Mobile SEO Strategies for Small Businesses and Big Brands
2011 was a big year for mobile, with Google mobile searches up by 400% on the previous year. In 2009, circa 7.8% of mobile users were searching on their phones, with the majority of these being based around social networking sites, blogs and location based searches such as ‘things to do in..’ and ‘restaurants in…’.However 2011 saw a big shift in consumer buying trends and mobile users began using mobile internet to place bets and make purchases in their palms. More interesting still; mid last year in the US alone, 32% of users were spending over $100 in a single transaction and these figures are growing rapidly. 2011 saw sales of Smart phones considerably overtake those of PCs, 87.2% and 5.5% comparatively.
The numbers speak for themselves. For those who missed the band wagon the first time round, businesses need to start harnessing the power of mobile web and what better time to start than…oh a few weeks into a New Year.
2012 is exciting as 1998, when Lycos and Ask Jeeves were serious search contenders and nobody was quite sure where the market was heading; the same stands for mobile and those that invest now, will reap the benefits in the coming years.
Take Note of Mobile and Tablet Data
Earlier this year, Google took measures to strip out analytics keyword data from users logged into their Gmail accounts whilst searching. However – this shift has not yet been made in Smartphone or tablets. This will likely change later this year, however I recommend taking note of this advantage whilst it is still there. Considering Google mobile searches are up by 400%, mobile and tablet data is currently a goldmine of accuracy that desktop based data now lacks. It is imperative for online marketers and business owners alike to tap into how people are using their mobile devices to best decide how to benefit from these on-the-go consumers in the imminent future.
Mobile Sites VS Apps
Users are at a point whereby they expect the majority of sites to work in mobile browsers. And not just ‘work’, work in a sense that usability and functionality is not lost when searching on a mobile device. Creating mobile formatted content and optimising these pages for mobile search should be a priority in 2012.
Mobile users are not giving online businesses an easy ride, however. In December, the average time spent on mobile internet decreased from 74 minutes to 72 minutes. Over the same period, time spent on apps increased from 81 to 94 minutes. What this suggests is that whilst mobile internet is becoming increasingly popular, Apps are even more so. Not unusual considering that mobile apps typically offer a more usable experience. This means that to fully harness the potential pulling power of mobile web, businesses need to invest in both a mobile friendly site and an application.
Use Mobile Devises to Aid your Desktop SEO
Just as the way in which humans are using their mobile internet differently from a desktop, search engines are acting differently too. That is not to say Google is standing on one leg at the back of a busy commuter bus crawling the web in its hand, rather Google is taking more things into account for mobile search. Dimensions such as device type, location and formats are all playing a part.
Fortunately, mobile and desktop SEO mesh together quite nicely. Search Ebay in Google and unsurprisingly they are monopolising the first page for their brand term. And look, the 5th listing is a link to the Ebay App on the App store.
Google is continuing to index and display app pages. Meanwhile app popularity is increasing backlinks and social metrics to these pages and app store popularity is rewarded incrementally through Google. In the same way that people search non brand related terms in Google on their desktop, they do so too in the App store and this is something which will become unavoidably prevalent in the coming months.
Mobile Makes us Social
Lest us not forget, that 55% of Twitter traffic and 33% of Facebook’s traffic comes from portable devices.
Interestingly, users prefer to watch videos more so on mobile devices than on Desktops (Wistia made a nice infographic on this). Tie this into the recent YouTube changes where the homepage displays videos shared or liked by those in your Google+ circles, and we are left with a consternating web of social and mobile engagement.
Taking into account that Facebook and Twitter are the most searched phrases on portable devices results in my personal pet peeve . Say, for example I am reading an article on my phone (which I often do) and the page changes from www.domain.com/post to www.m.domain.com/post. For an SEOer there lies a problem here. Mobile makes us social, which means I am going to share the m.domain rather than the main domain, circumventing a valuable link opportunity. This again ties in to why investing in mobile pages is so crucial; simply use a different style sheet for a mobile device, leave the URL the same. (Don’t worry, this isn’t clocking, Google says so)
Make your Mobile Presence Prominent
Having invested in a mobile app, or a mobile friendly site, do not make this hard to find. Linking onsite to your place in the App store or using QR codes in print, is a useful and thoughtful shortcut. Create a social campaign to tie in with the launch of your app, such as a Smarphone giveaway to boost interest. Furthermore, app profile pages can be used as additional sitelinks in Google’s mobile SERPS.
Mobile SEO for Smaller Businesses
Optimizing for a desktop site, a mobile site and then an app is finance and time investment heavy. Big brands, gambling and Ecommerce sites aside; small business too can reap the benefits of mobile browsers. A local garage, restaurant or shop now has the opportunity to target consumers that are just round the corner.
If you own an SME and are considering optimising your mobile site or developing an app, set up an advanced segment on your Analytics to monitor traffic that is coming to your site from a mobile device. This will give you a very basic, but crucial starting point to assess how important mobile SEO is for you. From this, you can then target the most popular landing pages on your site for those browsing on a mobile device. Begin with these first, then roll it out across the entire site if you wish later down the line.
In April 2011, Google released a study showing that 95% of mobile searches display local intent. This figure will be lower towards the end of the year and into 2012. Not necessarily because the importance of local search for mobile is lowering, but because overall mobile internet usage is widening. The key here is to initially ensure that your pages work well for local search on a desktop. What is it then that local searches are looking for? Namely an address, opening times, contact details and so forth. Integrate Google maps, if you are a restaurant use third party applications like OpenTable and ensuring that your Google Business Listing is fully optimised (Getlisted.org is an excellent way of ensuring you are not missing out on any listing opportunities) and be sure to encourage user reviews through incentives and third party sites such as Yelp and Touch Local.
It is not unsurprising that the first query on mobile search is…’Facebook’. As a small business, if you are sharing and being shared and tweeting and being retweeted then you are more likely to get mobile referrers.
The Tip of the Iceberg
That’s what this article is on mobile SEO.
Written by Kirsty Hulse: Any questions feel free to Tweet me – @kirsty_hulse or if you would like any help or advice on making your web presence mobile, contact someone in the Blueclaw team.