For years I have saying that mobile SEO was the future, and should be a top priority for the best digital marketing agencies that expect to deliver winning results for their clients. At the same time, it is our responsibility to educate business owners on the importance of mobile optimization, show its value, and implement its best practices into search strategies.
One of the many challenges faced by digital marketing agencies that work with small local businesses can be convincing an “old school client” they need a new website. Some of these guys have a hardened grip on sentimental attachments because their nephew built their website back in 2001, or they simply don’t see the value of investing money in a new website. Convincing them otherwise requires superior patience and communication skills, and if you can achieve this, congratulate yourself. But then the next step is to show the value of mobile SEO, which can be easier said than done.
The purpose of this article is to give guidance to small SEO operations in terms of how to show a “set-in-their-ways” client the value of mobile SEO. This article is also intended to help educate businesses that want to take a stab at mobile SEO in-house before considering a partnership with a digital marketing agency. However, if your in-house team doesn’t have a strong background in search with an understanding of its current climate, working with a SEO agency will save you time and money.
Why Mobile SEO Matters
The Numbers – Quite simply, more people search for products and services from mobile devices. According to study by Hitwise, 58% of all global searches are performed from mobile devices with varying industry differences as seen in the graph below.
According to the keynote address at 2016 SMX West, more than 90 percent of American searches are performed using mobile devices. More people use mobile devices to find the nearest Italian restaurant, local lawyer, or 24-hour dry cleaner. They also access their mobile devices for buying goods online, getting their news, and for entertainment resources.
It’s Where Google is Going – Google is not the only search engine, but in 2016 92 percent of Internet searches were performed in it leaving Bing and Yahoo choking in the dust. Google’s mission since day one has been to offer the best search experience possible. If you look at the last 5 years of Google updates and algorithm additions, it’s obvious they have been working to offer the most accurate and high-quality search results for those on mobile devices. This remains their mission, and optimizing for voice search is at the core of it all.
External Technology Considerations – Let’s walk outside the arena of digital marketing and Google to consider how other advancements in technology demonstrate the growing importance of mobile SEO. For example, various retailers use geo fencing to target consumers thus demonstrating recognition that large consumer numbers use smartphones for shopping. In addition, several automobile manufacturers are already implementing the ability for drivers to perform voice searches for local goods and services. Then there are smart-homes. As these products become more advanced, mobile SEO will only continue to evolve.
Making Your Site Mobile Friendly, Start with an Audit
Before you can prioritize mobile SEO, you must first make sure your website is mobile-friendly. You can begin by taking Google’s mobile friendly test to see where you stand. Of course working with a SEO agency to run a full audit will give you the best results, but in the event you decide to try your hand at it first, and you don’t like the results, the free Google tool gives you a good vantage point. Start by isolating the issues you want to correct. Some of the most common red flags that pop up in a mobile audit test include:
- Slow load speed
- Uncompressed images
- Incorrect or broken redirects
- Mobile-only 404 errors
- Unplayable content
- Unsupported plugins
Map out which pages have errors, what those errors are, and as you ameliorate the problems use Google Search Console to keep track of your triage efforts.
Optimize Your Content for Voice Search
In this same keynote speech at SMX West we learned that 20% of all mobile searches are voice searches, and that number has since grown and will continue to do so. First, your content strategy should incorporate non-voice mobile optimization along with vocal search considerations. For example, when people type queries into their mobile devices they almost always use abbreviated forms like these:
- Local Indian restaurant
- Post office near me
- Best car wash West Hollywood
When we use voice searches, there are four primary types of queries, and Google RankBrain reads into each looking for intent and emotional cues:
- I want to buy ______
- I want to go _______
- I want to do _______
- I want to know _____
These search queries are always more detailed and provide for greater accuracy in terms of what the user wants. For example, a voice search of “I want to go to a local Indian restaurant offering Eastern Indian dishes” or “I want to use a self-wash car wash within 3 miles of my location” will almost always garner better search results than the abbreviated non-verbal query. To capture search traffic coming from both query types, use the abbreviated keywords in a manner that reads very naturally, and incorporate longtail keywords within the context of defining what you offer, who wants it, why yours is the best, how yours is different, etc. It is also smart to use popular industry-related questions as H2s in your content followed by detailed answers in voice search-friendly language.
Make Local Search a Top Priority
If a significant chunk of your consumers are locally-based, optimize your site for local search and it will have a significantly greater chance of capturing mobile voice searchers. Searches for products and services “near me” have doubled since this time last year. Multiple studies show that roughly 50 percent of mobile users purchase from a brand they had not previously considered but only did so because it came up in a local result. Remember that most people shopping from their smartphones are impulsive and ready to buy if given a reason. Some of the things you can do to help solidify a local SEO plan includes:
- Register with Google My Business
- Ensure your NAP (name, address, phone number) is consistent across all sites you are listed on
- Ad high-definition images of your business where mentioned
- Use online reviews
- Include a very detailed schema markup (rich snippets)
- Work with a digital marketing agency to build high-quality backlinks on local, reputable domains such as your .gov and .edu options
Amp Up Your AMP
Google has made it crystal clear that when it comes to mobile queries AMPs (Accelerated Mobile Pages) are widely promoted above standard pages in the SERPs. These pages load instantaneously and offer searchers exactly what they seek while solving their immediate needs.
Given the way mobile SEO is expanding its empire, its future will turn from a priority to a solid standard. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised to see Google AMP no longer a part of a robust strategy in the years to come. But for now it is recommended, especially for sites with large publications.
Semantic Search Centers Around Mobile
You want your site to rank for the right queries, posed by the right consumer groups. As semantic search crusades to improve search accuracy by pinpointing user intentions and the contextual meaning of various keywords, organic language filled with longtail keywords used in voice search will enable better results. As voice search and local SEO go hand-in-hand, prioritizing these in your mobile strategy will garner the best results, and set you well on your way to a future where there is no digital dominance without a robust mobile SEO strategy.