It’s been a few weeks since our last round-up of the latest happenings in the world of search but, as we all know, it’s a busy space so it’s time for a catch-up.
We’ve gathered the best and most useful content we’ve read over the past few weeks. All you need to do is grab a cuppa and let’s get started.
Google Rolls Out Mobile-First Indexing - Google
While this comes as no surprise, it’s a significant landmark that Google have officially announced that they are rolling out their mobile-first index.
Given the growth in mobile usage to browse the web, which has now overtaken desktop usage, Google will now prioritise indexing the content it finds in the mobile version of your website rather than the desktop version (which it had been indexing up until now).
What does that mean for website owners? That really depends on how you serve your mobile content currently.
If you are using a responsive framework (that uses the same code base for mobile and desktop) then in most cases you should be fine – this is also Google’s preferred option. Other solutions such as having separate mobile and desktop websites (using separate URLs), or dynamically serving mobile pages all need close consideration to ensure your site is optimised for mobile first indexing. Google’s developer guidelines for mobile SEO weigh up the pros and cons of each option - https://developers.google.com/search/mobile-sites/mobile-seo/
How do you know when your website has switched to mobile-first indexing? You should receive a message in your Google Search Console to tell you, or if you monitor your server log files you should notice that Google predominantly crawls your website using its smartphone Googlebot crawler.
Bonus Read - Cindy Krum (@Suzzicks on Twitter) of Mobile Moxie has announced a new blog series on entity-first indexing (an alternative take on mobile-first indexing). Check out the first article here – Entity-First indexing with Mobile-First crawling. There is more to mobile-first indexing than Google simply using a different crawler to crawl your website – we should be very grateful that people like Cindy are prepared to dig a lot deeper (and share that knowledge) to help fill in some of the gaps left by Google.
.app TLD’s Launching on May 8th
Google have announced on their Keyword blog that a new top-level domain (TLD), .app, will be available on May 8th (early registration is available on some domain registrars).
If your brand has already released an app, this could be the perfect TLD to host your download links on or tell the world more about why your app is so great. It’s still a good idea to secure TLD’s like this if you don’t have an app currently – it may make sense for your brand to build an app in the future, so snap up the domain you want before someone else does.
You can check out availability here - https:/get.app/
Moz Refreshes Their Link Index
We use Moz at Made to Engage, amongst a range of other tools, to track the performance of client SEO campaigns, competitive analysis and keyword research.
Moz’s link index was long overdue a refresh given that it had fallen well behind the data available in other tools in the industry in recent times. On first glance, this looks very impressive and with Moz claiming a 20x increase in data, this is good news for marketers, clients and SEO.
More data allows you to make better informed decisions and paints a more accurate picture when it comes to competitive analysis. This refresh also serves as a timely reminder that it is unwise to fully trust data provided by tools. If tools score a potential link target domain lowly, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should immediately disregard it – it may be the case that the tools do not have full visibility on all the links pointing to that domain or page, and Google may weight it significantly more than the tools are suggesting. Common sense is often the best tool an SEO has.
You can read more about the new tool (Link Explorer) that will replace the Open Site Explorer tool in the Moz Q&A section.
Google Confirms Chrome Usage Data Used to Measure Site Speed
The speed at which your webpages load has become increasingly important to meet advances in technology, internet connectivity and user expectations.
One aspect that was never quite clear was how search engines, like Google, assessed your site speed and then factored that into their ranking algorithm. One line of thought was that they used feedback from when their crawler, Googlebot, crawled your website to determine how quickly various elements of your site was loading.
A recent conversation between Tom Anthony of Distilled and John Mueller of Google led to confirmation that currently Google uses usage data from their Chrome browser to determine site speed. They do use other unconfirmed data sources to corroborate overall site speed, but it’s useful to know that they are looking at this data as part of the puzzle.
The fact they are using this makes a lot of sense – the experience of how users interact with a site vs a crawler is very different, and so the usage data that Google can extract from Chrome should be a fairer reflection of site speed for those who matter most - users.
The PageSpeed Insights tool is known to also leverage data from the Chrome User Experience report which can give you an idea of some of the data Google is looking at when determining your site speed. One downside is that this data is quite limited in terms of its coverage with many URLs returning an ‘Unavailable’ message with regards site speed.
Check out the full blog post over on Moz here.
Amazon Files Patent For Alexa ‘Always-On’ Listening
Big brother is always watching listening. And your new big brother is none other than Mr Jeff Bezos.
There isn’t a month goes by in Made to Engage HQ that we don’t hear someone mention that they were talking to someone about a holiday or product, and next thing you know they’re seeing ads for it. Suspicions that Google may already be using this technology at some level are never far away.
It looks like Amazon are now set to dip their toe in this field by filing a patent for ‘voice-sniffing’ technology in their Alexa devices that monitors everyday conversations and uses that data to profile users and target them with ads.
Despite the terrifying thought of Amazon listening in to all your conversations, it does potentially give them yet another huge competitive advantage and threatens to remodel the consumer purchasing life cycle as we know it.
Currently when it comes to visibility in search (organic or paid), the first opportunity that brands have to engage their audience is when they search for a solution to their problem. Targeting users through what we know about them (demographics, interests, etc) has its place, but that is a more disruptive approach versus the level of intent shown by someone who is actively searching for something.
This patent from Amazon will allow them to go back a step further. You could mention something in passing conversation and haven’t even considered researching further or purchasing online, but Alexa can be building up a picture of what you want or where you’re planning to go, allowing Amazon to start targeting you with hyper-specific ads and messaging from the outset.
Not bad for a book company.
Read the full patent here.