Thought Leadership

The time for "mobile-first" thinking is well upon us

Google considers mobile usability as a ranking
factor in 2015

Digital marketers can no longer ignore the importance of mobile search marketing, as Google prepares to make mobile friendliness a ranking signal on April 21, 2015.  Four years ago Mary Meeker, partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, stated "mobile will overtake fixed Internet access by 2014." It's no longer a case of asking whether mobile marketing, usability and search optimization are important core digital investments in your future – the time for mobile-first thinking is well upon us. 

MOBILE EXCEEDS PC INTERNET USAGE FOR FIRST TIME IN HISTORY

Mobile is poised to become a game changer. Searchers are migrating to mobile in unprecedented numbers.

In early 2014, mobile devices accounted for 55% of Internet usage in the US. Apps made up 47% of usage, and 8% came from mobile browsers. Mobile growth is also on the rise. Based on a recent review of our in-house analytics data of more than fifty U.S.-based brands managed by iProspect, data shows that desktop share of paid search clicks fell from 64% to 58% (Q4 YoY for 2013 vs. 2014), and during the same time period mobile share grew from 17% to 26%. More and more searches will continue to be conducted on mobile devices in 2015 and beyond due to the ubiquity of smartphones and the increasing use of mobile devices

With significant Web and Search Engine traffic coming from mobile devices, companies can't afford to ignore the mobile Web. The top US Search Engines show that a substantial proportion of their traffic comes from mobile devices.

GOOGLE TRAFFIC SOURCES BY DEVICE TYPE

Google: 52% desktop; 48% mobile - Bing: 67% desktop; 33% mobile (not shown)


MOBILE RESEARCH STARTS WITH SEARCH

In our constantly connected world, consumers rely on smartphones more than ever to help them research and shop for products and services.  Google's mobile path to purchase report surveyed US consumers across diļ¬€erent verticals to assess how they researched purchases via mobile. Google found that more smartphone users begin researching products or services on a search engine vs. a branded mobile site or app.

MOST POPULAR DEVICES USED TO SEARCH

Mobile search traffic will continue to grow. Many websites are seeing over one-third of their overall organic search traffic coming from smartphones and other “mobile” devices. Most consumers are "multi-screening" sites on mobile and desktop computers at the same time, so consistent experiences across devices needs to be deployed.

PREPARING FOR A BETTER MOBILE USABILITY EXPERIENCE

For success in mobile search results, it's crucial not only to appear on the first page of listings from Google - but also to own the #1 position in the returned organic results.  People are using their smartphones and other mobile devices much more frequently and are typically on the go, trusting that Google is delivering the most relevant results to the small screen devices.

People are no longer spending time scanning the SERP pages the way we do on desktop for the perfect result to click on.  A first-page result will yield a greater click through in mobile.  However, CTR’s decrease more significantly in mobile than desktop in positions 2 and 3.

DESKTOP VS. MOBILE CLICK THROUGH RATES


MOBILE SITE TYPE RECOMMENDATIONS

Google has stated they “prefer” responsive (RWD) websites, but will not penalize sites for using other configuration approaches. Although Google states that RWD is its preferred design option, it also notes that there are two other approaches to mobile design, including using separate URLS as well as a dynamic serving website.

Data has shown an advantage in mobile search results with dynamic serving and is the preferred iProspect approach, however this configuration might not be suitable or scalable for some brands where responsive design may present an easier solution.

For help with building a mobile-friendly site, and to determine which option is right for you, see Google’s guide to mobile-friendly sites.  Additionally, you can also see how Googlebot views your pages in your Webmaster Tools Account located under Search Traffic > Mobile Usability, or using the mobile-friendly test tool.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Check your Webmaster Tools account to see if you have received mobile usability errors and the recommended solutions. For those who have received messages for pages with a significant amount of mobile traffic you should take action as soon as possible. For others, a few styling changes for users with smaller screen sizes will suffice.