“The ‘Mobile first’ index may be delayed, but it is coming”

We have been anticipating Google’s ‘Mobile First’ index for some time – it was first mooted by Google in 2016. However, after a series of false dawns and delays, the mobile first algorithm is expected in the middle of 2018.

The move is a response to the sheer growth of mobile search, which started to overtake desktop search activity in some of the internet’s more mature markets in 2015.

Following the emergence of mobile as the leading search device, Google introduced a number of initiatives to promote mobile best practice. These have included the introduction of page load speed as a ranking factor, the development of accelerated mobile pages (AMPs) and the now-defunct ‘mobile friendly’ tag (although the technical principles behind it remain relevant).

The difference with the mobile first index is that it would effectively establish Google’s search algorithm as one that based organic rankings on how a brand’s website would deliver an experience on mobile, with the desktop user experience becoming a secondary consideration.

Whilst it has been over a year since this index was expected, it is coming. Small-scale roll-outs started happening at the start of 2018, and the full index is expected to be live in the summer of 2018.

The impact will not be as seismic as algorithm changes such as Penguin and Panda. Most brands have used Google’s previous mobile initiatives and the threat of the mobile first index to ensure that they are compliant, but time is running out for those brands that aren’t optimised for key mobile factors – accessibility, page load speed, content quality and user experience amongst them.

 “Google Attribution will bring much more joined-up customer insights”

Another delayed Google initiative, Google Attribution, has the power to really make customer attribution a truly actionable methodology. Not only will Google Attribution allow marketers to see the true value being generated by their paid & organic channels, but they’ll be able to adapt campaigns based on real data and see the benefits in the results.

This should result in a shift away from reporting on ‘last click’ to various different attribution models, depending on the industry and channel. Brand awareness campaigns can be more accurately and properly reported from a first click prospective, highlighting the true value of that activity, rather than it being lost in the more commonly used ‘last click’ model.

It means that marketers will be able to get much more joined-up insights from their customer data, and that will ultimately result in many brands and agencies adapting their strategies to respond to those nuances in customer behaviour that, up to now, were much more difficult to pinpoint.

“Voice and visual search are not just gimmicks”

It is easy to write-off the growth of voice and visual search as just gimmicks, but that would be a mistake.

The way in which consumers respond to those ‘micro-moments’ has in many respects supported the rapid growth of voice and visual search – and this is going to be one of the key growth areas that digital marketers will need to focus on.

By the end of 2018, the number of UK households with a voice search device is forecast to have grown by 40%, and consumers are adapting to this hands-free, auto-correct-proof method of getting the information that they want.

Visual search, whilst it has been with us for some time, is now starting to become much more commercially focused. We have seen retailers such as Amazon, Ikea, Wayfair and Target invest heavily in this area, and ecommerce brands are likely to push this heavily in 2018 – particularly those retailers that rely on the phenomenon of ‘showrooming’.


In 2017 we saw a number of key developments in search that reshaped the way in which many brands are approach SEO in 2018. These developments and trends are dramatically influencing user behaviour, what they demand and expect from search engines and how they engage with brands.

The 2018 edition of our ‘Redefining SEO’ guide will discuss some of the developments affecting search marketing, how you should be responding, and just what your agency should be telling you.

We’ll discuss:

  • How and why consumer behaviour and new technology is significantly changing how brands are approaching search and digital marketing.
  • How brands need to adapt to the changes and fragmentation of the customer journey.
  • Why the ‘mobile first’ index is putting content, user experience and accessibility further up the digital agenda.
  • Why technologies such as voice search are fundamentally changing the entire search results landscape, and how brands need to respond.

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“Here’s how many position zero listings you have…”

SEO reports often highlight how many position one rankings, or how many top ten rankings, your brand may have. In 2018 (if they don’t already), your SEO report should also mention how many ‘position zero’ rankings you have.

As Google develops and expands its featured snippets concept to deliver more and more content from within the search results page itself, and to power its voice search results, your agency should be talking to you about position zero much more than it is talking to you about your ranking position in the top ten.

This will affect certain industries to different degrees. Where Google has or is developing its own properties, this poses a direct threat to brands in those industries.

Google has already developed propositions in sectors such as travel (Google Flights and Hotels for example), and last year moved into the recruitment sector with the launch of Google for Jobs.

The brands that respond to this development and look at how they can achieve those key ‘position zero’ listings will be the ones that stand to gain the most, and will be the ones that are best placed to protect their organic search visibility. Brands need to look at how they are applying the relevant schema mark-up to pages to acquire relevant listing real-estate within SERPs.

“Don’t forget about your informational keyword strategy”

It’s very easy to build a keyword strategy around commercial or so-called ‘Hollywood’ keywords – the high volume, competitive keywords that will bring you the big chunks of traffic.

However, modern SEO and modern consumer behaviour has evolved and today, product and brand discovery is increasingly starting with more informational and longer-tail keyword terms.

One example of these changing behaviours is the growth of “how to” searches. These have shown an upward trend for a number of years and the introduction of featured snippets, which provide the user with what Google believes they are searching for within the search results page itself, is one example of how this change in search habits, and Google’s response, works in practice.

This is where the need for a diverse range of keywords becomes important. The so-called “Hollywood” keyword terms, with high search volumes, are generally focused around much more generic searches where the user is often at the start or the early stages of a customer journey, and may not have developed any prior knowledge about the topic they are searching for.