Mobile SEO: Yes, you do need to be concerned… here’s why

Big news.

On 11th June 2013 Google announced they’d be rolling out ranking changes to improve the user experience for mobile web searchers. Here’s the detail:
To improve the search experience for smartphone users and address their pain points, we plan to roll out several ranking changes in the near future that address sites that are misconfigured for smartphone users”.
Given the increasing sophistication of smartphones, the popularity of apps and our increasing mobility, you could say this shift is unsurprising. However, when you consider that 89% of UK businesses are yet to prepare their website for mobile phones, you can see there’s a lot of potential work needed to keep up to speed with Google’s algorithm and the changing behaviour of consumers.

But what’s the driver?

In short, Google is keen to enhance mobile user’s web experience by ensuring the content delivered on mobiles is user-friendly, accessible and helps searches find what they’re looking for quickly and efficiently.

And if you take a look at the following statistics, you can get a clearer picture about the rapid growth of mobile searches.

  • 77% of mobile browsers choose to use their mobile to search even if a PC is available (source:Google/Nielsen Life 360 Mobile Search Moments).
  • Mobile search accounts for a 20% share of ecommerce sales, up from 15% in the previous quarter.
  • Google reports that 1 in 7 search queriescome from mobile devices
  • Some 73% of mobile searches trigger an additional reaction including:
    • 17% who visited the store and more significantly
    • 17% who made a purchase

It means even without Google’s intervention, if your website does not provide a good user experience to mobile searchers, you will lose out on potential sales and enquiries.

However, in order to create that all important experience, it’s worth getting clear on the key differences between mobile and desktop users when it comes to searching for information via the web.

How do Desktop and Mobile Searches Differ?

The key factor is the screen size and the impact this has on layout, the appearance of content and the ease of reading and clicking through for further information.

In addition, because mobile devices are well, mobile, it means mobile searchers are likely to be looking for different things at different times and in different contexts. And given that 58% of mobile users conduct searches when they are out and about (maybe shopping, commuting etc.) they have limited time and limited patience. It means if your site takes longer than 3 seconds to load, around 40% of people will abandon you.
For example:

  • They want to find a specific location – fast
  • They are researching a particular product
  • They don’t want to click more than twice. This is a big difference to desktop users who are happier to keep clicking as long as they are getting their search queries answered.

What this also means is that certain industries are likely to receive more mobile hits purely because of the business they are in. For example searchers may want to book a table at a restaurant or book a taxi. In these situations the user is very clear about the information they are looking for and they want it immediately.

How to optimise your website for mobile

The first step is to consider how you will deliver your website to mobile searchers. As a rule, you want to develop a site that works well across all devices.

This means you have three main choices:

  1. Responsive design:

In this option the ULR is the same for both your desktop and mobile sites. A user will see the same content regardless of the device but the layout changes to reflect the smaller screen size (e.g. less images or subtly different navigation). To access specific information users will need to “pinch and drag” to zoom in BUT this option can work well for content-rich websites and for users wanting to read blogs and other content on the go.

  1. Dynamic serving:

Again this option has the same ULR for both desktop and mobile sites BUT delivers different content dependent on the device used. This option can be complicated to implement but is a good solution if the full desktop content makes the mobile version load too slowly.

  1. Mobile ULRs:

In this option your mobile and desktop sites will have a different ULR. In turn, the content delivered up on each version can be completely tailored – it means your mobile site can be tweaked and designed specifically to address the requirements of mobile users. However, because Google sees different URLs as different pages, you need to ensure the relationship between the two domains is clear. What’s more, in this age of social sharing it’s also important to ensure re-directs are in place so if a user does choose to view your website from a desktop, they are re-directed appropriately – after all a mobile version of your website will look pretty rubbish on the big screen!

Over to you…

Are you one of the 89% of UK businesses who have not considered the implications of mobile SEO? Are you concerned you’re losing traffic and potential customers because your mobile user experience is compromised? Do you worry about the impact of Google’s latest game changer on your rankings?

If you have any comments or questions, I’d love to hear them, so please leave your message in the comment box below. I hope you found the post helpful. If you did, please share it… thank you.

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