December 19, 2016, 5:09 PM

Mobile SEO trends for 2017

Google’s mobile-first index, accelerated mobile pages and the risks of interstitial ads to search rank.

Lead Photo

Whether or not a website is optimized for smartphone screens now affects Google’s search results when consumers search on a smartphone. So get friendly or get in the back of the line.

2017 is right around the corner. For retailers, this means knowing how to be future proofing our websites in order to stay on top of the trends.

A big trend in the SEO industry right now is mobile SEO. A reason for this is Google announcement of its mobile-first index. More so than ever before, even more than “Mobilegeddon,” mobile SEO is extremely important to take notice of and optimize for.

Here is why:

Consumers Searching on Mobile More

Consumers are using mobile devices more than ever before to interact with website content. This also means more and more consumers will use Google to find products and information each year.

In fact, Google said last year that more people search on mobile devices than desktop.

As retailers, we need to be optimizing our sites and mobile sites for search engines to stay ahead of the curve and get in front of consumers who are using new devices to interact with our brands. Otherwise, we will lose out on valuable opportunities to get in front of our consumers.

Here are the main trends you need to be aware of regarding mobile SEO changes in 2017 and beyond.

Mobile Focus for Google

Obviously, Google is transitioning to mobile devices and a mobile focus. If you look at their platform, the changes they have made throughout time are catered to a mobile focus.

If you look at the image below, this is a modern Google built for the mobile and tablet devices. It is a “vertical” design compared to a “horizontal” design, which would be more focused for desktop.

This mobile focus is another reason Google removed the right-side bar ads and made a fourth ad on top. Google recognizes the world is turning to mobile devices and, therefore, they will continue to optimize their user experience based on the mobile device.

Mobile-First Index

Google announced a huge update—their mobile-first index. For the entire guide, you can click here. However, if you don’t have time to read the entire guide I can sum up what you need to know about it and what to optimize for in under 300 words.

First, the mobile-first index means Google crawls the mobile version of your site or responsive mobile version first and uses that content to place you in the search results.

Simply, this means if you have more content, more features, or more code on your desktop version and less content on your mobile version, Google will place the “mobile version” of your site in the desktop search results. This could prove costly for retailers with separate mobile and desktop experiences.

If you use a responsive design, then you need not worry as long as your desktop and mobile versions are the same regarding content.

But, also do not worry if you are not ready for this update—it is months away, confirmed by a Google engineer.

This update will generally affect retailers in three ways:

1)  You have less content on mobile. As we discussed before, Google will crawl the mobile site for the content to display in the search results.

2)  Your mobile site or version is much slower than your desktop version. Google will judge your website based on the mobile version. If it is very slow, compared to your competitors, but you are beating them with the desktop version, you could suffer from it.

3)  You hide structured data or schema markup on mobile. If you have various SEO-friendly features on your desktop, and not mobile, you might take a hit for it.

Generally, if you use a responsive version, you should be fine. But this update is something to take note of and prepare for, as it will continue to become a bigger part of the SEO industry and retailers need to be aware of it.

Dwell Time

Google wants the best results for the searches. If they see that a searcher clicks on a listing and leaves right away, this shows them that this is not a good website for the search query. This is obviously not a positive for Google.

Google is now better at understanding how people interact with results and if people come to your site right away and leave right away, they will drop you in the search results. Having the right content that matches the searcher intent is critical in 2017 SEO. This is what we call “dwell time” in SEO.

In regards to mobile SEO, since Google will be ranking our web pages based on the mobile version, having good mobile content and experiences on the post-click is very important. Dwell time is a large focus for SEO experts in 2017.

A good exercise for dwell time is to go through and check your bounce rates on pages from organic search by filtering with just mobile devices. This can be done very easily with Google Analytics and, as long as your bounce rate is generally around 15% higher than desktop, you should be fine. 15% higher seems to be the norm. However, if you have pages higher than 20-25% bounce rate, I would advise looking through to figure out why the bounce rate is so high and work to give searchers a better experience on their mobile devices.

If you are interested more in dwell time, I go very in-depth with it from a guide I put together here.

Interstitials

Interstitials is a very simple concept and very much needed in a disruptive mobile landscape. If you are Google, and you display your top-10 search results, but when the consumer goes to the site they are intruded upon with so much advertising they leave right away, why would you want that result in your top-10 search results?

This is what Google is trying to remove—intrusive popups and advertising in their search results.

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