Why mobile SEO should be a part of your digital marketing plan
Mobile SEO is not another digital marketing fad. The smartphone has become the number one device for digital media consumption, and this trend will not change soon. In this article, I will try to convince you, a small business owner, that optimising your website for mobile is crucial for its online success.
Mobile trends in ireland
In 2016, Deloitte published a report claiming Irish consumers are the biggest mobile internet users in the western world. Statista’s forecast for smartphone usage in Ireland suggests we can expect a significant increase in smartphone penetration within the next few years. The predictions are that, by 2021, there will be 3.87 million smartphone users in the country.
A recent 2017 Irish Total Retail Survey by PwC Ireland confirms the trend. The survey authors urge all ecommerce websites owners to invest in a mobile friendly website and focus on providing mobile-first online retail experience to remain competitive.
The mobile shift is real, and it is happening, right now.
Mobile optimised website and SEO
One of the main reasons Irish people access internet on mobile is to use the Google search engine (next to checking email and social media - according to Statista’s data). This gives you a great opportunity to put your business website in front of consumers actively searching for the products or services you provide. However, if you are serious about ranking well in the Google search engine, you MUST invest in a mobile-friendly website.
In April 2015, Google released an algorithm update that emphasised the importance of providing good user experience for mobile users. After the update release, many websites experienced an instant drop in rankings due to the fact they had no responsive design. The demotion of non-responsive sites was so significant that SEOs all over the world discussed the update in terms of Mobocalypse or Mobilegeddon.
Also, the fact Google created a free Mobile-Friendly Test tool for webmasters clarifies it is time to think mobile-first!
Provide great mobile user experience to increase conversion rates
As more users access internet on mobile in Ireland, it is important to make it easy for them to navigate on your website, find the information they need, and allow them to perform the actions they want on the site quickly.
Ecommerce websites and mobile
If you sell online, you need to make sure a mobile version of your website enables customers to find the products they are looking for easily and quickly complete the purchase process. As 30% of Irish consumers expect their smartphone to become their main shopping tool (2017 Irish Total Retail Survey), a mobile optimised website is a must to remain in ecommerce business.
Mobile SEO for brick and mortar businesses
A mobile-friendly website should be a priority for the traditional brick and mortar companies, too. I am sure you have heard the term local SEO, meaning Google aims to provide results that relate to a searcher’s location.
As an example, imagine a customer shopping in the Cork city centre. After visiting dozens of clothing stores, she becomes hungry and wants to find a restaurant within a reasonable (walking) distance. She need not type a search query including her location specific keywords (restaurants in Cork city centre on St. Patrick’s street) – Google knows where she is, thanks to a GPS built into her phone (and some other information Google has about her). Instead, she simply types ‘restaurants nearby’ and gets accurate results. As she is hungry, there is no time for in-depth research – a quick glance over the top few search results is enough to help her choose a restaurant.
What does it mean to a local business owner? Mobile users actively search for your services and products on the go, with a strong purchase intent. According to Google Mobile Playbook, as much as 78% of local-mobile searches result in an offline purchase (where 50% happen within one day of the initial mobile search). As you can see, even the smallest business owner must make sure her company website is included in local search results to attract customers.
B2B industry and mobile optimisation
The B2B industry has been slow in embracing mobile for business. However, as more tech savvy young people using smartphones are joining the workforce, this is about to change.
According to a joint survey by Google & Millward Brown Digital (2015), 89% of B2B researchers use the internet during B2B research, where 42% use mobile at some stage of the research process. Considering that approx. 50% of employees involved in the B2B research are Millennials, we can expect the number of mobile b2b related searches to continue growing. To stay innovative and gain a competitive advantage, b2B companies must include mobile traffic in their marketing strategy.
Multichannel customer journey includes mobile searches
Another interesting trend, called cross-device or multi-channel buyer journey, should make you rethink your ‘desktop-only web visitors’ strategy. Google says approx. 90% of people use multiple devices for everyday activities, including to research various purchase options available to them. According to Smart Insights (2017), nearly half of these consumers start mobile research with a search engine. A high number of smartphone users discover a new company or product when performing a Google search on their smartphone (Google, 2015). Do you want to miss your chance to be found by your ideal clients online? If not, optimise your website for mobile device users.
Mobile SEO and competitive advantage
As you can see, it does not matter what type of business you are in – mobile and tablet global internet usage has exceeded desktop (Statcounter, 2016), and this affects EVERY business and its marketing strategy. Service providers, local brick and mortar businesses, ecommerce stores owners, B2B companies – no one is immune to the mobile trend.
Unfortunately, many Cork businesses seem unaware of this. I keep seeing outdated, poorly constructed websites not optimised for mobile. These companies are missing a lot of potential sales by not being found on Google by customers and providing a poorly structured website that is simply unusable for site visitors.
Case study 1:
A Cork based law firm has an outdated, brochure style, website not optimised for mobile screens. Trying to click navigation buttons on a small mobile screen requires multiple attempts from the user. The user experience is bad and creates frustration, not to mention the outdated feel and look of the website that simply does not look professional. If I searched for legal services and somehow landed on this website, I would most likely hit the BACK button and the check competitors’ sites. If they provide a better experience and more professional looking website, I would be more inclined to contact them over the firm discussed in this case study.
As expected – this law company is not on the first (or even second) page of Google search results for their core business keywords (including the city …and street the company is on!).
I used SEMrush software to check SEO related metrics for the website, but there was no organic search traffic data (meaning: people searching for solicitors in Cork in Google are not finding this firm online).
Case study 2:
An ecommerce store offering personalised baby gifts nationwide. The website is not mobile-friendly, and it is simply impossible to use it on any device other than PC or laptop (large screen size device). As expected, this site is not ranking for ANY of the business core keywords, and there is no organic traffic to it coming from Google. The company’s main online competitor (dominating Google SERP for baby gifts in Ireland related keywords) has a mobile optimised website and enjoys an average of 1, 400 website visitors each month.
Case studies summary
There is much more to SEO than having a mobile optimised website - the companies discussed above have neglected every other aspect of SEO and visitors’ experience. However, mobile optimisation is an important ranking factor that cannot be ignored any longer by Irish businesses as it negatively affects rankings, as well as conversion rates.
Optimising websites for smartphone users – things to consider
If you are working on a new website or plan to improve mobile users’ experience on an existing one, consider these elements of mobile optimisation:
1) Site speed: As the Kissmetric study shows, people expected websites to load within 2-3 seconds on mobile. Test your website’s speed and improve it if necessary.
TIP: From my experience, most small businesses are unfamiliar with images for web optimisation, and large images alone can decrease the loading speed enormously. Check this post about optimising imagery for web if you need to solve this problem on your website.
2) Responsive design: Use responsive templates to create a website or design a mobile dedicated website using a separate website URL (m.yoursitedomain). Another option would be a dynamic design, meaning various versions of content are shown to a website visitor depending on the device they use.
3) Design for small screen and consider the context of mobile visits: Make sure buttons and navigation links are large and easy to use and provide the most important and useful content for THE USER first (call to actions, like BOOK NOW, search products, main navigation buttons including the MOST important sections of the website etc.). Always think about the reason visitors accessed the site in the first place -what are their motivations? What do they want to achieve? What information do they need to achieve their goals? Give them what they need and do it FAST.
4) Use Schema.org mark-up for local SEO.
5) Follow Google’s guidelines on on-page and off-page white hat SEO.
6) Test your website’s mobile SEO performance using Mobile-Friendly Test free tool.
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