Last month, I went to BrightonSEO 2018, nearly twenty years since I got my first mobile phone. More recently than twenty years ago, digital giant Google has said, not just once, that mobile is the future. At BrightonSEO 2018 (April edition), the hour seemed to be finally upon us onlookers.

The change that Google has in its wisdom bestowed upon us is mobile first indexing.

Google Mobile First Indexing

Not too sure what that is? Easy: what Google sees from looking at the mobile version of your page will be what it uses to rank it in search results.

That change, from basing ranking off the desktop version, (along with another few changes Google has made to its systems since I got a phone) means that the future of many online businesses changes even if a consumer mindset doesn’t, really. People want fast web experiences on the go. Google even mentions in its blog on the subject that more of its users are searching on mobile than desktop.

The history of mobile first indexing at Google starts not in 2018, at BrightonSEO, though. A previous Head of Google Search, Amit Singhal has paved the way for mobile first by living off mobile phones rather than desktop computers – as Head of Search at Google; building great things all the while. All I could say was that I got the occasional call.

What’s Up With This Mobile Thing?

We’ve all joined the mobile revolution (and probably didn’t need Google or BrightonSEO 2018 to tell us to). We are to be seen glued to a tiny screen. What does that mean for marketers though? Fame and money? Probably, but not necessarily.

It’s important to note however that desktop still accounts for a lot of time spent with digital media, for most of us. The internet trends that legendary internet venture capitalist Mary Meeker presented around this time last year at the Code Conference tells us that. Mobile has grown a lot, but desktop still has more or less the same share of our time it has had since 2008.

Internet Trends 2017

The fact that mobile is growing SOOOOOOO much means that there are so many more opportunities to put a brand in front of the user. In 2018, it pays to play ball in such an environment, and that’s why I have been busily attending talks and training, BrightonSEO is one of the key providers of both.

Founder, Kelvin Newman describes the event as “a stupidly popular search marketing conference. BrightonSEO 2018 in April didn’t disappoint on that front, with a whopping attendance of 3,500 digital marketers attending in total. The fact that the event takes place near a beach, close to London in a heatwave wasn’t the draw. Which is good, considering it was raining that particular Friday 🙂

Takeaways from BrightonSEO 2018

Mainly, events like BrightonSEO are good to pool resources with people doing the same job. Particularly in a job where change is a constant. Search engines typically aren’t transparent about their ranking algorithms or processes, so teasing out tactics that work in a particular niche can prove fruitful.

Content Hidden in Tabs on Mobile’s fine

Listening to industry leaders share their learnings is always good and sometimes surprising. Google was represented at BrightonSEO 2018, by a webmaster trends analyst who does give detail from time to time on aspects of Google search that would otherwise be guesswork, albeit educated. When pushed by a member of the SEO community on how Google will treat tabbed content on mobile, confirmation that this is okay in mobile first indexing was forthcoming from Google’s John Mueller. So it’s not as radical as doing everything on phones for years upon years. Or maybe they’ve just done enough testing by now.

Google is breaking shit to see what works

A different point of view is that Google’s attitude to mobile first is to “break shit and see what works”, in the words of one speaker on mobile first. It was the same speaker, Barry Adams, who proposed the question later answered by John Mueller. So, this just drives home the point that speaking with the SEO community, which Google are a part of, is healthy for good performance in search.

Make sure your server can handle a higher crawl rate in Mobile First

Another takeaway from Barry’s talk was one which I personally hadn’t really considered. In a mobile-first index, the ask will be higher on the server due to more server hits. So there we are. One to get the big books out on.

Sidenote: Advanced topics such as that above are good to familiarise yourself with when optimising a web property, so all of this was valuable. Even more valuable from this talk was the need to go back to basics though, conversely. Page titles, which you can see in the tab on your browser were discussed. So was the perfectly optimised page from Moz; a cornerstone of any SEO’s understanding. Double checking everything was enthused about and this made for a surprising but refreshing talk, dotted with areas to explore further.

The conference was rounded off by an appearance from the since crowned queen of the SEO community (nerd talk for Search Personality of the year), Aleyda Solis. In a hangout with Google’s John Mueller (him again), a couple of issues with mobile first were teased out in a Q&A format. One question ranked (!) above the others. That was the question of needing to optimise for mobile if you don’t have comparable mobile traffic.

Google: The Switch to Mobile on the consumer side will be drastic in some places, over time

This underlines the need to optimise your mobile site; if internationalisation is involved at all with your business presence online as user behaviour will vary from market to market.

Summary

Mobile first indexing has long been heralded; be it from search chiefs living their lives on mobile to how often you yourself check your favourite websites by phone in a day increasing to maybe a child that has a better grip of your phone than you do. The point is, that Google is just reflecting what its users want – fast mobile web experiences. Suping up performance is a natural next step and keeping up with change is a necessity.

If you want more learnings from BrightonSEO 2018 and beyond, then get in touch, or if you’re not ready yet, then see you on a feed somewhere soon (probably on a phone, as it happens!)