Mobile-first indexing is here. Stay ahead of the game with PWA
Google recently announced that as of July 1st, 2019 the company will use mobile-first indexing as a default method. Learn how a mobile-first approach can affect your website’s rankings, and why it's the right time to look into Progressive Web Apps.
Mobile-first era is already here
Like it or not, we're already living in the mobile-first era. The amount of traffic from mobile devices is increasing with every year. In 2019, 52% of worldwide web traffic is mobile and the trend continues to grow. The trend is most notable in the emerging markets of Asia and Africa, where mobile traffic is dominating the market share.
Not only has the amount of mobile device users and traffic from mobile devices increased significantly during the last years, but technological progress also changed the way how people are using their mobile devices. For instance, mobile eCommerce is booming and there's still plenty of room for growth.
Google announces mobile-first indexing as default
Historically, Google indexed only a desktop version of a page’s content when evaluating the relevance of a page to a user’s query. Along with the increasing adoption of mobile internet usage and the growing number of searches performed on mobile devices, the company started talking about the mobile-first indexing, providing the first hints way back in 2016.
At the end of 2018, Google announced that it's already using mobile-first indexing for over half of the pages globally. Eventually, Google announced that mobile-first indexing will now be the default option for all new web domains as of July 1, 2019.
What does this change mean for website owners?
If you are not quite familiar with what mobile-first indexing is and why it is important for your business, now is the right time to dig deeper.
Mobile-first indexing means Google is now evaluating only the mobile version of your page for the relevance to a user’s query.
Google made it clear that there is only one single index for serving search results. There is no separate “mobile-first index” that is different from the main search index. This means that you need to make sure your website is performing great also, and now, primarily, on mobile devices.
Why this is vital for the website owners? If you have different versions of your website, your rankings may be impacted.
Not only does the website need to perform great from the technical perspective, but you also need to ensure that all the content and structured data you want to be indexed, is present on your mobile layout (and visible for the search engines).
If some of your website’s content is only included on your page’s desktop version but will not be visible on your webpage’s mobile version — such content will simply not be indexed and not appear in the SERPs.
Here is the checklist to make sure you are prepared for the mobile-first indexing era:
- Your mobile site should contain the same content as your desktop site.
- Structured data should be present on both versions of your site.
- Metadata should be present on both versions of the site.
- Verify both versions of your site in Search Console.
- Check hreflang links on separate URLs.
- Verify that your robots.txt directives and robots meta tags work as you intended for both versions of your site.
- Make sure you have the correct rel=canonical and rel=alternate link elements between your mobile and desktop versions.
Even if you have a fully optimized website from the content and technical SEO perspective, this might not be enough to outperform your competition in 2019. By rolling out mobile-first indexing as a default method, Google made it clear that the company will continue to emphasize the importance of providing the best possible experience for mobile device users.
To put it simply, Google wants to provide the best possible experience for users on all devices, now looking at your website’s mobile version as the main version.
So, if you are looking at how to follow the best SEO practices and improve the user experience, especially for the mobile device users, consider Progressive Web Apps or PWAs.
What are Progressive Web Apps? To put it simply, Progressive Web Applications are special web applications that are accessed like normal websites but offer an app-like experience for users, thanks to the benefits like offline usability, push notifications, and access to device hardware. To learn more about “What is PWA” — check this article.
Google Praises Progressive Web Apps
It’s not a secret that Google was endorsing PWAs for quite a long time. Way back in 2015 Alex Russell, a senior software engineer at Google, outlined the first requirements for what it will become progressive web apps. Since then, the whole industry has been working to “blur the line” between web pages and native apps.
Progressive Web App technology does just that, providing consumers with lightning fast, app-like browsing experience.
No wonder leading companies like Alibaba, Forbes, Twitter, and others were the first to implement the technology with great success.
So do Progressive Web Apps really benefit SEO?
Yes, Progressive Web Apps can boost your website’s SEO rankings. Putting some technical aspects aside (of course, your PWA website still has to follow best SEO practices), let’s take a look at the key benefits of PWAs and how exactly PWA improves your website to bring you more visitors from organic search.
How? The answer is simple — by providing a great user experience for your visitors and outperforming your competition. Remember, the ultimate goal for Google and any other search engine is to provide the most relevant search results, thinking also about the user experience on the suggested websites.
Progressive Web Apps are known for the following benefits:
- The ultrafast loading speed of your website running as a Progressive Web App;
- Elevating user experience to the level of native apps.
- The possibility of offline browsing.
Let’s examine how each of these benefits can improve the user experience and ultimately bring you more customers from the SERPs.
Ultra Fast loading speed
Google announced that the page speed will be a ranking factor in the mobile-first index. This means the page that will load faster than the competition will get ranked higher.
How PWA is making your website to load ultra fast? PWA uses so-called client-side page rendering in contrast to server-side rendering. Instead of sending an entire web page (that may “weigh” a few megabytes) from the server every time a user is switching a page, the user is only receiving a tiny string of data that may “weigh” 100 times less than an entire web page.
Just check how fast is this PWA demo store.
App-like user experience
Google rank your page in the SERPs based on many different factors, even the most optimized websites from a technical perspective will lose to those providing the best possible user experience. PWAs allowed businesses include many important features like push notifications, no reload when switching a page, ability to save add the page to a home screen and others.
All these features along with an instant page load and offline browsing make users feel like they are using a native app while in fact, they are browsing the website. This ensures there are no interruptions, visitors are staying longer on your website, performing the desired actions faster (converting better), eventually signaling Google that your website should be ranked higher as it provides a seamless user experience.
Since your website is saved on the user’s device, users can access it anywhere! Imagine shopping, while flying across the Atlantic or deep underground on the tube— PWA makes it possible .
While switching to the mobile-first index approach may cause some confusion and force website owners to do additional optimization, such changes also provide a great opportunity to outperform your competition and get more customers from the search engines.
By making your website a Progressive Web App you can significantly improve user experience, as a result, boosting both conversion rate and your website’s SEO rankings.