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What Google Switching to Mobile-First Index Means for Hotels

Google is switching to a  mobile first index.

This means that mobile experience will determine ranking. Previously desktop performance was put first.

A main reason that Google is doing this is because users are on there phones a lot more these days.

People spend 177 minutes per day on their phones. That is almost 3 hours out of the day. That’s ⅛ of their day.

You might be saying to yourself, “Alex, most hotel bookings are still completed on desktop!” While this is still currently true, you need to prepare for the future. Mobile experience might not be there just yet to complete bookings, but it will be soon. When it is, you want to make sure that you are there to compete.

There is a lot of value for hotels – especially smaller properties to get people during the research phase, and guess what, there are now more people using mobile for these types of searches then there have ever been.

User behaviors are changing in this space, and while we are not there yet, we are getting pretty close.

On November 4, 2016 Google announced that they would be switching to a mobile-first index.

What does that even mean?

In short, google collects information on every single webpage in the world. They put all of this into their index, and then use this information to rank a site on their search engine. The better the ranking, the higher up on the search engine results page you will be.

Many of the things that you were doing to optimize your site are going to change. Think about it this way, all of your strategy used to be focused on how users interacted with the desktop version of your website and Google rewarded you for that since their indexing was primarily focused on how users behaved on your desktop site.

Now, the overall mobile experience is going to matter.

Google is going to use the signals that they are getting from the mobile version of your website to rank your website in the search results. If you have been following best practices, then you might not even notice a difference, but if you aren’t, you better be ready.

Should you be worried?

No Mobile Site

It all depends on how your website is laid out. If you do not have a mobile site, then you should be [kind of] worried. The reason that I say “kind of” is because they will still crawl and index your site even if you don’t have a mobile version. The downside to this is that you will not be getting the mobile friendly boost to your website which can significantly impact your overall ranking.

Clickz found that of the websites on the first page, 90 percent of them had a 99 percent or greater rating for mobile friendliness. Get on this ASAP, otherwise your rankings will suffer.

Mobile Dedicated Site

If you have a mobile dedicated site, you will have to do some work, but you will be mostly fine. Most people that went with two separate sites did so by showing users on mobile a small portion of what was shown to them on their desktop sites. Since desktop was used first for ranking and mobile was what gave you a boost, everything worked fine.

If you went this route and have all of your full content on the desktop version of your website, then you need to make sure to move it over to the mobile version of your site.

Google has mentioned more than once, that they want the primary content to be the same on both pages, so hint hint, upgrade to responsive design.

Responsive Design

If you use responsive design, then nothing will change for you — and you deserve a high five! Responsive basically means that users see the same thing across screens. This is the Google preferred solution

Things to Keep in Mind

Before anything, you need to make sure that you presence on mobile follows all of the best practices. I am assuming that the algorithm applied to the mobile index will follow similar rules to the original desktop version. This means titles, keywords, schema, etc.

This means that you should focus on:

  • Optimizing your titles and meta descriptions so that they do not get truncated on mobile.
  • Take a really good look at the content on your site. Ask yourself, is it something that people would want to read on their phones?
    • Is it the right amount of words –  imagine how long it would take you to scroll to the bottom of a 5000 word blog post!
    • If you are confused, make sure that you are putting the user first.
      • If you know you have a long article, maybe give them a button to save it to their email, or desktop. This way your article does not get forgotten
    • You could also just make them more concise
  • Look at the navigation. Could it be improved at all
    • Users can’t use an intricate desktop navigation on their phones, and it might cause some usability issues.
    • You might want to scale the navigation back to give the user a better experience.

Where can you go from here:

No Mobile Site

If you don’t have a mobile friendly website yet then you need to enlist the help of your developer.

The simplest way to make sure that you are not affected is if you have a mobile-friendly website. The sooner that you make your website follow mobile best practices, the better advantage that you will have. The sooner you start with this, the better advantage that you will have on your competitors. Fending people off from the top when there is not much competition is much easier than clawing your way to the top when there is already heavy competition.

Mobile Dedicated Site

  • First and foremost, make sure that your mobile site has been added to your search console.
  • Make sure that you are using structured data on both of your sites. This will help google to figure out exactly what is on those pages by presenting it to them in the manner which they like.
  • If you must go with this option, you have to ensure that your site is blazing fast.

Responsive Design

Sit back, relax, and have an ice cold beverage. Once that beverage is done see how your competitors compare and work to build a stronger advantage.

Closing

Make sure that you are speaking directly to mobile users. There are certain things that they may not look for on desktop. First make sure that you are following mobile best practices. Create a killer site that is all about design, content and experience. Make sure that it gives the user what they are looking for, and then make it better.

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