Google Pushes Mobile First
It has been a whirlwind of changes recently with the (hopefully) final release of Penguin 4.0 for Google and the culmination of Google’s effort to put content and mobile-centricity at the core of it’s strategy since they released Panda back in 2011 to clean up content across the web. Now, just over one month ago – Google starter their “Mobile-first Indexing” test and gave those watching a good idea of where they are headed next.
What does it all mean?
At a very large scale Google is influencing web content, and for good reasons too:
Highly relevant content that is beneficial to the user. Less is more always and imagery needs to be effectively marked-up if it makes up a large portion of your content. Content should be directed at user interest, i.e. what are they searching and looking for? By tailoring your content around already established interest, your enabling your business to be relevant and thus highly applicable in search engine results.
Websites are heavily penalised for being inefficient or slowly built. This is a big problem in South Africa where the vast majority of existing web infrastructure is of sub-par quality to compete effectively against large brands. Ultimately you are looking for an efficiently built platform that delivers your content within a few seconds.
More focused on today’s mobile users, the mobile speed ranking done by Google, this focuses on easily consumable mobile focused website that benefit the user with clear and concise content. Keep in mind, and this can be checked in your analytics, that the vast majority of your traffic is currently on a smartphone or tablet device.
The official release of Penguin 4.0 provides real-time penalisation for website who abused linking farming in the past decade. Time and efforts should now be directed instead at cleaning up links around the web. Ultimately the focus here, and why we can agree with Google’s methodology for adopting this path is clear: they want to ensure that the content they provide is of the highest quality, what business would not?
If we relate our own products or services to this same idea of thinking, we too would want our product to be of the highest quality and thus the direction is not that far fetched from the realities of any business. A different approach would be to look at the local South African audience whereby the overall user experience of our mainly mobile audience is largely suffering through the lack of good user and brand experience.
Badly designed, developed or slow/data-heavy websites with massive link spamming histories are now penalised by Google’s new search algorithms. In addition to this, the prevalence of overseas hosted websites for South African businesses (GoDaddy is the biggest culprit) has a large effect on the local South African markets ability to provide good user experience by serving websites out of North America for the local South African audience.
One easily forgets or simply does not know that a website requesting several dozen http requests requires that the data must travel from the USA and across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe and down to the tip of Africa (measured in seconds) before a website can be served to the end-user. If the user clicks on a link, that is another round trip to the GoDaddy servers in the US before another journey back across the globe to deliver the new page to the user.
Where to next?
The affect that companies such as this have had on our economy are unknown, however we can imagine how more efficiently brands could engage with users if they didn’t suffer from such unscrupulous corporations who put profit ahead of user experience. The potential loss of audience, revenue and brand engagement for South African companies in this situation is incalculable. Websites need to migrate to local hosts like Afrihost or Hetzner as their number one priority if the hope to capture their share of the digital audience in the coming years.
Given the current situation, the most important step that any South African company can take, to meet our recommendations for Google’s new view of the web above, would be to migrate your website to a local server, address the speed issue first and focus on the rest thereafter.
The author, Byron Banger, is a Digital Marketing veteran now in his 10th year in the digital industry. Trend Digital ultimately aims to bring our learnings in Digital Enablement and Building Marketing Capability to South Africa. Reach out to find out more.