Mobile SEO comes from more of a user experience perspective than mere content configuration. The amount of use that occurs on mobile devices as opposed to laptops or desktop computers has increased significantly since 2008. There has been a significant increase in digital consumption via mobile devices up 12% or more since 2008.
Google put out an update on their search bots that will be released in 2018, creating the mobile first index. Gary Illyes, a Google web trends analyst at a recent conference in June 2017, said that the mobile first index doesn’t de-rank desktop only sites, however it will be searching for mobile sites as a priority.
SEO Is Geared Towards Quality User Experience
Google search bots, and other search engines look for quality markers in a website. These include the use of headers containing keywords, content that is around 1500 to 2000 words, images that are tagged with keywords and a site that is mobile responsive.
For mobile sites, the site has to load quickly, and pop ups that capture email addresses should be avoided completely and only used on lead capture pages in return for free products, or desktop only versions of the site.
The site should stream video at a bit-rate suitable for mobile and any images should be scaled at a viewable but low resolution to speed up site load times.
Purchase Intent: Mobile Versus Desktop
Researchers have found that the majority of purchases made by people were influenced by mobile advertising and mobile use. Direct marketing has another strong push towards people buying particular products and services.
Anything from homewares to household furniture has been purchased via mobile sites, so any businesses that do not feature a mobile optimised site are going to miss out on valuable opportunities for sales.
Adology conducted the study, and in the report, over 49% of respondents indicated that mobile applications or marketing featured strongly in creating their decision to purchase.
Keyword research in the realm of purchase intent has indicated that discount, coupon, affordable, buy and purchase along with long tail search strings are the most optimal for converting searches into sales. When combined with dedicated mobile sites, the rate of sales conversion significantly increases.
For e-commerce sites, long tail keywords should be built into each inventory item, including a purchase intent keyword. A blog should be attached to the e-store, that includes at least five interlinked articles that build a strong focus on pushing solutions to potential purchasers.
Ways to Take Advantage of the Mobile First Index
Given that mobile use is paired with more frequent buying. Consumers often use their mobiles when they are on the go and it is convenient for them to buy when they have some spare time.
For example during a commute, for a customer to be more likely to make a purchase, it makes sense to get a mobile site that is totally optimised for mobile responsiveness and simple to navigate.
Design of a mobile site first, before the desktop site ensures that everything flows sequentially in the user experience. This ensures that SEO is a cornerstone feature of the website.
Google’s Rules for SEO
Google recently released their specifications for mobile friendliness, and this list means that sites have to be more user experience based. Google has a preference for one URL, and responsiveness across a number of different types of devices, to make useability much easier.
Social sharing is a way to send organic traffic around the Internet, and the more social media channels that you have geared towards engaging with customers, the more streams you have of traffic that are pushed towards your URL.
Redirects to a URL starting with an http://m.(URLname) significantly penalise websites because they increase site load times and cause bounces. A lot of desktop sites that have not been configured for mobile responsiveness also have a large bounce rate due to the small text size and high resolution of the desktop images.
Mobile data is often limited on people’s phone plans, and they have to budget this data. They are less likely to enjoy websites that take a long time to download, so will abort the page view, in favour of preserving their data.
If you want to ensure that a site visitor will stay on your website, it is imperative that you need to focus on what makes a high quality mobile site.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Building a Mobile Responsive Site
Google has listed a number of mistakes that it recommends web developers avoid when they are building a mobile responsive website. These assist in providing overall a better user experience when these are avoided, and also allow a site to be indexed.
The Google Search Console can be used to test your website; so that you can emulate how the Google bots will crawl through and view your images. It will give you a good idea as to the responsiveness of your site.
Some animations or video content cannot be played on a mobile, and it is better to use standard HTML5 on your website in order to ensure that the content is embedded and able to play.
A lot of enterprises find that it is useful to host a video on YouTube which is generally able to be played back and standardised for a variety of devices, and when this is done in an iframe and embedded into a website it generally plays successfully 99% of the time.
Consider when you are playing your video content that it should be at a low resolution, and not an extensively long playing time if you know you are primarily targeting mobile customers.
Flash, and some other animation programs are not mobile friendly. This means that they will lead to blank screens, frustrated end users and Google ranking them a lot lower in the new mobile index. Interstitials that are used to capture contact details are very bad for user experience.
These are used to provide free apps or other downloads for users, but due to the lack of screen space on a mobile device, it causes frustration and a bounce off the website. It also causes indexing issues.
It is best to use other methods of list building than using pop-overs on a mobile website. These can be fine on a desktop version of a site, but they often obstruct what the user wants to see, causing severe frustration.
It is also imperative to ensure that all redirects are made to the correct webpage, if a desktop URL redirects to a mobile version of the site, then all of the URL redirects have to be sent to the corresponding mobile page.
If these are full of broken links, Google bots crawling through have to mark it as a poor quality site and ensure that it is less likely to be returned in search results.
Google’s ideal is to push through search engine results that are both relevant and excellent user experience. Without these, it is unlikely that a website will be indexed. If a poor experience is offered on a website, it is also entirely possible that a website will be blacklisted by Google.
Mobile websites offer the best opportunities for e-stores that offer goods and services under a certain dollar value, such as furniture, clothing, electrical goods and gifts. For larger items that people spend a lot of money on, they tend to use desktop websites.
Mobile Versus Desktop Site User Behaviour
85% of people in a survey said that mobile use was part of their daily life; this means that you have an opportunity to gain a wider audience when you create a responsive mobile site. Desktop users usually do what they need to between the hours of nine a.m. to six p.m. and mobile users have peak periods of use between the hours of six a.m. to nine a.m. and six p.m. to eleven p.m. in the evenings.
Content is Geared Towards the Price
Dr Joe Vitale in his book Hypnotic Writing has alluded to the price of a product, and how much copy is required in order to create a sales conversion. The higher the price of the product, the larger the amount of copy that is required in order to sell a specific product.
Generally for large ticket items over $5000, a lot of time and investment into research is spent on desktop devices, and this was statistically demonstrated in the research study done by Microsoft and the Financial Times.
A desktop site with an optimised mobile version that features quality content should convert sales successfully. When people are using mobile devices they are usually searching for specific information, and when they are looking for a lot of information, they spend time on a desktop site.
The more time they spend researching a product, the higher the price of the product usually is, and this is why quality content is key to creating sales conversions.
The mobile first index is reflecting consumer behaviour, in that generally a person will hear about a concept, have a brief search on their mobile device when they have a few minutes spare in their leisure time, and then revert to a desktop site if there is a large financial commitment and they have a serious purchase intent for an expensive item.
The more expensive the item, the more time they will research it, and the more important it is to include long tail keywords and purchase intent keywords.
Users Prefer Searching on Mobile and Purchasing on Desktop
Studies have shown that mobile users are usually doing pre-purchase research on their mobiles, and then they return to the desktop site later when they are ready to buy.
Time spent on a mobile site is important, because information presented to a site user should be succinct, the content should talk about all of the benefits of the product for the user, and it should convert into sales when the user switches to the desktop site.
E-commerce stores or other businesses selling products and services virtually benefit the most when they have both a mobile site and a desktop site. This services all phases of the buying cycle, where a person goes through and researches, and then with purchase intent, finds a desktop site where they can clearly see the product, enter in credit card numbers, get confirmation and take their time in ensuring all of the details of their purchase are correct.
In a study conducted by Neilsen, xAD and Telmetrics, pre-purchase research on mobile sites was driving sales conversions right up. Many people with purchase intent were using their mobile phones, and returned within an hour generally to make a purchase.
Given that most mobile users are millenials, with disposable income, and less financial commitments, the types of products bought by this customer base are more novelty, branded, clothing, and less expensive purchases rather than older consumers with children and home owners.
Mobile SEO versus Desktop SEO – Who Will Win the War?
Is there really a need for a war in the world of SEO, or should mobile responsive websites be the partner and adjunct to the main desktop site, and they take each other by the hand, make peace and work together as a team, faithfully converting visitors into loyal repeat purchases?
It isn’t really a case of winning and losing, it is a case of looking at the real types of demographics in the industry and the audience that is served by your company, getting out of your own ego (like Dr Joe Vitale explains) and investing in that beautifully responsive mobile site that serves the needs of consumers so that they can effortlessly and easily go and purchase what they need quite happily?
In the end it all comes down to great customer service. Make sure you get on board with the mobile first index, because that is where your consumers are going, and missing out means your business will suffer. Take advantage of this new trend, and your business will thrive.
What do you think about the different types of SEO? Is your website ready for Googles mobile-first indexing in 2018? If not, how will you prepare your website for this change? Let us know in the comments below, we would love to hear from you!
Lucas is the Managing Director and the Head of SEO Strategy at SEO Shark. He has over 15 years of experience in achieving SEO results for small and medium businesses as well as multinational and ASX-listed brands. He is also an author of multiple publications about digital marketing.