possible. But the differences between voice search and text search can have a big impact on what those results look like — and how the algorithm goes about finding them.

1. Device (and Search Engine) of Choice

According to Google, more than 60% of all searches now come from mobile devices. A sizable 20% of those mobile searches are of the spoken variety. But not all voice searches are made on-the-go; more and more voice searches come from voice-enabled smart speakers.

The year 2017 saw an explosion in the number of smart speakers in homes across North America. Amazon, the frontrunner in the market, sold millions of Alexa-enabled devices on Black Friday alone.

Why does this matter? Not only does the device of choice impact how people search, but which search engine they use.

Although Google remains the search engine of choice for most people, Amazon’s Alexa uses Bing by default. So does Microsoft’s Cortana. Together, Alexa and Cortana represent over half of all smart assistant use, meaning the majority of voice searches from smart speakers actually use Bing, not Google.

If smart speakers continue to proliferate, and Amazon stays on top, Bing will become increasingly important to businesses who want to rank among voice searchers.

2. What People Search For

Voice search is more accurate and functional than ever. The more we use it, the better the voice recognition software behind the app becomes. However, Google’s own research shows people still avoid using voice search for certain subjects.

People are most willing to raise their voices on quick queries in the moment. They use voice search to find the nearest restaurant, ask how late it’s open, and check its star-rating on Yelp. That’s why local SEO is huge when it comes to voice search.

But when it comes to so-called ‘sensitive’ subjects, like healthcare, people prefer to search the old-fashioned way. Not surprisingly, the same goes for anything you could classify as ‘adults-only’. What is surprising is that social media is still largely taboo for voice search as well. Perhaps that’s because 63% of Internet users worry about voice-enabled technology spying on them.

Though this gap could decrease over time, not all types of content will necessarily benefit from optimizing for voice search today.

3. How People Search

The biggest difference between voice search and text search? Tone, phrasing, and word choice. To optimize their site for voice search, businesses will have to turn an ear to how their customers talk.

When people use a voice search app, they’re more likely to phrase the query as a question. They use natural language, choosing words that reflect a conversational tone. They expect quick answers to specific questions.

Ranking for voice search queries will require businesses to focus not only on long-tail keywords that come up in these queries, but on direct answers to users’ most common questions.

Search engine algorithms are increasingly able to precisely detect user intent. If your site can deliver, you can leverage voice search to climb the rankings and reach customers who know exactly what they’re looking for.

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Must-Know SEO Trends in 2018

Ok Google. What’s in store for SEO in 2018?

There are already clear SEO trends that will change how businesses approach digital marketing in 2018.

Voice search and mobile search are more important than ever, and the link-building strategies of yesteryear are due for an update. It’s also time to consider the growing impact of AI and machine learning on search.

Here’s what you need to know about some of the top SEO trends in 2018.

Mobile-First Index

mobile first index seo trend 2018

Search has gone mobile. 57% of web traffic, including most Google searches, comes from mobile devices. But when it comes to generating search results, Google’s algorithm still looks at the desktop version of a page to decide if it’s relevant to the user.

That’s about to change.

Google has been experimenting with a mobile-first index since 2016. The mobile-first index is exactly what it sounds like: it looks primarily at the mobile version of a site’s content to understand its data and rank its pages in the results.

So, when does Google plan to deploy the mobile-first index in full? No one knows for sure, but many predict that the shift is coming in 2018.

The good news is, there’s still time to prepare for the mobile-search index. In addition to optimizing sites for mobile web browsing, businesses should start to consider how mobile search differs from the desktop.

Mobile searches are all about context; they’re usually made on-the-go, after all. That changes what kind of information searchers are looking for and how they go about finding it. Some keywords rank differently on mobile, and local SEO has a substantial impact on mobile results.

This also ties into the voice search trend, since voice queries often come from mobile devices.

Voice Search

voice search seo trend 2018

Voice search is one the biggest SEO trends in 2018. According to Google, almost a quarter of searches made through the Google App on Android devices are voice queries, and the increasing adoption of digital home assistant devices is fuelling more voice searches every day.

Currently, most voice search queries fall into the category of ‘housekeeping’, like asking Siri or Alexa to play a voicemail, look up contact information, or set an alarm. But a growing number of voice searches relate to goods and services. The voice query app Hound found that 22% of voice searches relate to local information, like shopping and services; expect that to grow in 2018.

Voice searches are drastically different from the kinds of queries people type into a box. The phrases tend to be longer, often coming in the form of complete sentences. The tone of these queries is more conversational than a search you would type out.

Here’s an example. Say you want to know how late Starbucks is open next weekend. The typical Google search query is usually cold and efficient; something like, Starbucks Saturday hours. A voice search, on the other hand, would sound more like, Ok Google, how late is Starbucks open on Saturday?

 The content of voice search is different as well. Voice searches are more likely to be about topics in-the-moment, like information about local businesses and services. On the other hand, people tend to avoid ‘sensitive subjects’, like social networking and health, when it comes to voice search.

The rise in voice search will have an enormous impact on the approach to SEO in 2018. Pages will not only need to target short keywords, but questions rich in long-tail keywords. More than ever, appealing to your audience will mean producing content that speaks their natural language.

It might seem daunting, but this trend opens a world of opportunity for local businesses to appeal to customers on-the-go.

Diverse Link-Building

Link-building is one of the pillars of powerful SEO. Search engine algorithms treat backlinks as endorsements, a thumbs-up to your relevance and quality of a site.

But not all backlinks are equal. The algorithm weighs the freshness, authority, and relevance of links, and poorly-sourced backlinks reflect back on your own site in the eyes of the search engine.

Last year, Google began looking at certain link-build strategies with greater scrutiny. Google now warns against leaning heavily on guest posts or syndicated posts for backlinks, especially those stuffed with keyword-rich links or penned by unreliable authors.

This trend emphasizes the importance of a diverse link-building strategy. Fortunately, there are more ways than ever to get your content out there.

Your backlink profile should consist of links from many different types of sites: HTML pages, blog posts, social posts, and more. Look for opportunities on Q&A sites like Quora, local news outlets, third-party review sites, and niche platforms that relate to your industry.

Think of it not only as link-building, but building relationships as well. These connections are critical to building a strong SEO strategy in 2018.

Featured Snippets

featured snippet seo trend 2018

Featured snippets have only been around since 2014, but they’ve become such an integral part of Google search that it’s hard to imagine life without them. Almost 30% of results pages now display featured snippets, which pull quick bites of information from a web page relevant to the search query.

And people use them — a lot. Featured snippets have an average clickthrough rate of almost 33%.

More importantly, pages that land in the snippet box appear above the top-ranking result on the page. While the majority of snippets come from the top ten results for the query, only 30% come from page number one.

That means pages that optimize for snippets have a chance to draw traffic that would otherwise go to the top-ranking result.

So, how do pages earn a place in the featured snippet box? While sites can opt out of featured snippets, there’s no way to opt-in. The algorithm decides which pages to feature in much the same way it ranks results organically. However, it does favour content that offers quick, direct answers in language that matches the searcher’s intent. Lists, graphs, and Q&A-style content are also popular.

RankBrain AI

What is RankBrain? In short, it’s an artificial intelligence system Google uses to help sort search engine results. This AI is a part of Google’s overall search algorithm that picks through billions of web pages to find the ones that best answer a person’s search query.

RankBrain attempts to uncover the user’s intent behind their search. It looks at various signals, such as the searcher’s location, their previous searches, and what other people are searching at the time, to deliver more contextualized results.

As Google gets better at tailoring search engine results down to the individual user, businesses will have to be more aware of the steps in their audience’s buyer journey. That will determine the kind of questions they’re asking. Optimizing for RankBrain AI will mean delivering the right answers at the right time, using language that reflects the query.

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