Is it time for business owners to focus on mobile? Should you be focusing the majority of our digital marketing efforts on the mobile arena?
No. We’re not quite there yet. But if Google’s lead and recent announcement is any indicator (and it always is), then the use of mobile devices to access digital information has reached a tipping point.
Google made their seismic announcement via their Webmaster Central blog just this past February:
Starting April 21 , we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.
This change in ranking for “mobile-friendliness” is expected to have a huge impact on mobile search results. Websites who have not updated their designs to be mobile responsive across the various platforms, laptop, tablet, phone and newer wrist devices will dropdown in ranking, allowing their up-to-date competitors to rise to the top of mobile search results.
Earlier this year, in February 2015, Google began using mobile app indexing as a factor in ranking search results for users signed into apps on their mobile devices. So, the move to mobile isn’t just affecting website searches, but searches for app content as well.
To understand just how important this move to mobile is in relation to digital marketing, we need to review some of the statistics that are driving Google’s decisions.
Changes in User Activity
In June of 2014, comScore, a leading source of big data analytics related to internet technology, released a report documenting mobile’s rise to prominence over the desktop PC. According to the report, mobile access time was still lagging behind the desktop PC in March of 2013. In the months to follow, usage hours of mobile device apps and internet access climbed steadily, as desktop internet access dropped. By midyear in 2014, 60% of digital access hours were now being logged on mobile devices.
Other metrics provided by comScore during 2014 relate to effectiveness of advertising and marketing via mobile versus desktop. Although users are still more likely to actually finalize a purchase on a desktop, the effectiveness of mobile advertising versus desktop display ads during the presale period showed amazing impact. “Likelihood to Recommend” showed up at 5.3 percentage points on mobile versus only 1.5 on desktop display ads.
How Well Does Your Website Measure Up?
If you’ve updated your website design in the last couple of years, mobile responsiveness should have been one of the priorities on your list of features. If it wasn’t or you aren’t sure, it’s time to find out how your website is displaying and performing across different mobile platforms.
Are your users seeing what you want them to see, no matter whether they are on their tablet, smartphone, laptop or PC? What happens when users attempt to access your website URL from their mobile device? Does it ask them to download your app, does it take them to your mobile site or do they simply get an error?
In preparation for the launch of the new mobile algorithm, Google has been offering up some helpful information for website owners to help them check for potential problem areas that can be a hindrance to both their future search ranking and areas of basic user-friendliness. Below are some of the common problems that Google has noted, which can develop with mobile site access.
There are some types of content, particularly videos, that aren’t properly formatted to play on mobile platforms. All your media assets on your site should be tested across the various mobile platforms. Media requiring Flash creates one of the most common media issues on a mobile platform.
What do users see when they try to access your desktop website URL from their mobile device? In some cases, users find that entering the URL they use to access a website on their desktop sends them to a 404 error page when entered on a mobile device. It should be set to redirect them to the mobile site. When your desktop site and your mobile site have separate URLs, the desktop URL should be set to automatically redirect a mobile device to the mobile version of the site.
Apps Blocking Website Access
Some websites have been set to block access when the URL is entered from a mobile device and request that the user download their app instead. Mobile users are all about convenience and speed. Not being given a choice of whether to access the site or wait for the download of the app can lead some users to click away from your screen altogether. Google suggests using a small banner at the top of your page encouraging them to download the app, rather than blocking website access. Another point related to user convenience is how fast your mobile pages load. You can check your load speed with Google PageSpeed Insights.
Cross Platform Links
Page links that aren’t consistent with the platform is another frequent problem on websites that have both mobile and desktop versions. In this case, a mobile user may click on a link on the mobile site that takes them to the desktop version of the page instead of the mobile site page or vice-versa.
Googlebot has to have access to these files in order to read your site properly. If you haven’t provided the proper robot access, you may be blocking Google and hindering a good ranking, even though other users read the site just fine. To see your site pages as they are read by Googlebot, use Google’s Webmaster Tools. There is a feature called “Fetch as Google” that will give you insight into what Google has access to and what might be blocked.
As you can see, the move to mobile includes a whole new list of variables to consider in regard to your website alone. The growing use of apps over mobile sites further adds to the complexity of these issues. Working with website designers and developers who maintain diligence in their training and education is critical to keeping your website current. Thorough testing of all the complex elements of website function across all platforms is also required to assure the optimum in user experience, as well as to achieve top ranking with the changing Google algorithms.