The Best Ways to Optimise for Mobile Search

Without a mobile strategy, you’ll be left behind. According to Search Engine Journal 1 in 4 searches is being made on a mobile device, though from a quick look over in analytics this varies considerably from site to site and market to market. Nevertheless, how should you capitalise on the ever increasing popularity of mobile search?

Everyone owns a mobile device nowadays, and many of you reading this will be doing so on a phone or on a tablet; for some, a tablet may be your first choice device for browsing the web, communicating, absorbing online video, reading for pleasure, or any online activity. We’ve truly gone mobile mad. Why? Convenience, practicality, and usability.

Now, 91% of everyone currently on the earth owns a mobile phone, and 72% of tablet users are making purchases online on their tablets on a regular basis (according to research by AF-Studio.pl and Super Monitoring).

Who’s doing it?

So, while mobile is booming, what is your company doing to incorporate mobile into your marketing?

If you’re still failing to integrate mobile into your marketing, you are ignoring a significant portion of the market that your competitors will be snatching up.

Almost 50% of all enterprises include defined mobile strategies as part of their marketing plan. 81% have said that mobiles have affected how they run things on a fundamental level.

Also in this study, Conducted by IBM, 90% of enterprises aim to engage with their audience, inform customers, employees, and grow their business by optimising their mobile experience as part of their overall marketing strategy.

There are no excuses to put it off any longer as there are many easy and affordable ways to optimise for mobile search, available to businesses with any marketing budget. Whether you’re already considering mobile in your strategies or not, the following tips will make sure you’re optimising effectively in the mobile environment.

Let’s go!

Define Your Objectives

As with any marketing activity, it’s important to know what you’re aiming for. What goals do you want to achieve? There’s no point in starting until you’ve defined your business goals. These could be:

  • Raising public awareness of your brand
  • Turning website traffic from mobile devices into sales
  • Turn online interaction into effective lead generation
  • Increase conversions by improving the usability
  • Improve customer support by making yourself easily contactable

Knowing what you want to achieve as a business is vital if you’re going to be investing time in researching and planning a mobile strategy. Research should be extensive enough to inform you on where your budget can be best spent, and what it will achieve.

Know the Mobile Environment

Do you already have a mobile audience? As we’ve already said, 1 in 4 searches is made on a mobile device, so it’s likely there is traffic there to capture, but don’t just assume.

Find out as much as you can about your mobile audience.

How does an average smart phone or tablet user interact with your website? How did they find you in the first place?

Answering these questions by looking at what pages they are visiting can let you know what your audience wants from your mobile experience. Are they looking for information, contact details or are they trying to make purchases?

How long does an average user stay on your site, or are they failing to complete goals before they leave?

If they are abandoning their shopping basket or leaving your webpages quickly, you’ll want to investigate why this is, and try to improve the user experience. Remove as many obstacles as possible from the user finding what they want.

For this data, and more, explore your Google Analytics account, presuming you have one.

Know your competition

Now you know where your audience is, it’s worth analysing the mobile strategy of your competitors. Are they targeting your mobile audience successfully?

If so, are they offering customers an optimised mobile site or app? Judge based on your previous research whether your competitors are meeting the needs of the audience that you’ve identified.

Exploit their weaknesses and capitalise on the traffic they could be missing out on.

It’s possible that your competitors in the mobile environment are different brands to your usual competitors.

The best approach to dominating mobile search is to coordinate every aspect of your cross-channel campaigns, all of your resources and information, and make sure you’re providing the best possible experience for your users.

What’s Currently Holding You Back?

Google Can’t Crawl Your Site

Just like with human users, Google needs to find its way around your site. If it can’t crawl your site effectively to index your pages, then you’ll underperform in the search results.

There’s a tab in Webmaster Tools that alerts you to smartphone-specific crawl errors that may be holding your current website back in mobile search.

URLerrors

Pay Per Click (PPC) and mobile specific campaigns and ads

Google AdWords has the capability to display ads specifically for searches made on a mobile device. By designing your ads specifically with mobile in mind, you can encourage click-throughs or calls from mobile users, without affecting other campaigns and so improving your ROI overall.

Now that so many people of all ages, all over the world are using mobiles to search, it’s important to target the right age group, gender and interests.

As with any campaign, timing is key. Your Analytics will tell you when your users are more engaged with your ads and when the most conversions are made on your site.

One of the most powerful mobile ad extensions is Click to Call. If your mobile visitors are looking for contact details or telephone support on your mobile site, this extension puts the information they need right in front of them when they search, and enables them to call at the touch of a button. Here’s how Sunrise Senior Living have made use of click to call in their mobile ads:

sunrise

You can adjust the bidding on your mobile ads, and Geo-targeting should improve the quality of clicks and raise conversions as it helps your campaign target those it’s most relevant to.

Local Listings

Take advantage of Google services like Local listings or Google My Business if that’s its correct name now. If Google finds the citations across your websites and listings to be consistent it will push you up the rankings, showing searchers that you are a trustworthy source.

Local listings occupy a huge portion of the mobile search result pages, with geotargeting helping to make your results the most relevant to location based searches.

A Good Mobile Experience

Getting people to your a mobile site is one thing, but where many fail, is thinking about how the user will interact with the site.

Let’s start with an example:

smiledrive.vw.com

When you arrive at smiledrive.vw.com on a mobile device you are treated to a friendly welcome screen that claims: for the optimal experience view on a desktop or tablet in landscape mode.

Fair enough, I’ll just click on ‘About SmileDrive’. That should take me to the information I want. But it seems to lead nowhere. This is an example of a mobile version of a website not helping the user in any way.

smiledrive

This ‘dead end’ page has given me a bad mobile experience. If I’m visiting the site on a smart phone, it’s likely that I’m not near a desktop or don’t have a tablet to hand. By making the site content unavailable to anyone using a similar device to me, VW could be neglecting a considerable chunk of their audience.

Now let’s look at a mobile site that functions well, mobileawesomeness.com:

awesomeness

The landing page makes navigation obvious using a menu button with very few options, and further down the page is a selection of content, with page navigation at the bottom where you would expect. This layout makes the site easy to use and enjoy.

Should you have a mobile site or mobile app?

You could develop both if you wanted to, but if you feel you have to make a choice, just refer back to the goals you set out at the beginning of the project. What does your audience want from their mobile experience?

If your audience is searching for your product and trying to make purchases, browsing a variety of your site’s content, looking for information or contact, a mobile site would probably be the best way to service these customers as it would be a similar experience to using a desktop.

If your audience is searching for a particular service, an app may provide a more efficient and user-friendly experience. This includes website features that could stand alone, like:

  • Games
  • Quizzes
  • File sharing
  • Tools like project management or monitoring software
  • Services that use GPS

Take time to consider what the audience needs and what the audience can do without. This will help you decide what to offer on your mobile site and what would work more efficiently as an app.

Responsive Design

Rather than build a separate mobile site, we’d recommend using responsive design. The idea of responsive design is that the content of your site is optimised for each type of screen. This is essential if you want to cover all possible bases and not alienate any portion of your mobile audience.

Users would then be viewing the same site on a desktop computer, tablet or mobile, but the layout would be optimised for the chosen device. This guarantees the information and functionality of the site is consistent across all devices, and means you don’t have to manage two websites or worry about which one you’re linking to or redirecting to, etc.

This is how a typical responsive design adapts to various screen sizes:

screensizes

Source: US Government Endorses Responsive Web Design

Another reason to adopt responsive design is that Google itself recommends it! Take a look at their Case Studies.

Keeping in Touch

About 65% of emails are checked on a mobile device. If your newsletters and email notifications aren’t optimised for mobile they’ll likely end up in the trash. Nobody has time to read messy emails on their mobile, for example this old school style newsletter is very easy to ignore, and difficult to engage with:

blackberry

Image source: http://blog.realmagnet.com/2010/09/

Responsive design can help here, making sure that your email will adapt to whatever screen it’s being viewed on. If you’re using an email system like Mailchimp, you can customise the free templates already available to you, to suit your needs AND the user’s. It shouldn’t be too different from designing a landing page on your website.

Here is a good example of a Mobile friendly email from Amazon Local:

amazon

Notice that Amazon have included easily recognisable links to their apps, for both iOS and Android devices, and their social accounts. Mobile users love social networking, and including these links maximises the chances of their mobile audience staying connected with their brand while they’re on the go.

Why you can’t afford to ignore mobile

Your business can’t really afford to be without at least a basic, user-friendly mobile presence. Even if your audience is small now, begin to build your brand in mobile search and optimise the user experience to convert the traffic that is there.

Now would be a good time to start dominating mobile search in your niche; think of it as future-proofing. As the mobile market is growing so rampantly, it’s vital to be prepared and stay ahead of the game.



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Michael Wall

Michael Wall is an experienced web developer based in Belfast N.Ireland currently running his own web design company.

Michael Wall is available for Internet Marketing, Google Adwords PPC and SEO work. Please call Belfast 02890 923383 or use the contact form.

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