Mobile what?

You’ve likely heard that Google is going mobile first, and website owners need to make sure their site is ready. But what does “mobile first” even mean, and what does Google mean when it uses the term? And even more specifically, what does this mean for B2B businesses?

To understand what the change entails, we must understand how Google operates currently. For most things Google does—rating the quality of a site, checking its relevance for a keyword—it uses the site’s desktop version as the default. Google is now working to change that system. As soon as early 2018, it will shift to a mobile-first search index.

What does that mean for me?

A mobile-first approach arises from the philosophy that a website or marketing strategy starts with a mobile audience before desktop users. You may be looking at your B2B personas or reading your overall marketing strategy and thinking, “Wait, our customers aren’t relying on mobile. Why should we do anything?” You’re not wrong, but we are in a rapidly changing digital world.

Now more than ever, B2B digital marketing is changing. With capabilities now rivaling some laptops, mobile devices are more popular and powerful than they were just five years ago. And as clunky, difficult-to-use websites become a thing of the past, more professionals will opt to leave the heavy laptop at the office and bring a tablet or phone to work on the commute or at home. Your users may be doing the same, but you wouldn’t know it until you saw less traffic.

The question is, will you show your customers that you’re ahead of the curve? The alternative could cost you more in the long run.

Doesn’t mobile offer less?

It’s easy to assume the mobile experience offers less functionality than desktop. If you’re forcing a desktop site to perform on a mobile device, you’re probably right. Rather than retrofitting an existing site, a mobile-first strategy begins with creating a site that looks and feels professional on any screen.

But it doesn’t stop there. Mobile users crave fast-loading, detail-rich data they can consume at a glance. Social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook play a significant part in reaching mobile users, but they aren’t the end all, be all. Services like Feedly and Flipboard provide an easy way to consume blogs and industry sites at the tap of an app. Ensuring compatibility with a variety of platforms will help you connect with mobile audiences. And of course, making sure users can discover your site through a Google search is paramount to success in a mobile-first digital world.

How do I prepare?

The impending mobile-first search index seems like a big deal to those of us outside of Google, but notable Googlers Gary Illyes and Paul Haahr have both stated that they expect it will have minimal overall impact on rankings and search. But what steps should you take to optimize your site for the shift?

It really comes down to changing how you interact with your clients online. Take steps to determine if your site is both mobile friendly and fast—Google will factor these metrics into its overall scoring. Its mobile friendliness and speed tools are easy to use and give you an in-depth look at where you can improve. Also, keep in mind that even if your site uses AMP, you still need a mobile site. In fact, Google has been clear that it will not consider AMP pages the mobile version of desktop-only sites.

If your mobile and desktop sites offer different content, it’s time to either combine your sites, or get more relevant information onto your mobile site. Ideally, the mobile site should not offer a totally different experience—at least, not for SEO reasons.

And finally, design matters. While design and SEO may not seem related at first glance, the experience a searcher has on your site does affect the metrics intricately linked with SEO. If, for example, a page ranks first in Google for its target keyword, but searchers don’t stay long enough to actually consume the content, that’s an issue and a wasted effort. A site designed with mobile users in mind puts your best foot forward.

While the mobile-first index isn’t expected to launch until sometime in 2018, it’s always a good idea to prepare in advance for Google changes. Considering the risks, and the potential for expanding mobile traffic, why not take the mobile plunge if you haven’t already? Let us know if you need any assistance with your SEO strategy.