As of last year, mobile Internet use has, for the first time, been greater than desktop traffic. Since more people own mobile devices – and are increasingly able to do more things with them – naturally, mobile was one of topics that dominated the recent SES London conference.
As Google’s Ian Carrington said in his keynote, “If you’re not doing [mobile] correctly, you’re going to fall on your face like a lot of companies did with desktop in the ’90s.” Carrington was far from the only speaker to offer mobile tips for search marketers. Based on what came up repeatedly in various sessions, here are five things to focus on:
Despite the ubiquity of mobile, a surprising number of companies – including big ones like Disney, Argos, and Calvin Klein – have websites that aren’t mobile-responsive or contain bad links. According to BrightEdge, 27 percent of mobile sites are misconfigured, which leads to a loss of 68 percent of smartphone traffic, as well as higher bounce rates, which affect search rankings.
Other easily avoidable mistakes where local is concerned include not having a single crawlable URL for each branch of your company, not having a local data aggregator, and solely targeting commercial keywords.
Getting all those mistakes under wraps “will really help you to be rewarded by search engines over time because you’ll see better visibility in the search results,” says Shelley Appiah, SEO manager at Homeserve Alliance, which provides marketing services to U.K. heating businesses.
Keeping social on the forefront, rather than just utilizing it for promotions, is a good idea because social affects a company’s rank on search engines. While Google doesn’t factor likes and retweets into its algorithm, it does use social to gauge what’s popular.
Engaging with local influencers, such as bloggers and elite Yelp members, can help companies to increase their visibility, as these influencers have large built-in audiences. “Potential customers are looking for advice and solutions before they even get to the purchasing stage,” Appiah adds. “You can be there to offer that advice. It’s a great PR opportunity.”
According to Adrian Cutler, head of digital at Globalclick, a company that specializes in providing marketing services in the online gaming and e-commerce industries, social is just one channel in the mobile sphere; it’s important to integrate them. Linking social, paid search, and apps – and linking devices – allows users to see their Google+ followers, for instance.
“A lot of brands are still treating mobile like a channel and that’s wrong,” Cutler says. “Mobile isn’t a channel; it’s a way of life.”
Carrington’s top tip for search marketers is to understand the role that mobile plays in all channels, beyond social. He names Macy’s as one company in particular that measures the way mobile drives in-store shopping.
“By being able to measure attribution, you will then know how much mobile is helping other channels and therefore you can spend money on mobile knowing that it’s not only about sales on a mobile device,” he says. “We also see this with desktop where mobile plays a huge part in assisting desktop sales, knowing this means you spend on mobile knowing it drives overall sales.”
Consumers have far less patience for a slow mobile experience than they do with desktop, so speed is key. According to January research from application performance management platform Dynatrace, 36 percent of U.K. consumers and 46 percent of U.S. and French consumers said they would abandon a mobile site that took longer than three seconds to load. In the U.S. and the U.K., roughly the same number would reportedly be likely to leave a negative app store review or complain about a poor mobile experience on social media; in France, the number jumps up to 61 percent of respondents.
A company’s set-up, whether it be responsive, separate URLs, or dynamic serving, can help with speed, depending on the nature of the business. “Companies that use a lot of images may decide that actually, responsive is not the best option for them because of slow loading,” says Adam Whittles, SEO director at the London office of global agency Maxus. Page speed is an important ranking factor, Whittles adds.
As more people eschew mobile browsers to search in-app, it becomes that much more crucial for brands to have apps.
“Depending on how people are interacting with the site, it may be that the app gives a better user experience than a mobile website,” Whittles says. Searching in-app is particularly popular for websites like Yelp and eBay, as well as industries such as social media and banking.