Does a mobile-first world really mean the death of the browser? Are screens as we’ve known them a thing of the past? Are the days of online information residing at fixed URLs connected by links coming to a close?
In this episode of the Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Mark and Eric explain why Google’s move toward mobile-first indexing will mean radical changes in the way people access information, and therefore in the way we do SEO.
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- Understanding Mobile-First Indexing: Long Term Impact on SEO by Cindy Krum
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Mark: Cindy Krum, of MobileMoxie will be one of the speakers at our Next10x conference this April, speaking about how mobile impacts our digital marketing. Now recently, she wrote a series on her blog about the dramatic changes for SEO in a mobile-first world.
Eric: One of the most intriguing predictions Cindy makes in the introductory post of her series is that in a mobile-first world, browsers will become less and less important.
Mark: And that’s a stunning prediction when you think about it. For as long as we’ve had the World Wide Web, our primary way of viewing internet content has been through a browser.
Eric: Of course, that’s already been changing. When I’m on my smartphone and want to look at Facebook or YouTube video, I don’t open a browser, I go straight to the app in each of those.
Mark: And with Siri on my iPhone or Google Now on an Android device or Cortana on a Windows Phone, I can do a search without opening anything. For example, if I’m in the Google app on my iPhone and say, “Okay Google, upcoming movies,” Google reads me a list of some of the movies soon to be released.
But what does all this mean for the future of search and for SEO in particular?
Eric: Well, as Cindy points out in her article, the amount of new information available through the internet is expanding at an exponential rate. Even Google knows they won’t be able to keep up with it all. So they’re starting to show a preference for information sources that make it easy for them to organize information. For example, sites that make use of schema markup for standardized data.
Mark: And Cindy says, for the same reason, we may be seeing of the loss of the URL, as the foundation of indexing for Google.
Eric: That’s right. Google’s index is like an old-fashioned card catalog in the library.
The index cards direct you to individual books at particular locations on the shelves. Now, in the traditional web…
Mark: It feels funny to call the web traditional, doesn’t it?
Eric: Yeah, it does. But in the World Wide Web we’ve known, URLs were generally the address, or shelf locations as it were, of individual web pages. But now, the internet, which is much larger than the web, contains vast amounts of information that can’t be pegged to a URL, and that can’t be displayed in a browser. That information is still valuable to Google, but it has to be accessed in different ways than the traditional URLs that a search engine uses.
Mark: So take, for example, information that’s in an app. Siri or Google Now can surface a lot of that, but it’s not information they are finding at a URL. Rather, they are getting the data from a feed or an API or by some other means.
Eric: A similar thing happens with information from PWAs or Progressive Web Apps, and the so-called Internet of Things devices, and an ever-growing number of internet connected, but non-browser friendly sources.
Mark: So, what should SEOs be doing to prepare for this mobile-first outside the browser future?
Eric: Well, Cindy Krum and I agree on several recommendations for things you can do right now. The first is to understand and implement schema markup and JSON-LD. That’s beyond the scope of this video, but we’re preparing resources on these at PerficientDigital.com. Schema and JSON-LD are important because they provide shortcuts to useful data for search crawlers, bypassing their need to read your HTML or follow links to find it. They can place an identifier at the exact location of that bit of data, so they can resource it later.
Mark: Now, it may also be useful for large information providers to supply Google with direct feeds of their data, such as what weather.com does with visual information that shows up in a weather-related search.
Eric: Be aware that Google will be pressing to get more and more information in their cloud, so they don’t have to continually access it from our sites.
[Tweet “Google wants more of the world’s data in its cloud so it doesn’t have to access it from sites.]
AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages, are an example of that, that we’re already seeing in mobile search results already. When you click on an AMP result, you aren’t going to the site that originated the content, rather you’re seeing a cloud-resident, specially formatted version of the page that Google has uploaded to its servers earlier. The result is better for the end user, a faster page load, and often more mobile friendly format, but much more cost effective for Google as well.
Mark: And cloud-resident data can also be made device agnostic. That is, it can be formatted for any device or even not formatted all, but simply presented as raw data. Such as your phone’s voice telling you what your next appointment is.
Eric: So to sum it up, Google’s move towards mobile-first indexing means less dependence on some of the traditional staples of the web, such as URLs and browsers, that our SEO world has depended on up to now. Google will want more direct access to your information and expect you to structure it in ways that make it easy for them to identify. And more and more of the results experienced by end users will come from Google’s cloud, rather than straight from our websites. One challenge would be how to continue to operate useful revenue generating online businesses in such an environment.
Mark: Now, to help you meet that challenge, we’ve created Next10x: Mastering Mobile Digital Marketing. A one day conference in Boston, Massachusetts, where you can learn the critical elements of mobile digital marketing in a mobile-first world, from expert speakers like Cindy Krum, whose work we discussed in this episode.
Eric: To find out more about Next10x, click here.
Mark: And don’t delay, seats are limited and the conference takes place April 5th, 2017. We hope to see you there.
Eric Enge leads the Digital Marketing practice for Perficient Digital. He designs studies and produces industry-related research to help prove, debunk, or evolve assumptions about digital marketing practices and their value. Eric is a writer, blogger, researcher, teacher, and keynote speaker and panelist at major industry conferences. Partnering with several other experts, Eric served as the lead author of The Art of SEO. Learn More About Eric Enge