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The term ‘mobile first’ has been a bit of a buzzword for the past couple of years in SEM with more and more mobile bias tweaks creeping into algorithm updates to SERPs. But the reality is that in 2017, Google will be doing its utmost to ensure sites that are mobile ready and brands who put their customer’s mobile experience at the forefront will be looked at more favourably. As in the world of fashion darrrrling – it’s one of THE trends everyone’s talking about in their 2017 predictions.

Most notably, our trusted friends at Search Engine Land recently included the importance of ‘mobile’ in its 2017 forecast. In May 2015, Google reported that mobile searches had surpassed desktop searches on its search engine. Since then, the company has taken many steps which signal that mobile, not desktop, should be considered as the default user experience. In fact, Google recently announced that it has begun experiments to make its index mobile-first.

Mobile optimisation is already extremely important in SEO strategies. However, it will prove to be mandatory in 2017.

How do I optimise my site to be mobile-first?

With many businesses just about getting their heads around ensuring their website is responsive design – this super useful guide by Search Engine Journal puts it all into perspective with their ‘12 SEO Tips for a Mobile-first Index’, here’s the highlights:

  1. Plug your website pages into Google’s mobile-friendly test
  2. Verify that your mobile pages are being indexed
  3. Review smartphone errors in Google search console
  4. Update mobile content to reflect desktop content
  5. Remove hidden content in your tabs and accordions
  6. Add structured data on your mobile version pages
  7. If you don’t have mobile pages, launch AMP pages
  8. Keep your desktop optimised for other search engines
  9. Maintain your link building strategy
  10. Verify your subdomains in Google search console
  11. Optimise on-site SEO for mobile
  12. Keep load times fast

Building on these foundations

In theory – it’s all well and good making mobile the alpha male in SERPs, after all, many of our clients now see the majority of their traffic from mobile. However, there are still issues with tracking ‘one’ customer across different devices, something which needs to be addressed before brands are able to invest in the specific media channels.

Ultimately – 2017 will be the year that brands need to develop a better mobile experience, a responsive site is a start, but messaging content and even their offering needs to be developed for their mobile customers.

So far we have been working with Google and our client, giffgaff, on how we can utilise AMP to make mobile experiences better.

Google’s micro-moments

So with Google steering the ship, it’s worth referring back to its 2015 ‘Guide to Winning the Shift to Mobile’. This truly insightful document used real data to provide readers with strategies, insights and customer examples for mastering micro-moments. According to Google, these are critical touch points within today’s consumer journey, and when added together, they ultimately determine how that journey ends.

Thanks to mobile, micro-moments can happen anytime, anywhere. In those moments, consumers expect brands to address their needs with real-time relevance.

  • Be There – you’ve got to anticipate the micro-moments for users in your industry and then commit to being there to help when those moments occur.
  • Be Useful – you’ve got to be relevant to consumers’ needs in the moment and connect people to the answers they’re looking for.
  • Be Quick – they’re called micro-moments for a reason. Mobile users want to know, go, and buy swiftly. Your mobile experience has to be fast and frictionless.

This leads nicely onto Google’s guiding principle: be there across all stages of the consumer journey, not just when someone is ready to buy. To accomplish this, consider four key moment types that represent the full range of user needs.

  • Want-to-Know Moments – 66% of smartphone users turn to their smartphones to learn more about something they saw in a TV commercial
  • Want-to-Go Moments – “Near me” searches have grown 2X in the past year
  • Want-to-Do Moments – Searches related to ‘how to on YouTube are growing 70% year-over-year
  • I-Want-to-Buy Moments – 82% of smartphone users consult their phone while in a store

That’s a wrap

So there you have it – it may seem daunting but Google has been subtly guiding us along this path for a while now. It’s now a case of blending those technical SEO updates with a pinch of customer ‘micro-moment’ know-how and you’ve got the recipe for success (sorry – CHEESE alert!)

But in the wise words of bossman Steve, “Mobile first is no longer a buzzword but a strategy to success for the next 12 months”.

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