Search engine Google sent shockwaves around the net when it announced that its long standing search index was to be replaced by a new mobile index. The traditional desktop index – which has served Google search users since the engine first launched – is being demoted to second place. While it will still be used, the mobile index will become the primary one in use when a user inputs a search term.
Despite earlier saying the index would launch at the end of 2017, Google has now confirmed that the new mobile search index will actually go live sometime in 2018. This is good news for hotel marketers because it gives you another couple of months to carry out mobile optimization for your hotel website and adopt a mobile first mentality.
Mobile first is a term that has been around for a while of course, ever since Google announced that it was handling more mobile search queries than desktop – but what does it mean? And what does Google’s new mobile search index mean for your hotel site?
1. Mobile optimization for hotel websites will take on a renewed importance
More and more travellers are finding, researching and booking their travel plans from a mobile device. With Google prioritizing those sites which make that mobile experience easier, the new mobile first index is a wakeup call for hotel brands that have done little to progress their mobile marketing beyond creating a responsive website. Consider page speed (a huge factor for mobile rankings) and mobile-friendly design elements such as click to call buttons, shorter contact forms and compressed images.
2. You’ll need to work with AMP
Accelerated mobile pages (AMP) is an open source project started by Google and designed to make the web accessible for mobile users. Millions of publishers are already using AMP to make their content mobile friendly and, the new mobile search index is a strong indicator that your hotel site should implement it too. AMP uses a shorter version of standard HTML code and, pages with AMP are already given prime position in the Google search carousel.
3. You’ll need to expand your mobile site content
Mobile site’s tend to be smaller than desktop versions but, with an index being created specifically for mobile users and more and more of us spending more time searching on mobile devices, this is set to change. If you don’t have much information on the mobile version of your hotel site, now is the time to start creating it. Go with a responsive approach rather than a standalone mobile version to make sure you’re using all of your existing assets to their full potential when the new index does launch.
4. Ranking signals will be read from your mobile not desktop site
Google says it will take ranking signals from your mobile site rather than desktop version when the mobile first index launches. This creates an immediate need for a full SEO audit – not only will you need time to determine if your mobile content is optimised, you’ll also need to schedule any required remedial works. Google says it isn’t sure how links will be affected as yet (as mobile sites tend to have fewer links than desktop sites) but this should be something you respond to when Google clarifies as the new index gets closer to being the default.