What will Google’s mobile-first index mean for student marketers?

What will Google’s mobile-first index mean for student marketers?

As Google continues to throw effort and resource into making the web a more mobile-friendly place in a bid to reflect user behaviour trends, are you keeping up with all the new developments? Do you know what mobile-first indexing is? Or how it might impact your SEO efforts? Luckily, we’re here to help clear things up.

So, what actually is mobile-first indexing?

Google continues to see more mobile searches than desktop searches, and it wants its index to reflect this and be representative of users’ behaviour, the majority of which are clearly avid mobile users. But, what is a mobile-first index?

Google’s search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, but eventually, their algorithms will primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content and structure to rank pages.

Currently, with a desktop-first index, Google crawls the desktop version of a website first to determine rankings for both desktop and mobile searches. And if a mobile version does exist this will boost its ranking.

But, when Google alters its index to be mobile-first, the mobile version of your website will be its primary focus. But, what if no mobile version exists I hear you ask? In that instance, your desktop version will be used to determine a ranking for both mobile and desktop. This is why creating mobile-friendly experiences for your users is so important. Lacking a mobile version of your site could have a negative impact on rankings for both mobile and desktop. Sounds a little confusing, right? Take a look at our handy infographic to help you get to grips with what a mobile-first index will entail.

mobile_vs_desktop (2)

And what does this mean for student marketers?

Results from 2017’s National Clearing Survey demonstrate that almost two-thirds of students used mobiles to search for a Clearing institution. And used in isolation, mobile accounted for 20% of searches, which was an increase of 3% from the previous year.

With results like that, there’s no doubt that as student marketers you should be aware of Google’s changes to its index and prepare for when the changes are rolled out.

Chloe Hashemi, Net Natives’ SEO Manager, shares her thoughts:

It’s crucial to optimise for the user as well as search engines. It’s really important to put yourselves in the shoes of your prospective students’; understand how they want to access information about your institution and the importance of having the ability to do so at their fingertips.

Your site won’t be completely ignored by Google if you don’t have a Mobile Responsive website, but it may negatively impact your overall rankings because Google will perceive mobile-friendly websites to have a better user experience. Meaning there’s potential that your website will be ignored by prospective students if they can’t easily request more information or sign up for an open day via their mobiles”.

But don’t panic! Google’s mobile-first index is still in the early stages of extensive testing to ensure the change will cause as little disruption as possible.

In a blog post at the end of last year, Google reassured users that the change will be rolled out to sites with the most perceived “readiness” first:

We will be evaluating sites independently on their readiness for mobile-first indexing based on the above criteria and transitioning them when ready. This process has already started for a handful of sites and is closely being monitored by the search team.”

If you want to speak to one of our experts about how you can prepare for Google’s mobile-first index or discuss any other aspects of your SEO strategy, don’t hesitate to get in touch.


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