What does it mean to be “mobile ready”? You might say having a mobile responsive site — and that’s certainly part of it. But there’s much more that goes into ultimately creating an excellent website experience for your ever-expanding and ever-discerning mobile user base.
It’s a fact that people are starting to use smartphones as the go-to device. According to Google’s 2013 Mobile Search Moments study, 77% of mobile searches occur at home or work, even when a PC is likely nearby.
We know that smartphones are often used as a multitasking accessory to other devices as well, with 82% using them alongside other forms of media, according to Google’s Our Mobile Planet report.
Even though Mobile Search Moments data showed only 17% made purchases on their mobile phone, mobile does make an impact — 28% of mobile searches were found to result in a conversion (e.g., store visit, call, purchase), while 73% triggered an additional action of some sort, such as visiting a retailer’s website.
Data coming from BrightEdge’s mobile share report in 2013 showed mobile conversions at about one-third the rate of desktop, leaving a massive opportunity for sites to grab more of that share versus desktop.
With more mobile-optimized sites coming to fruition on the web, conversions via mobile devices will likely see a jump in the next few years.
The opportunity is growing. In many countries, access to the web via a smartphone outpaces PCs by leaps and bounds. eMarketer forecast more than 2.23 billion people worldwide (nearly half of all mobile phone users) will go online via a mobile device at least monthly in 2014, “and over half of the mobile audience will use the mobile internet next year.”
These are just a handful of the stats we see emerging, and they serve as more than ample proof that the time is now to make websites mobile ready.
Google led the charge in making mobile search a priority when it unleashed its infrastructure update, Hummingbird, which prepped the search engine for returning more relevant results in the next era of how people search: conversationally and on mobile phones.
Google is now ready to reward those sites in the search results that are prepared to offer great mobile search experiences. Will you be among them?
The Mobile User’s Appetite For Content
So we know that mobile users are spending time online, but what’s on the menu? Consider these numbers: 6 percent, 25 percent and 40 percent. Those are data points Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts, gave at PubCon in 2013 that represent the percentage of mobile phone traffic to YouTube in 2011, 2012 and 2013, respectively.
We know video content represents a huge portion of what people consume online from mobile devices. At BrightEdge, we’ve seen leading brands obtain huge wins when they optimize their mobile experience with videos and imagery.
The appetite for visual content is only expected to grow. Google cites Gen C (“C” referencing “connected,” with 65% under the age of 35) as a growing population of YouTube consumers. “Thirty-eight percent of these people turn to their phone first when they want to be entertained,” Google said.
Millennials fall into the under-35 category, as well, and stats coming from comScore support the idea these content consumers will continue to be an important segment, with 18% of 18- to 34-year-olds being mobile-only users as of November 2013.
If that’s not enough to make you take a close look at your visual mobile content, the BrightEdge mobile share study found a strong correlation in conversions and the use of video and multimedia content in the media and entertainment, travel and hospitality and e-commerce industries.
Apps are also a big focus for mobile content consumers. In the Our Mobile Planet report by Google, stats show 83% of smartphone users visit social networks on their phones, and more than half do that at least once per day.
Recent research by comScore (January 2014) showed Facebook, Instagram and Twitter among the Top 15 apps accessed by smartphone users, with Facebook in the No. 1 spot.
In fact, Facebook passed 1 billion active mobile users in Q1, 2014.
What Do Mobile Users Want In A Website?
Before embarking on your mobile journey, craft your strategy by putting yourself in the mobile user’s shoes. Undoubtedly, different sites have a varying purpose, and a different set of expectations by users — think e-commerce versus a local brick-and-mortar store, or the travel and hospitality industry versus the B2B sector.
As with all web marketing, there are best practice foundations to build upon, and the rest is up to the informed marketing strategist to figure out. Your job is to uncover which type design approach is best, what content resonates most and how to make the navigation effortless.
If you want your users to be able to take a desired action (which is symbiotic with your site’s goals), work to understand what they are trying to accomplish on the mobile version of your site versus the PC version, and design accordingly.
Common mobile-only site features include store locators and click-to-call buttons; but, it goes much deeper into how the navigation is set up for mobile usability. Google partnered with AnswerLab to conducted a research study on how users interact with mobile sites, the results of which they released in April 2014. The report, Principles of Mobile Site Design: Delight Users and Drive Conversions, gave clues to what mobile users are looking for when they visit a site.
A key takeaway from the research concluded the following:
[M]obile users tend to be very goal-oriented — they expect to be able to get what they need from a mobile site easily, immediately, and on their own terms. Ensure success by designing with their context and needs in mind without sacrificing richness of content.
Based on the study’s findings, Google recommended the following mobile design best practices:
- Keep Calls-To-Action Visible. Also consider how the call-to-action differs for the mobile audience versus a desktop audience.
- Keep Navigation Menus Concise. Work with as few navigational menu items as possible, keeping just the categories that would be most important to the mobile audience.
- Make Finding The Home Page Simple. Keep in mind that participants of the Google study expected the logo at the top of the screen to take them back to the home page.
- Don’t Let Promotions Overwhelm The Experience. “Participants visiting one company’s mobile site were distracted by a large promotional banner and missed the navigational buttons beneath,” Google pointed out in its report. Don’t be that website.
SEO, Content & User Experience
SEOs who lead with the user experience in mind win in the mobile search world. Google announced back in 2013 that common mistakes sites make in their attempt to create mobile websites can affect their rankings in the search results.
Some of those common mistakes include:
- Unplayable videos and sites designed with use of Adobe Flash
- Irrelevant cross linking between desktop pages and smartphone pages and faulty redirects that send users to parts of the site that aren’t optimal for the experience
- Slow page load times (in fact, Google wants your mobile pages to render in less than 1 second)
“Avoiding these mistakes helps your smartphone users engage with your site fully and helps searchers find what they’re looking for faster,” Google said in its announcement. “To improve the search experience for smartphone users and address their pain points, we plan to roll out several ranking changes in the near future that address sites that are misconfigured for smartphone users.”
But it hasn’t been simple for brands to figure out the best route for their mobile websites. Since mobile became a topic of discussion a few years back, site owners have been scrambling to make their sites mobile ready. Without clear direction on which design route was the best to take (mobile-only sites versus responsive Web design), this led to mixed results.
Google took an official stance on which type of design approach it recommended in 2012. No doubt armed with research on the multi-screen world we live in, Google said responsive web design was the mobile-ready approach of choice.
While there have been discussions around whether or not responsive design can harm SEO, Google’s official stance is that there is no disadvantage to SEO with responsive web design.
The Mobile Discovery Checklist
Here are a few things to consider when approaching your mobile-ready strategy:
- Website design — will you go with Google’s recommendation of responsive web design? If so, why? If not, why?
- What sort of smartphone-only features will you implement? Click-to-call? Store locators? Mobile-only offers?
- What elements would be the most critical to keep in your site’s navigation for a mobile audience and why?
- What are people searching for on your site? Does your site do a good job of delivering it? Are you segmenting the mobile traffic to get a clear picture of this?
- Are you considering graphics and video as part of your mobile content strategy? How can you convert the content you have today to make it more mobile-friendly for users accessing the site from a smartphone or tablet?
- How will you measure your mobile efforts?
In conclusion, brands and their marketers need to harness the resources available to them to create mobile-friendly, mobile-optimized sites now — not a year from now, not even six months from now.
Ignoring the trends we’re seeing will only give your competition a chance to surpass you in the mobile space. Once you’ve made improvements to your site, don’t stop there. Make sure you’re tracking and measuring the impact mobile is having over time, and what users respond to, so you can usher your site into the new era of usability for many years to come.
At SMX advanced on June 11th, I will be sharing some further insights and very interesting data on Advanced Mobile SEO, ranking and mobile site strategy.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.