Mobile-First Indexing from Google

Mobile has revolutionized the entirety of how people peruse the online world, search for consumer goods and contents, engage with social media, and much more. Mobile has been a dominating trend since 2016, when mobile traffic outdistanced desktop traffic for the first time. A few months back saw Google announce that their search engine indexing would be reoriented to be mobile-first. Since then testing has been underway, and now we have their mobile-first indexing rollout. Over the next few years we can expect to see desktop websites being pushed back in the rankings, putting mobile and responsive sites first.

As a top Canadian web hosting provider, there is great relevance to all of this for both us and our clients. Some of you may have less of an understanding of what mobile-first indexing actually is, so let’s spend a short period of time discussing it here today.

Defining Mobile- First Indexing

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that most people use mobile devices when visiting the mobile versions of websites. When the site’s indexing system follows the desktop version of a site first for making assessments about both the quality and relevance of a page in response to that user’s query, a diminished user experience can be the result.

Most problematic in this scenario is the possibility that the mobile user will abandon the platform, and that happens quite frequently. This new mobile-first index is how Google will attempt to discover, crawl, and understand web pages and documents for indexing and ranking them – from a mobile-first perspective.

So, from here on out Google will primarily crawl and first index the mobile-friendly version of your website with the smartphone agent, rather than indexing the desktop version as it would have previously. However, it’s important to understand that Google will continue to show the URL that is the most appropriate to users – desktop or mobile URL – in the returned search results. So yes, there’s no need to be overly concerned that your rankings and traffic will disappear overnight.

But be very clear, this change in Google’s indexing priorities means you have to make mobile SEO a top priority.

Conduct a Mobile-friendly Test

Many of you will have already followed up on the advice that you need to have a ‘mobile-friendly’ website where the same design, structure, and content are adjusted dynamically in response to different screen sizes and devices. If so, you won’t be required to make any fundamental changes to your site. Fortunately, one of the easiest ways to check whether your site is mobile-friendly is by working with Google’s Mobile-Friendly test tool.

Are my Mobile Pages Visible to Google?

The Fetch and Render tool in the Google Search Console is great for looking at your site’s mobile-version preview after the fetch and render is complete. The rendered results will resemble what Google can see and index in response to what’s offered by your mobile site.

There is a possibility that your mobile results may not have been indexed correctly. If you have dynamic serving or different URLs for your desktop and mobile website, that will almost certainly be the case. You’ll then have to add a sitemap to your mobile site and also tag all your mobile URLs with canonical and alternate tags, before submitting it through the Google Search Console. It’s also recommended to add it to your robot.txt file, and then ensure you follow the best practices below to ready the content for mobile-first indexing:

  • The same content found on your your desktop site – text, images (with alt-attributes), and videos, all in in indexable formats – must be featured on the mobile version as well.
  • Structured data must be updated on both versions of your site.
  • Metadata, titles and meta descriptions should be present on both versions.
  • Employ search consoleto verify both versions of your site, and most particularly checking Mobile Usability to dig up any mobile usability issues that might be altering your site’s performance.
  • Check your hreflang links between mobile and desktop URLs, but do each of them separately. Mobile URLs’ hreflang should point to mobile URLs, while the desktop URL hreflang should do the same for desktop URLs.

In addition, your servers need to have sufficient capacity to a handle any potential increase in the crawl rate for the mobile version of your site, which of course is very likely!

You should also have the correct rel=canonical and rel=alternate link elements established between your mobile and desktop versions.

Next, you should run a page speed test to identify issues with the load time of any one of your pages. Free page speed tests are pretty easy to find online with a quick search. Being able to maintain a competitive speed is a must today if you aim to reduce bounce rates – and who doesn’t? If the speed of your site continues to lag, you might also want to consider implementing Google AMP for your blog and website pages. We’ve found this to be effective ourselves.

The time is definitely now to take a mobile-first approach with your entire site. It essentially means putting in the required time to fine tune everything; from structure to responsive design to speed, architecture, and all the way to the entire user experience that you’re able to offer to the mobile user. Who, more than likely, is making up ever more of the traffic to your website.

Arrival of Android ‘Things’ OS for IoT Devices

The Internet of Things, or IoT as it’s handily abbreviated, has been the foremost development in the Web world in recent years. The promise it holds for expanding upon the way we use the World Wide Web for our benefit is quite considerable, and it would appear that the world’s premier technology company is as receptive to this as you’d imagine they’d be.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re as much of a fan of Android operating systems as anyone and like any Canadian web hosting provider we understand that a good many of you will be in either the iOS or Android camps when it comes to your OS of choice. Each have their benefits, but it would now seem that Google has beaten Apple to the punch when it comes to introducing an OS that’s tailored to the IoT.

Google has announced the general release of Android Things (1.0), a managed operating system that lets users build and maintain internet of things (IoT) devices at scale.

With this new operating system developers can build smart and connected devices for multiple purposes. Consumer, retail and industrial applications to name a few. All while able to use existing Android development tools, APIs and resources to develop these new apps for specific devices.

Android Things is classified as an embedded operating system that supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy and the Weave protocol. With it you’ll be able to promote multiple ways of communication between devices. Developers can now leverage Google’s Android partner ecosystem, machine learning capabilities, as well as Google Assistant.

It will be worth noting as well that Android Things also offers software development kits (SDKs), designed to help developers when building an array of IoT devices. Google has stated it intends to partner with hardware manufacturers to provide more SDKs.

Front and centre with this new OS is the Android Things Console. Developers can use it to download and install the latest system images, as well as manage and share OEM application across products and owners, monitor informative analytics, and have over-the-air updates ‘pushed’ as necessary.

Since it was previewed in December 2016, over 10,000 developers have provided feedback about Android Things, and most of it has been decidedly positive. The fact that more than 100,000 SDKs having been downloaded in last 18 months bears that out. In the 1.0 release, Google has added support for two new System-on-Modules (SoMs) for Android Things, based on:

  • NXP i.MX8M
  • Qualcomm SDA212
  • Qualcomm SDA624
  • MediaTek MT8516

hardware platforms

Android Things will continue to support the existing Raspberry Pi 3 Model B and NXP i.MX7D devices.

All of this of course while Google continues to lead the smartphone market with its Android OS. Their aim here is to establish their presence in the emerging IoT devices market, and they may very well be the early bird that gets the worm. With an eye to bringing Android Things products to market, Google has been working closely with LG, Lenovo, and JBL.

Android Things 1.0 is available for free for non-commercial users, allowing management of up to 100 devices via the Android Things Console. Users who need to manage more than 100 devices will need to choose paid commercial subscriptions, but it projects to be well worth that investment.

The Mixing of A.I. and Mobile App Marketing

A.I. is definitely one acronym that needs no explanation, and particularly if you’re deeply immersed in the modern digital world. Artificial Intelligence is the great new frontier, and while we all know well of Siri and Alexa, etc. etc., there’s really so much more to the trend and what it will mean for us in the not so distant future.

It’s now clear that A.I. is being implemented practically, and for a premier Canadian web hosting provider like ourselves that’s really exactly what we were hoping to hear. We can now expect that AI will not only revolutionize the mobile industry, but also greatly influence the way mobile apps are marketed in the coming years. A.I. employs machine learning to analyze data and differentiate that data into accurate or inaccurate based on specific ‘truth tables’ and calculations made. The result is a more thorough approach to decisions in all domains, and the marketing of mobile apps is included in that.

The strategy for mobile app marketers then becomes whether they should incorporate the vast potential of AI to qualify user behaviour automatically, predict buying behaviours, offer recommendations to users by taking previous purchase data into account, and making tthe app’s content more engaging. Mobile app advertisers can clearly see the immense potential and need for AI in mobile app marketing, and ways they can deploy it for best results.

Here’s how:

Automated reasoning ability of A.I.

A.I. has now empowered apps to engage in independent deductive reasoning. Paired with machine learning, it holds the promise of enabling new apps that possess a human-like ability to judge themselves, completely independent of human input and instead based in computer science and mathematical logic. This is artificial intelligence at its most powerful, as it helps the user to achieve their goal in a much easier and speedy way. Programming these apps using A.I. allows them to analyze the actions of the users while they engage with the app, and then providing them with smart directions based on the analysis of any number of relevant factors.

Users then benefit from a more customized and personalized experience, rather than any standard one-for-all solution. One example is how certain taxi apps use A.I. to take traffic congestion and time of the day into consideration when offering the best possible route for the driver. Along with the data of past trips and similar routes from other taxi drivers, an intelligent solution is arrived at.

A.I. for learning purchasing behaviours

The need to upsell an app after a number of initial downloads is essential for marketers to ensure the app continues to receive downloads. As a result, marketers need to target specific customers in specific ways based on informed decisions about the purchasing behaviours of customers. It’s now clear that bombarding them with emails, push notifications, and in-app messages is NOT the way to go about this.

Using A.I. makes this aim easier for marketers by processing and analyzing this data and providing information about the behaviour of app users that sorts them into genuine leads and ones who are unlikely to express any further interest in the product. Targeted suggestions about specific products and services and the best time to push out A.I.-powered systems can also decide on these notifications for specific customers.

A.I. to provide personalized purchase recommendations for users

Advances in technology have made it so that users are expecting more personalized services. To meet users’ expectations and keep them engaged, it becomes necessary to outdistance your competitors by using A.I. to implement a learning algorithm for monitoring user choices and their likes and dislikes when working with the app. This information can then be used to keep these users engaged with the app by making relevant – and smart – recommendations. Most users these days prefer to use anything that saves them time and effort, while adding value and efficiency to their daily digital tasks.

Using A.I. to enhance user experiences and send push notifications based on the information holds great promise for getting more out of your customer base.

Adding engaging content to apps using A.I.

High uninstall rates for apps observed within 90 days from the initial download is often a result of the failure of these apps to provide users with fresh, relevant, and engaging content. An app should not come across as a content cookbook. Instead, it should contain content which is appetizing for the specific demographic to which the majority of its users belong to. Weighing A.I. based research data about these users and adding elements of personalization using machine learning goes a LONG way in facilitating more user engagement.

Research has indicated that the first five sessions a new user spends with your app are crucial in deciding whether or not they will continue using it. A.I. works in the background and learns their behaviour, and then can serve to make each session more valuable than previous ones. Done correctly, there is often huge gains with user retention and engagement. Mobile app marketers can and should use A.I. to take out the guesswork of how to deliver the right message to the right person, at just the right time and through the ideal channel.

Mobile app developers who have wisely gotten onboard with this are now using some algorithms and methodologies in machine learning to solve every problem with the right mature approach, and that certainly applies to the marketing of mobile apps. A.I. is going to have a significant impact on the mobile app marketing, and if you ignore it you’ll definitely be doing so at your own peril as far as growth and continued demand are concerned.

Faith in Firewalls?

Even the least tech-savvy individuals will likely have heard of firewalls, and understand the purpose they serve in keeping computers safe from becoming attacked or debilitated by external sources. For a long period of time, firewalls tended to be pleasantly reliable for the most part, and would defend against the entry of malicious threats to the unit itself or the network it was a part of.

Like any solid Canadian web hosting provider, those of us here at 4GoodHosting don’t need to be convinced of the need for these safeguards. However, given the nature of our business we’re also front and center for seeing how firewalls aren’t the far-reaching and reliable solution they once were.

A new report called the Dirty Secrets of Network Firewalls has found that one-in-four IT managers could not identify around 70% of network traffic, and that on average 45% of network traffic goes unidentified. The most crucial finding of the survey, however, was that most firewalls were failing to do their job adequately. Along with this ever-growing lack of visibility into network traffic comes a more threatening reality of these individuals not being able to control what they can’t see.

84% of the IT professionals who responded admitted to having real concerns about security due to lack of visibility into network traffic. A similar percentage of those same respondents agreed that lack of application visibility was a serious security concern for businesses and could impact effective network management. The results of such looseness? Ransomware, malware, data breaches and other advanced threats for starters.

Reasons for Less Reliability

Major increases in the use of encryption, browser emulation, and advanced evasion techniques are the primary factors that detract from a network firewall’s ability to provide a sufficient amount of visibility when it comes to application traffic.

The report also states that organizations spend an average of seven working days remediating infected machines each month. Even small-sized enterprises spent an average of five working days on average doing the same thing. Larger ones? Try an average of ten working days to remediate 20 machines per month. That’s a sign of both ineffectiveness and forced inefficiency, to say nothing of squandered productivity elsewhere.

The organizations polled were all looking for an integrated network and endpoint security solution that would put an end to the threats. 99% of IT managers wanted a firewall technology that will take infected computers and isolate them automatically, while 79% of them would more simply like their current firewall to serve them better. 97% of these respondents expected the same vendors to offer firewall protection that allowed direct sharing of security status information.

Lack of visibility into network traffic

In addition to the severity of these security risks, the lack of visibility is also a major concern. 52% of IT managers reported that a lack of network visibility had negative implications for business productivity, and primarily because they could not prioritize the bandwidth for critical applications. Industries that rely on custom software to meet specific business needs are finding that an inability to prioritize these mission critical applications over less important traffic is becoming quite costly. Highlighting that is the fact that 50% of the respondents who invested in custom applications were unable to identify the traffic, and making insufficiently informed decisions has been significantly impacting their return on investment.

The survey also found that:

  • An average of 45% of network traffic was going unidentified, and not controlled accordingly.
  • 4% organizations are concerned about security.
  • 3% organizations are concerned about productivity.
  • 9% IT pros wish for better protection than that provided by their current firewall.
  • Organizations dealt with 10-20 infections per month.

It’s unlikely that anyone ever saw the first incantations of firewalls to have any sort of ‘set-it, forget-it’ promise, but it’s clear now that a big-picture review of their design, function, and -most importantly – results in application is very much due. It shouldn’t take much for this to become a priority issue in the web and digital security world.