Keeping up in the rankings by being mobile-friendly
Did you know that half of all website traffic worldwide comes from mobile?
I hope when you hear that you’ll understand how important it is to listen to this week’s episode.
Google has been pushing mobile-first indexing for the past few years. It rolled out the first mobile-first index in 2018 but more recently announced mobile-first indexing for the whole web.
So what does this mean for your little website?
Well if your site isn’t fully optimised for mobile searches, it’s about time you got with the program.
In today’s episode, we’re going to share what mobile SEO is, best practices and top tips on how to ensure your site looks tickety boo on any device.
Tune in to learn
- What Mobile SEO is
- How Google classifies mobile
- Why mobile SEO is so critical
- Easy ways to check if your site is mobile-friendly
- How to optimise your site correctly
- How to improve the user experience of your site on mobile
- How keyword research differs for mobiles
- What you need to know about the latest mobile-first indexing update
- Cindy’s top mobile SEO tip
Listen to the podcast
This podcast is brought to you by Yoast SEO for Shopify app. This app helps you improve the SEO of your online store, helps you with creating user-friendly content and improves your rankings in the search results.
Find out more about Yoast SEO for Shopify here.
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And big thanks to Felicity Bent from Australia for their lovely review:
“Definitely the best SEO Podcast around
I’m a long-time listener to Kate Toon’s podcast and absolutely love it. It’s chock-full of wonderful SEO info presented in an easy-to-understand format with a great selection of interesting guests and topics. Kate’s dulcet tones are also very easy to listen to (not all podcasters are) and she shares her considerable and in-depth knowledge of SEO and all things business-related with humour and generosity. Thanks, Kate.”
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“Don’t put all your SEO eggs in one basket, AKA in your site.
Real companies have social media, map listings, YouTube videos. We need to broaden our perspective about what it is to do an SEO now, and take advantage of what is going to rank, and not just keep pushing and pushing for your one page on your one site to rank. Because that might not be realistic, and it certainly might not be an efficient use of your time.” Cindy Krum | MobileMoxie
About Cindy Krum
Cindy Krum is the Founder & CEO of MobileMoxie. She is considered a thought-leader in mobile SEO and ASO marketing and has been bringing fresh and creative ideas to consulting clients and digital marketing stages around the world, regularly speaking at national and international trade events.
Cindy’s leadership helped MobileMoxie launch the first mobile-focused SEO toolset to help SEO’s see what actual mobile search results & pages look like from anywhere and to provide insights about the impact of Mobile-First Indexing on search results.
Cindy is also the author of Mobile Marketing: Finding Your Customers No Matter Where They Are, published by Que Publishing and now also available in German, Italian, Korean and Chinese.
Connect with Cindy Krum
- Cindy on Twitter
- MobileMoxie on Twitter
- Cindy on LinkedIn
- MobileMoxie on LinkedIn
- MobileMoxie Extensions:
- Mobile statistics
- Google mobile-friendly test tool
- Google URL inspection tool
- Lighthouse (more for developers)
- Google PageSpeed tool
- Core web vitals test tool
Did you know that half of all website traffic worldwide comes from mobile? I hope when you hear that you’ll understand how important it is to listen to this week’s episode. Google has been pushing mobile-first indexing for the past few years, it rolled out the first mobile first index in 2018, but more recently announced mobile-first indexing for the whole web. So what does that mean for your little website? Well, if your site isn’t fully optimised for mobile searches it’s about time you got with the programme. And in today’s episode, we’re going to share what mobile SEO is, best practises, top tips, and how to ensure your site looks tickety boo on any device. Hello, my name is Kate Toon, and I’m the head chef at The Recipe for SEO Success, an online teaching hub for all things related to search engine optimization and digital marketing.
I also wanted to quickly tell you about my ultimate SEO checklist, which will help you manage your site and grapple the Google beast. Check out the show notes to get yours. But, less of that and more of today’s episode. Today I’m very delighted to be talking to Cindy Krum, hello Cindy.
Hello, how’s it going?
It’s going very well. Cindy’s calling in all the way from Denver, Colorado, and she is kindly doing this podcast on a Sunday evening, which I think is dedication to the extreme. Now, Cindy is the founder and CEO of MobileMoxie, she is considered a thought leader in mobile, SEO and ASO marketing, and has been bringing fresh and creative ideas to consulting clients and digital marketing stages around the world, regularly speaking at national and international trade events. Cindy’s leadership helped MobileMoxie launch the first mobile-focused SEO toolset to help SEOs see what actually mobile search results and pages look like from anywhere, and to provide insight about the impact of mobile-first indexing on search results.
Cindy is also the author of Mobile Marketing, Finding Your Customers No Matter Where They Are, published by Que Publishing, and now also available in German, Italian, Korean, and Chinese, how exciting. I’ll include a link to that book in the show notes, but welcome to the show, Cindy.
Thank you, thank you for having me.
Oh, I’m very honoured. I’ve been following you on Twitter for about 100 years, so I was very delighted when you agreed to come on. And look, we’ve touched on mobile SEO on several episodes but we’ve never really dug deep, I guess. But I really want to start with the basics, right? So for our newbie listeners, can you describe what mobile SEO is exactly?
Yeah. So, for a long time lots of SEOs didn’t think about mobile at all, and I had to bring it up again and again that more than half of the traffic was mobile, and I made the point stick when I finally on a stage said, “So, if you’re ignoring mobile you’re doing a bad job.” And that’s become more and more true, and of course those were the days before Google had announced mobile-first indexing. Now with mobile-first indexing, mobile is critical, you can’t really separate it as much from traditional SEO, because Google is looking at the mobile version of a site when they’re crawling and indexing it. So that means that if you have perhaps still a desktop and a mobile version, like two separate pages like in Mdot, which lots of companies used to have.
If they have different content, Google is looking at the mobile version, and maybe also checking the desktop version but the main thing is the mobile one. So, that’s it.
Yeah, I get it. And I think you were kind of talking about this as you said before they kind of told us we should be doing it. And as you said, in the olden days people would create their beautiful desktop version, and then kind of create a crappy, stripped-down mobile version separately. And now that’s no longer the go, we talk about sites being responsive because we’re not just really talking about mobile, are we? We’re talking about iPads, a myriad of different devices, sizes, landscape, portrait, you know? Everything is a device these days. So, it’s about being super responsive. And I guess what people get confused about is like, what does Google want from a mobile site? Why is mobile SEO so critical? We know there’s a big audience there, we’re going to be missing out on that.
But Google seems to be very harsh, all the tests that it has for mobile sites just seem to be brutal. So what does it really want from a mobile SEO-friendly site?
The big things right now are good content, obviously. Everyone, including Google would say content is king, blah blah blah. But, good content that’s useful and usable, and formatted for the phone. But also they want a fast-loading experience and a good loading experience, which are two different things. Kind of they lump those all together now, and they call them either core web vitals or page experience, mobile page experience, of desktop page experience, and core web vitals I think is technically part of the page experience thing. And then they also want it to of course be secure, so HTTPS, and a few other requirements in terms of font sizes, and view ports, and stuff like that. And we can dig in there, because I know that got technical at the end.
No, that’s great, that’s great. Let’s start with the speed piece, because let’s break it down. So often when you… Oh no, let’s actually start with what tools you use to assess this. So if I want to go out right now and see if my site is mobile-friendly, what would be some of the tools that you would recommend to check that?
So I always start with Google’s tools, because they give them away for free and they give us a clear view of what Google is seeing. So, Google has the mobile-friendly tasks, Google also has the URL inspection tool, which is part of search console. You have Lighthouse, which is by Google, and that will give you… Really it’s more meant for developers, or more technical people to give them a lot of details about the load time. You can also just use the Google page speed insights tool, which pulls in data from Lighthouse. And then the core web vitals test, which is on… Well, they move it around. But it’s dev.measure, or something like that. I’ll find-
I’ll find it, don’t you worry. I was just frantically typing there in the background, because I’m going to add all these tools into the show notes. So yes, classic one to test with is Lighthouse, although I do think that terrifies most people because it’s got a lot of stuff that really only developers understand. Google page speed tool is the one that I see most often used, and most people freak the heck out because their site does really well from a desktop, and then they go into the mobile version and suddenly they’re getting terrible results. Google wants our mobile sites to be even faster, doesn’t it? Like it has a much higher standard for mobile sites.
Yes, it’s weird. Because it’s harder to have sites that – in mobile than it is on desktop, or at least it’s a different way, a different means of developing, or a different method of developing that I guess. So it is harder to be fast on mobile than it is on desktop, but users expect things to be faster on a mobile phone than they do desktop. It’s kind of backwards, but it’s kind of… They talk about the lean back in your chair effect, if you’re at a computer you have more things to distract you. You can fiddle with papers, or look around, or whatever, and you don’t notice the time going by. But when you’re on a phone, you’re kind of usually either doing something totally else and typing with one hand, or you’re locked in on the phone, and hopefully locked in on the phone and not doing things like driving.
And the other thing that’s caused that perception is apps, apps have a lot of code that floated to the phone. That’s why they’re called native apps, because the code is loaded directly onto the phone, and that makes them fast. And a lot of users really don’t know, or don’t care about the difference between app and web, they just want it to work, and they want it to work fast, and they like apps because they’re fast and speedy, and why can’t the website be like that, you know? It’s stuff like that where people don’t even know that sometimes, that the web is driving the app or vise-versa, you know?
Yeah, I get it. I mean obviously, the little processes in our phone, although they’re amazing these days, they’re not as powerful and as speedy as the processes on our desktop. So, it takes them longer to chew through that stuff. So, speed is obviously a huge factor, and I think the general rule of thumb is under three seconds, but ideally under that if you can. But I wanted to talk a little bit about user experience, because this is something I’m obsessed with. And we all think, I think a lot of us think that maybe usability and accessibility might be coming along as one of the next big shifts, right? One of the things I think is super challenging on sites, even if they’ve been developed for mobile and are considered responsive, it’s all the stuff like really poor contrast, and tiny font, and fiddly fonts. What are some of the key user experience factors we should be thinking about when planning our mobile site?
Yeah, tiny fonts, fiddly fonts, totally agree. Your contrast, all of that is, like you said, what Google calls accessibility. And accessibility is more about people with some kinds of limitations, and it could be people with shaky hands, or people just with bad eyesight, or any kind of disability from very simple to very complex, Google wants the web to work for them too. And so having things like fonts that are adjustable, instead of hard-coded so you can set your fonts in a relative measurement that will size up or size down nicely, and that won’t cause overlap. If you’ve ever sized up the font size on your phone directly and told it to be extra large, it can really mess up a lot of websites that aren’t meant to do that.
And so it’s building with those things in mind, so that even someone who’s got the font on extra large because they always forget their readers can use the site without having overlap, can touch the buttons without risking touching the wrong button, and can see it with… Ideally without having to get glasses out, or having to really strain to see the site.
Yeah, I love that. I love what you said about the lean back in the chair factor. What I like to call it is the supermarket checkout factor with mobiles, because often you’re at the checkout, you’re really quickly trying to do something on your phone while you’re waiting in the queue, and that’s when you notice how difficult it is to use a mobile site. There’s a drop down navigation that drops and drops, there’s things wiggling and jiggling that don’t add any value whatsoever. So you know, it really is about keeping that in mind. I often say to people, “Go to Coles,” which is our supermarket over here, “With a toddler, and try and check out from your store at the checkout, and see how easy it is.” That’s the best usability test I can think of.
Now, a few little elements you’ve mentioned, and it’s okay to get techy, we have to use the right terminology. So you’ve mentioned view ports, what are view ports and what factor do they play in mobile SEO? What do you mean by view port?
So, a view port is a setting that you put in a side tab, and it tells the browser whether or not the site can be viewed landscape, or portrait, or both, how big it should be, if it allows zooming or not. And basically it’ll tell it to kind of fit the site to the width of the device, and that’s their… You can research to find exactly how the code is written, but you basically want your site to fit to whatever device width it’s being presented on. And that’s something that you can put in the code that says, “Fit to width,” and then you know you’re going to have a good experience on all different kinds of devices. Or, at least a reasonably good, maybe not perfect, but that’s a good start. And Google’s looking for that, to know that you’re a modern website that’s doing all the right things. That’s one of the signals that tells them that you’re hip and cool, and –
You’re with the programme, yeah. And the good thing is is that most of the content management systems, your Squarespaces, your Shopifys, your WordPresses, are getting much better at baking that kind of code into the themes. Now, another thing you mentioned, which is often in the reports referred to as tap targets, is big, fat thumbs on mobile phones. So, what should we think about when we’re thinking about tap targets?
You mentioned really bad navigation, and actually lots of sites have gone towards the navigation or the triple dot navigation, which is all good. But knowing, making it easy and not doing a subnav within a subnav within a subnav, like lots of drill down where you’re going all the way across, and there’s a lot in there. Making it easy to close and get rid of, and obvious how to get rid of those kind of drop downs and things, making… Even things like if you have footer lengths, if you think people get down to the footer, sometimes that’s really small font. And those tap targets can be too small when you’re trying to click around, so making sure that those fonts are following the rules that the rest of the fonts do.
And just actually doing user testing on a lot of different devices, with a lot of different device settings. So for instance, dark mode is another thing that’s coming around, that Google is starting to… For a while they positioned it as something that would save battery life, and be good for your eyes. But I think they’re also starting to position it a little bit more along the lines of accessibility, because sometimes you can get a better contrast if you go to dark mode. But that’s something that not every site can do, you have to actually plan for that, test it. So, testing your site on dark mode, testing your site with different font settings, on different mobile browsers, not just Safari if you have an iPhone. Also test on Chrome, or test on Firefox, or some of the new ones.
It’s kind of, things can be different from mobile browser from mobile browser, from different phone or device sizes, and from different settings within the browser, or on the phone in terms of fonts. So there’s just a lot more that-
There is a lot to consider, a lot to consider. You know, one of the things I do at my little workshops is I… It’s kind of quite awkward, but I force people to hand their phone to the person next to them, and then they have to try and… You know, if you get so used to using your iPhone it becomes second nature. And then you get handed a Samsung, and you don’t know what to do. Everything’s just slightly different, and it’s that slightly different factor that can make or break a site. Because if someone fails to interact with the nav in the first couple of seconds, they’re out of there and they’re not coming back, probably. One of the things I wanted to talk about on the tech side, and then I want to move on to talking about a few other bits, is pop ups.
So we know that Google is into intrusive interstitials, as it calls them. And on sites, desktop sites, there’s a lot you can do to delay them, to make sure they don’t cover the whole page. But with mobile, should we really even be having popups, or should we more be relying on forms baked into our footer, our header, or within the actual site? What’s your thought on popups and mobiles?
So, of course because popups can be so successful on a desktop site in terms of if you’re trying to collect email addresses or what have you. But just know that number one, we try not to call them popups because popup has such a negative history. So now if you’re talking to a developer, they’ll call it a modal, or a hover effect, or something like that. And in mobile, a lot of the time you can align them to the top or the bottom of the screen, so it comes across like a horizontal bar, kind of like the cookie warnings that a lot of sites have. You can programme your own thing that’s like that, that comes after the cookie warning at the top or the bottom, and it just… It scrolls with the page, so you’re never actually covering anything.
That’s so true, isn’t it? Don’t make me make decisions, just give me an X, I just want an X. So one of the things, what we talk about, we’ve talked about a lot of tech stuff. When it comes to keyword research and you’re planning your keyword research, do you think that really differs from mobile to desktop? You know, Semrush allows you to toggle between devices. How helpful is that? And keyword research is already hard enough, do we need to really factor in mobile as well?
I would say yes. When I’m thinking about keyword research and the difference between desktop and mobile, it’s totally different from industry to industry because the use case and the intent might change from mobile to desktop. So for instance, if I’m on desktop searching for Pizza Hut, I might be looking to place a huge order for an entire office for some time next week. Whereas if I’m looking for a Pizza Hut on my phone, I want to walk in and pick up an already cooked pizza. Or, I want to do DoorDash, or a delivery service, or something like that. But then again, if you switch to a different brand, something like Target, or even something that doesn’t have an offline component like some kind of data, or press comparison, or something like that information, then maybe the user intent doesn’t change very much, you know?
If I’m searching a resource about cats, a website that’s all about cats and different breeds of cats, does… I can’t see a strong reason why the use case would change. So, it’s really dependent. And so I would say, sometimes I feel like some SEOs… I love to get into the weeds, but I still feel like some SEOs get into the weeds a lot with stuff that’s really hard to… I don’t know, hard for companies to evaluate or to know how Google’s evaluating. So for instance, Semrush, if you’re taking the time to filter out keywords and intent, but you’re not separating out mobile and desktop, I think you’ve wasted time. So before you dig into keyword intent, when it’s all glommed together, separate out mobile and desktop and then look at intent to decide, you know?
Are there a lot more informational queries on mobile and transactional queries on desktop, or vice versa, you know? That is going to tell you a better story than looking at it all lumped together, and that’s going to tell you whether or not it makes sense for you to do mobile keyword research or not.
Yeah, I love that. So, looking at the difference in intent. And you know, obviously one of the big intents or changes that happens with mobile search is, I just pulled this stat from HubSpot, is that 61% of mobile searchers are more likely to use a local keyword, you know? Or, just trigger a local search, because if you’re searching for Pizza Hut and you’re stood in the middle of New York, it’s going to bring back the Pizza Huts that are close to you. So, local search becomes so much more important on mobile, doesn’t it?
Absolutely. And you have to know that if you’re using Massive tracking tools like a Semrush, and you’re not setting up the specific locations, they’re going to get it wrong. Especially in a big country like the US, they might centralise you which puts you in Kansas. And if you’re literally in Kansas, so if you’re targeting LA or New York, you’re not getting an accurate reading. And so, especially if you’re a local business or you have offline stores, it makes sense to… Obviously you have to use tools like an Semrush or any of their competitors to get the sense of how things are going. But then, I always recommend… And it’s why I built the Separator tool, is to check what real results look like.
And even if you’re not there, let’s say you’re in Australia but you’re doing SEO for a physical location in the US, or in Japan, or in anywhere else, it can be hard… You can’t just trust Semrush. If you go to search console it’ll group it by country, but that’s it. So, I made the Separator so that you can test it down not just to a postcode, but to an actual physical address. So, we convert the addresses into GPS coordinates, and we pass all the same information that we would if we were a real phone. So, Google processes the queries as if it’s a phone, not as if it’s a tool. And the other thing is, remember, the Massive tools are using APIs that are intentionally kind of a little bit wrong. And so, seeing what a real result looks like, even if you can’t physically be there, by using a tool like the Separator, to just check and see is there a map pack, you know?
What might not be as obvious from a big tool like Semrush, where you’re looking at a lot of numbers, that is showing up locally, that’s pushing you down or kicking you out? There’s the LSA ads, the local service ads, those can push things down. If it’s a product search, the PLAs, the product listing ads, those can push things down. And those are so interactive, they’ve got stars and pictures that you could be ranking below those in a map pack and you’re technically in number one. But who’s going to get all the way down there, you know?
Yeah, I totally get it. You know, you’re in position one according to the tool, but when you actually physically look at the results you’re actually in position nine below a lot of sexy stuff, that no-one’s going to see you. And you know, finishing on the kind of keyword and the copy kind of things, obviously voice search plays a big part in these devices. And often voice search queries are phrased as questions, you know, you don’t do like, “Best pizza Sydney.” “Hey Google, what’s the best pizza in Sydney?” So, how do people consider that when they’re writing content to kind of serve that voice search ,which is so much more likely with a mobile device?
-is that Google doesn’t separate that out right now. They report on voice search the same way the report on any other keyword search, yeah. They transcribe the voice into text, but I do think that they are probably using different signals for what can rank. And the biggest thing that I think Google has done to address voice search is introduce what they called speakable schema, and a lot of SEOs do this schema but they forget that Google put it under this heading of speakable. And it’s all of the questions stuff, it’s FAQ, Q&A and how to. And I think that Google did this in a very transparent way, of saying, “We know that when voice search comes into its own it’s going to be real, formatted questions, not just keywords, and so we need to do question and answer.”
And so they started that schema so that they could start to process that, and find where is the answer? And that’s given us a couple things, it’s given us I think better featured snippets, better video results where they’ve been able to add steps and stuff like that, which is also a different kind of schema, with the steps and the videos. And the people also ask, and if you play around with any of your digital assistants, Google digital assistants right now, what’s happening is they’re giving you an answer, and then they’re rephrasing the question and saying, “We have an answer to that too.” And so they’re kind of… It’s kind of like a people also ask, where it’s the next one down, where they’re like, “There may be nuance in this question that we don’t understand. Maybe this one’s closer, maybe this one’s better.”
And I do a lot of testing with voice search, because I want to stay ahead of that. And I do find myself almost always wanting the next question, and they’ve said it a couple different ways. They’ve been testing how they present it, but they say, “You know, would you like more…” Sometimes they say, “We have this question answered as well, would you like that?” Or they’ll say, “Would you like more context on this answer?” And when I say that, what they do is they read a little bit more of the page. So they read the part that would have been lifted into a PAA, or a featured snippet, and then they say, “Would you like more context?” And if you say yes then they break out to the paragraph around it, or two paragraphs, one before and one after, something like that.
And that’s also quite satisfying, because you hear what they said already but it gives you literally more context. And so I think that it’s important as an SEO, obviously you’ve got to keep your eye on the prize and know what you’re doing for today. But knowing where Google is going, and understanding those kinds of future things will help you understand, and make decisions, and prioritise about what you should do now and why. Because if you thought that doing speakable schema was only to get maybe a drop down for how to, or Q&A, FAQ on your site, and then Google threw those away, you’d throw your hands and say, “Ugh. I did all that work, and Google took away the FAQ on the site-by-site basis,” or, “They took it away for our industry,” or whatever it is.
But when you see the long-term plan, that was just a carrot. They wanted people to do the schema, they gave them this reward, they got enough schema, and now they have other things that they’re trying to do. But it’s not because they wanted to bait and switch necessarily, I do think that most people at Google are nice and not evil, even though I thought that was… When they stopped doing the FAQ stuff I was not happy. But, it’s also to feed this larger database to deal with the future of speakable schema. And anyone who has kids knows that while we may feel awkward yelling a question or a query at a digital assistant, kids don’t. And I know other people who don’t, friends, since I have a neighbour who loves anything voiced because her eyes are bad and she doesn’t carry her glasses.
This is like, it’s always to test something, I make sure she can handle it. So, I get all these weird texts because she can’t see her phone, but she does voice text and it never makes sense. But also she has… She asks questions all the time, and it reads it out to her so she doesn’t have to find her glasses. So, testing is great. Sorry, that’s long-winded.
No, no, no, no, that was great, that was great. Look, I want to jump to a couple of user questions. So we told people you were coming on the podcast, we’ve got a few questions. Some of them we’ve kind of touched on, but if we can just do some quickfire answers to these I think it would be great. So, Kylie Ufer from Profitability Virtual Assistance asks… We kind of covered this, but let’s just maybe summarise, “Are there any differences to consider between desktop and mobile SEO tactics?” So I guess this is… You know, we talked about the keyword research, we talked about voice search. It feels a little bit like we are kind of building… You know like in the old days, we built separate sites? It feels like there are different things we have to consider for mobile to our desktop. But now they all have to be grouped together, so how do we prioritise those, you know?
It’s a new question, and it’s a good question. There are different tactics for ranking on mobile, but then their different tactics, SEO is changing as a whole. What I recommend is being what I call a multifaceted company, and that means not putting all your eggs in one basket, AKA in your site. Real companies have social media science, and they have map listings, and they have YouTube videos. And you know, when you optimise stuff on your site you’re competing against all of your competitors directly. They have sites, maybe they have better sites, maybe they have faster, more… You know, whatever. But, sometimes all it takes to skip the line is to post a video, or to have great images, because those sites…
You know, YouTube, Google loves ranking YouTube. Facebook has so many good ranking signals, you know? And it’s free to post there, so think about, we need to broaden our perspective about what it is to do an SEO now, and take advantage of what is going to rank, and not just keep pushing and pushing for your one page on your one site to rank. Because that might not be realistic, and it certainly might not be an efficient use of your time.
Yeah, I love that, that more holistic view. Because you know, that search result, it’s going to include, as you said, images, and YouTube videos, and podcasts, and all a manner of other things. So, that holistic view of thinking not just about mobile SEO-friendly content for your site, but just mobile-friendly content in general, you know? Social media, everything, yeah. Even how you format your emails, I know this sounds really silly but the number of emails I see that have subject lines that are so long that they’re truncated, because they’re not thinking… You know, it’s like the whole thing. Think about mobile, think about everything… You know, we spend a lot of time sitting at our big, beautiful Macs and whatever, working on our sites.
And we very rarely take the time to work through our content, not just our sites but all our content on our phones. Another question from Leanne Summers, she says, “Why does Cindy call mobile-first indexing entity-first indexing? What is entity-first indexing, and why do we need to understand it?”
So, I wrote a really long article series, and I’m guessing that she found the article series and got overwhelmed, because it is long and dense. But the essence of it is that when Google announced mobile-first indexing they talked about it in terms of being a change for the primary crawler, from desktop to mobile. But, they had actually been crawling with the smartphone bot for many years by that time, and in some cases it already was primary. And yeah, it seemed like they were communicating this to avoid talking about other things. And what I think that they were avoiding talking about, and the reason that they called it indexing instead of mobile-first crawling, which would have made more sense if it was all about the crawler, was that they reorganised their index to align with what they call the topic layer.
And the topic layer is basically entities, or concepts. It’s a map of how one concept relates to another. And so, I think that when Google really rolled this out, the change… Yes, they changed their primary crawler, but whatever. What it really was was about organising their brain, their index around concepts and related concepts. And you see this going forward now even further with MUM and multi-search, where when they talk about MUM, which is a new… A model that they use for understanding, they talk about it in terms of a journey. And so they say, “If someone wants to…” I think their example is Hike Kilimanjaro, first they look and see can they, how much does it cost? And a lot of people go down a path. And the same thing would be true if you were ordering a pizza or buying a dress, there’s a path, and it doesn’t end necessarily at the purchase.
So this journey has a lot of related entities within it, you know? Climbing Kilimanjaro involves gear, and flights, and hotels, and guides, and training. And so all of those concepts are entities that are related to this Kilimanjaro central concept, right? So, that’s kind of… Sorry –
I get it. No, no, no, it makes sense, but it’s clever stuff, amazing you managed to pump this out on a Sunday night. Yeah, you know, it’s like, I think old school would be to climb Kilimanjaro, “Okay, it’s going to send me to a blog post on someone who’s climbed Kilimanjaro.” And now Google’s so much more sophisticated, and understands that that search can lead to a million different entities. Some to do with purchase, some to do with information, some to do with navigational, some to do with local, and it’s going to bring different things back to the search, I love that. I guess the final question that’s popped up is, with mobile search we talked about some of these things, the text and capable elements. But I guess the other big challenge is that mobile search brings back so much less, you know?
There are fewer results, and so it seems even harder. Why is that, why do you think that Google does that and gives us such limited options? It seems to be making a lot of choices for us now, rather than letting us choose. What do you think on that?
Yeah, I think in some ways yes I agree, and then in some ways I’m very empathetic with Google. Number one, Google doesn’t usually go out to too many results, unless you actively push it to. And Google has load time concerns too, and so they want to do something that’s going to delight their customers in the first couple of seconds without having the stuff that’s lower down on the page slow everything down. So if they can cut that off and say, “Okay, we don’t want to do 100 results, we just want to do these few, and we want to do these things that we potentially have pre-loaded and understand. Or that we host ourselves, because it’s Google knowledge graph, or it’s images that we have created copies of, basically to pre-load.”
They’re doing all of these things to make it fast, and in many cases from their testing users prefer seeing the images, or a knowledge graph, or a map. You know, they have so much data that they can know what users like and what users click on, and they know that most people weren’t getting to the bottom of the page anyway so why bother? So…
Yeah, it makes sense, doesn’t it? Yeah, I guess we sometimes forget that Google is trying to make us happy, you know? From the business side it’s like, “Oh my God, why do I have to jump through all these hoops?” But from a consumer side, we love it, yeah.
Users are happy, not SEOs.
Yes, exactly. It wants to make SEOs unhappy. No, no, no, no. Look, Cindy, that was amazing. For those listening, obviously some of this is deep-level stuff. You know, Cindy is an absolute expert in mobile SEO, she goes deep, deep, deep. And if you want to find out more about all her studies, and Leanne, that entity thing which you obviously were excited about, I’m going to include links to MobileMoxie, Cindy’s Twitter, MobileMoxie on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, we’ve got Cindy on LinkedIn, MobileMoxie on LinkedIn. There’s some great resources there if you want to dig deeper into this topic. If you are new to mobile SEO, then I think don’t worry too much about this, the really complex. Start with the basics, you know?
Make sure your site runs fast, it looks good, you can click the buttons, it’s user-friendly, it’s accessible-friendly. But I think your point Cindy, which I loved the most, is think beyond your website, think about mobile content in general. I think that was such a great point. Cindy, thank you so much for joining us today, it’s been fantastic to have you.
Thank you so much for having me.