Preparing for Google’s Mobile-First Mindset and Local SEO Success
When it comes to staying on pace with the latest in online trends, brick-and-mortar businesses seem to be one step behind search engines and even further behind the consumers they serve. Over 77% of Americans own smartphones, nearly 60% of all their searches are initiated on mobile devices, and Google has finally made the transition from Mobile-Friendly to Mobile-First! Yet 29% of small businesses don’t even have websites and even fewer have websites that are truly optimized for mobile devices.
From the ‘mom-and-pop’ restaurant down the street to the national department store in every mall, when it comes to a building a digital marketing strategy that will drive more traffic to your physical locations – if you haven’t already – it’s time to start thinking mobile-first!
From Mobile-Friendly to Mobile-First: Google Sets New Precedent with Mobile-First Indexing
The essence behind how the new mobile-friendly algorithm would come into play is that Google would continue to crawl the web and index the desktop versions of web pages. After indexing, it would then apply the mobile-friendly algorithm and pages with mobile counterparts would receive a boost in the rankings as compared to those pages without mobile versions.
The key here is that Google was still crawling, indexing and ranking the desktop version of a page’s content. Now, with the majority of searches coming from mobile devices, Google has made the decision to convert to a mobile-first indexing process.
This means that when available, Google’s algorithms will primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, regardless of whether users are searching from a mobile device or desktop.
As the popularity of mobile search continues to grow, mobile-first indexing will provide more relevant and accurate results to searchers because it evaluates the actual page that is being seen by mobile searchers. This type of indexing avoids the issues that occur when mobile pages have less content than the desktop pages. In order to further mitigate these issues, Google recommends a responsive or dynamic serving site where the primary content and markup is equivalent across both the mobile and desktop versions. (Read more about mobile friendly site options here)
What’s the key takeaway from all of this? More than just mobile-friendly, Google is now placing a major emphasis on mobile optimization and so should you!
Why go Mobile?
Consumers are driving the change. They are spending more time searching on their mobile devices than desktops. Everything that customers once did on their computers is now being done on their mobile devices. They are consuming content, researching products, engaging with businesses and making purchases.
One of the largest fields to benefit from a mobile connected world has been local search, and as a result, the ease by which customers can find brick and mortar businesses. Hungry? Check Yelp for a nearby restaurant. Looking for a new doctor? Search Facebook Places for a local physician. Need an oil change? Pull up Google Maps to find the closest auto shop.
Nearly 90% of customers who search for a type of local business on a mobile device call or visit that business within 24 hours! Mobile local search is easy, fast and effective.
Mobile local search has become ingrained in consumers lives and in order to deliver a more seamless experience for its users, Google is pushing for a mobile-centric world. Given that Google drives 96% of all mobile search traffic, my guess is that businesses will follow suit.
Optimizing for A Mobile-Centric World
For brick-and-mortar businesses, optimizing for mobile makes sense even if Google wasn’t already pushing for it. The mobile-first mindset is all about user experience and meeting your customers where they are – making the customer’s journey from online to offline simpler and more effective. Optimizing for a mobile-centric world will lead to greater visibility online, a higher volume of foot traffic at your physical locations and more conversions.
What to optimize:
Site Speed and Load Times – As smartphones have become more powerful and versatile, so too have users’ demands for top performance from websites. Mobile searchers are on the go and they are looking for answers quickly. They don’t want to wait around for sluggish sites and bulky files to load, they want to know what you offer, what other people are saying about you, how to find you, and they want to know it now.
Functionality – The navigation, layout and size of content, fields for typing, etc., all function differently on mobile devices. The nature of mobile devices vs. desktops means that some tasks will be harder to accomplish than others. Be sure that your site is optimized for the users tapping and scrolling experience.
Content – You don’t have to strip the mobile version of your site down to the bare bones, but be concise. People don’t consume content the way they would on a desktop site. Keep the content on your pages focused around a single topic you want to rank for and a single action you want the user to take, whether that be calling, requesting directions or reading customer reviews.
Whether they are looking to buy online or in store, customers start their purchase journey on the internet and more frequently than ever before, these journeys are taking place on a mobile device. As a brick-and-mortar business, your online presence is meant to facilitate the online-to-offline process and drive more traffic to your physical locations.
Optimizing your website for mobile will help improve your search rankings, however, users often obtain all of the information they need directly from your listings found in the local search results. This means that while your mobile site improves rankings, your ratings, reviews, photos and listing data is responsible for whether or not a customer chooses your business.