Post by Dan Malachowski, Marketing Director with insights from Meghan Ryan, SEO Analyst

Google recently announced two new algorithmic updates that align with its goal to incentive brands to create and optimize mobile-friendly content.  First—on April 21st—Google will expand “mobile-friendliness” as an organic ranking signal, which (according to Google) will have “significant impact on [Google’s] search results.”  Second—starting now—Google will more prominently surface indexed app content to signed-in users who have the app installed.

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?

Performics predicts that by the end of 2015, mobile search volume will outpace desktop.  Brands that aren’t squarely focused on creating optimal mobile experiences will be left in the dust.  However, many brands still haven’t created mobile experiences that they can be proud of.  With this recent evolution, Google is continuing the trend of trying to push brands to focus on mobile.  Other recent updates include Google penalizing sites with poor mobile redirects and Google’s new Mobile Usability Report, which helps advertisers optimize content by identifying potential issues for users viewing pages on mobile devices.

Although being in Google’s favor is an added benefit, you don’t have to focus on mobile experiences because Google wants you to.  You have to focus on mobile experiences because your customers want you to.  Making it easy for people to discover relevant content, optimized for their devices, is critical to driving engagement, leads and conversions going forward.  This requires a performance content strategy with mobile at its center.

BEST PRACTICES for BRANDS

Mobile-Friendliness

Organic algorithms have evolved to favor quality content and experiences, and this is especially pronounced in mobile.  Key considerations for mobile-friendliness include:

  • Ease-of-use:  Create easy-to-read pages on smartphones with content that only scrolls up and down, not side-to-side.  Move high-impact website content to HTML5 (as Flash isn’t supported on some devices).  Utilize viewports for usability.  Additionally, avoid small fonts, and don’t use multiple font types and sizes (which can appear messy on mobile devices).
  • Accessibility: Ensure that tap targets aren’t tiny or cluttered, which make page content (such as a search bar or navigation link) difficult for mobile users to engage with
  • Navigation: All pages should include a simple search box, with a link to advanced search options, to help users navigate your site.  Global navigation should include links to the homepage, browsable lists, the search page and help.  Product pages should include sorting options (e.g. new, lowest price, etc.).  And your global footer should include links to the homepage, general company info and user assistance.
  • Conversion: Reducing the number of steps to check-out is critical on mobile; think speed-to-conversion.  Fine-tune sign-up, registration and checkout processes by streamlining forms and removing unnecessary exit points.  Track metrics around user experience (e.g. bounce rates, time-on-site, site speed) and conversion (sales, sign-ups, leads, store locator interactions, coupon downloads, etc.) to inform optimization.

In preparation for Google’s algorithm update, you can also test your mobile pages using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool.

App Indexing

As Google strives to surface more app content, brands must ensure that their apps are indexable.  When users are signed-in to Google and have the app installed on their device, Google can now crawl the app’s content similarly to how it crawls content on a mobile site.

Brands should also consider “deep linking” in apps, which is the ability to connect app content to a specific page on your brand’s mobile website.  Then, when a user clicks a mobile search result, Google may direct that user to the correlating content on the app—which may result in a better user experience.  App optimization thus requires brands to consider which experience (e.g. app or mobile site) is best per user need.  Then, that experience needs to be optimized for mobile.

HOW to ACTIVATE

Success in this new era of mobile dominance requires mobile-optimized content, like mobile sites and apps.  Brands should leverage the expertise of Performics Performance Content team to develop and optimize this content.

Additionally, mobile site redesign or app development cannot be undertaken in a silo.  SEO and conversion optimization strategy must be baked into every step of the mobile experience development process—enabling you to better design for mobile visibility, engagement and conversion.

For more info on Creating & Optimizing Mobile Content & Experiences, please contact your performance account team today.