In a Marketing Land report, it was found that 60% of Internet access is now mostly mobile. InMobi, a mobile advertising platform, also stated that 61% of mobile Internet users are on mobile even while watching TV, while Nielsen has found that 84% of smartphone and tablet users use their gadgets as second screen devices while watching TV.
Mobile: The New Search Traffic King
This rise of mobile usage should motivate businesses to dig deeper and identify how to benefit from this high population of potential consumers. Optimizing business websites for mobile is certainly a key ingredient, and an even more proactive measure in the form of a Google algorithm update will soon be rolled out to encourage more businesses to follow suit.
What Google's Mobile-Friendly Algorithm Means for Websites
With the February 2015 announcement of the upcoming release of Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm, businesses with sites that are not mobile-optimized are warned to expect a significant impact on their search engine rankings, as mobile-friendliness will be more widely used as a ranking signal.
Angie Pascale, marketing manager of Indaba Group, was quoted as saying that by the April 21 launch, “If your site doesn’t pass Google’s mobile-friendliness test, it may lose visibility on mobile search results.” Pascale also asserts that Google’s algorithm determines mobile-friendliness on a page-by-page basis, so all of the pages in your site must pass.
This can mean quite a bit of work for businesses with sites not optimized for mobile, as has been the case with Cloudswave’s reconstruction of the site in the company’s bid to deliver a mobile-friendly experience to its audience, aside from complying with Google’s SEO policies, of course.
Which may lead other already hassled business owners to ask why there is a need for all this fuss. What is the motivation for this stricter implementation?
That is, if the answer isn’t already painfully obvious.
A Catalyst for Consumer Interest and Buy-in
A study by Google (published in November 2013 in partnership with Nielsen) found five key discoveries. The study indicates that:
- In an average week, consumers spend 15+hours researching using their smart phones.
- Between a search engine and a mobile app, users lean more towards search engine use.
- 69% of consumers want businesses to be close to where they are – within 5 miles, as most purchases take place in brick-and-mortar stores.
- More than 50% of consumers intend to make a purchase within an hour of researching on their mobile phones.
- 93% of users are using their mobile devices to research complete a purchase.
An earlier Google study entitled “The Mobile Movement: Understanding Smartphone Users” conducted by independent market research firm Ipsos OTX, found that:
- 74% of users make a purchase as a direct result of using their smartphones to shop.
- 88% of users looking for local information via their smartphones end up taking action within a day.
- According to 77% of smartphone users, the most visited websites are search engines, followed by social networking, retail sites and video-sharing sites.
- 90% of smartphone searches results in an action (purchase, subscription, website visit and others).
From these numbers, it is easy to see that a notable percentage of purchases are largely aided, if not instigated by, mobile search. Mobile search is the catalytic agent that moves users to respond to a call to action.
Mobile Optimization for Better Search Visibility
Since 2014, mobile has exceeded PC Internet usage, indicating that the rise of mobile is past the speculative point. Mobile is not the next big thing. Mobile is the now, and these statistics should be used by businesses to guide their mobile marketing strategy.
A responsive site design is no longer a nice-to-have feature but a necessity that responsible business owners should leverage. In the long run, the enforcement of this algorithm update will force, in a way, businesses to better serve their customers and potential consumers through a mobile-optimized website.
Until Then, What Steps Should You Take?
Avoid the most common mistakes:
- A page where the text, links, and other content are too small and you have to scroll sideways or zoom to properly see all the content
- Mobile pages too slow to load
- Sites that serve content to desktop users but serve 404s to mobile users, as desktop URLs should have corresponding redirects to mobile URLs
- Mistakenly linking mobile users to desktop URLs
Other non-mobile-friendly site characteristics to avoid:
- Too many click-through pages
- Call-to-actions that are too large or take up a whole page
- Using absolute pixel rules versus relative/by percentage rules with image rendering
- Too many pop-ups; compared to desktop users, it is more frustrating for mobile users to close too many pop-ups, and this may lead to higher bounce rates
Implement the following instead:
- Check out and follow Google’s mobile-friendly criteria and mobile SEO guidelines for webmasters.
- To test whether your website passes these criteria, Google also released its mobile-friendly testing tool.
- If your site does not pass the mobile-friendly criteria, the tool tells you what to do.
- Follow the instructions, look for third-party services or hire a developer to fully optimize your site for mobile.
- Test again to see if your site passes this time.
- Google your site to see if a gray “mobile-friendly” site label is now added to your site in the mobile search results page.
- Monitor traffic starting April 21. While this expected algorithm update is foremost on most webmasters’ minds, full rollout is said to take up to a week.
Optimizing for both mobile and desktop may seem like hard work, but with mobile and handheld devices becoming more and more ubiquitous, the best thing to remember is to develop a site that is accessible through various mediums. Be it desktop, tablet, or smartphone, the best strategy is to responsively deliver to your customers the information they need via their platform of choice.