5 Dynamics That Kill Your Mobile Conversions

Mobile conversions should be happening all day. It’s not a stretch to say that we are slaves to those little rectangular pieces of technology we carry in our pockets 24×7. The smartphone has come to define every aspect of our lives, from waking up each morning to getting to work on time and from finding a quick bite to eat to even finding true love.

Mobile conversions should be happening all day. It’s not a stretch to say that we are slaves to those little rectangular pieces of technology we carry in our pockets 24×7. The smartphone has come to define every aspect of our lives, from waking up each morning to getting to work on time and from finding a quick bite to eat to even finding true love.

If mobile phones are so central to our existence, why do businesses repeatedly find the old faithful — desktop computers — to be better performers in terms of conversions and sales?

A SaleCycle study of 500 global brands showed that while 51% of traffic came from mobile devices, only 36% of total sales followed suit.

mobile conversions
Credit: Rohan Ayyar

What makes mobile conversions lag behind their desktop counterparts, given that we lead our lives almost entirely inside these metal and glass cages? More importantly, what can you, as a marketer or business owner, do to improve your mobile conversions? Here are some worrying mobile optimization snags that might be seriously hurting your sales.

Mobile Site Speed Isn’t Priority No. 1

Earlier this year, Google made it official: Mobile speed is a bona fide ranking factor for all websites in its search results. Period.

And oh, if you haven’t realized it yet, Google now prioritizes your mobile site over the desktop version while adding your pages to its index.

You may not care about your SEO rankings (really?) but a quick-loading mobile page has other proven benefits — such as increased engagement and, by extension, better conversions. Mobile web design platform Duda carried out a study involving over 4,000 sites, which found that mobile sites with a render start time (RST) under one second showed a 50% higher conversion rate than those with RSTs of three to four seconds.

mobile conversions related to site speed
Credit: Rohan Ayyar

All of this data conclusively means just one thing: If you want to maximize sales, you must make sure your site loads blazingly fast on mobile devices. Try these guidelines:

  • Optimize images to render faster. Drop animations and other frills that eat up bandwidth.
  • Avoid auto-playing videos on mobile sites.
  • Keep the number of scripts to a minimum and make sure they’re parsed faster.
  • Reduce advertising clutter that slows pages down.
  • Use compression, CDNs and other web technologies that quicken loading times.
  • Leverage Google AMP for a huge jump in page loading speed.

Mobile Site Not Optimized for Local Search

Here are some data points from the Mobile and Search channels of Google’s Micro-Moments resource base. Chew on these stats for a moment (each):

  • 40% of all searches from mobile devices have local intent.
  • 76% of local searches result in a visit to the physical outlet of a business within 24 hours. 28% result in a purchase.
  • People who perform local searches on mobile devices are 65% more likely to buy from companies that customize their mobile sites or apps with local information.

In other words, most smartphone users use local search with purchase intent and heavily patronize businesses that help them find information they’re looking for right there on their phones. Don’t miss out on this opportunity that comes knocking on your mobile website’s window every single day.

A quick checklist to rank well (and convert well!) on local mobile searches:

  • Build content-rich city pages for the markets you operate in. Create dedicated content relevant to each city. e.g. A music store may have content like the “The 10 best nightclubs in Miami” or “Who’s playing at Madison Square Garden this week.”
  • Set up your Google My Business page and keep it updated.
  • Get pinpoint accuracy in your N-A-P (name, address, phone number) data in local business directories.
  • Go socially local with your Facebook business pages.
  • Work on getting local reviews for your brand and business from influencers, niche-focused review sites and crowdsourced review forums.

No Attention Paid to Mobile Design and Usability

User experience is one of the key elements of conversion optimization. This could not be truer on a smartphone screen, where real estate is at such a premium.

For the record, that’s not me saying this; it’s data. Here’s a snapshot from a Qubit study (Opens as a PDF) of 1.2 billion e-commerce journeys with mobile touchpoints:

mobile conversions chart
Credit: Rohan Ayyar

When every pixel counts, are you doing what it takes to convert users?

UX designer Chen Ben Ami offers some practical ideas on mobile optimization, like keeping buttons larger on mobile sites to preempt “Fat Finger Syndrome,” keeping navigation simple, using the right color combinations (visible on mobile screens) for backgrounds and layouts, leveraging the “Click to Call” button and so on.

But my favorite piece of advice is this real gem, which recommends taking a hard look at how your mobile site appears at different times of day. For example, when a user visits your mobile site during the day, they can reach you with a single tap. However, what happens when they visit your site after hours?

Instead of wasting a click and having the customer listen to an out of office message, you could offer a contact form in place of the click-to-call for the “night version” of your mobile site!

mobile conversions phone graphic
Credit: Rohan Ayyar

Shopping Carts Not Persistent, Not Cross-Platform

The Qubit study we referred to earlier also found that mobile shopping experience and browsing behavior has a direct impact on actual revenue from cross-channel sales on other digital channels. Further, mobile shopping activity also led to a 19% growth in desktop revenues.

What this means is that users who discover an item on mobile tend to either visit the store or complete the purchase on desktop devices. This process of device hopping to complete a single transaction would be greatly eased out if the site in question saved the user’s shopping cart for a future session on the same or another platform. Say “hello” to cross-channel shopping carts!

A simple way to enable cross-channel shopping carts would be using the customer’s login information, which stays the same across devices. Another way of offering an omnichannel shopping experience is by linking cookies and device IDs, or setting up user identification and tracking using tech such as Google Analytics User-IDs across multiple devices.

Painful Checkout Process

Have an e-commerce site? Pay special attention to your forms and checkout process in particular to nudge along mobile conversions. Research from comScore found that close to 20% of users don’t make a purchase on mobile because they find it too difficult to enter data into forms on smartphones.

mobile conversions clock chart
Credit: Rohan Ayyar

Ease the way for your mobile users by keeping forms short and requiring minimal details from users. Adopting autocomplete and auto-suggestions in forms and search bars are examples of usability-driven design on mobile commerce sites and apps.

Another effective way of reducing clicks and smoothing out the mobile checkout process is by embracing simpler payment options, like mobile wallets. After all, what’s easier on a smartphone — paying with one-click using Apple Pay or Google Pay or entering a 14-digit credit card number, expiration date and CVV number?

Parting Thoughts

Fifty-three percent of users on the web today access it via a mobile phone. Just as mobile usage is rising, so is actual transaction activity. As data clearly shows, this trend of consumers going mobile first is only going to get stronger. So instead of spending time retrofitting your websites to mobile in order to improve conversions, learn from these and other mobile-focused factors to build a true mobile-fantastic (not just mobile-friendly) website that encourages engagement and sales, and takes your business headfirst into the next decade.

Mobile SEO Is Here — You Were Warned

For the past 18 months, there have been warnings about the advent of mobile-first indexing. On March 26, Google announced that it has finally started migrating sites to mobile-first indexing. These are sites that currently follow the best practices for mobile search. If you heeded the warnings and spent the past 18 months focusing on mobile, you can yawn now.

Google frequently warns of future major changes in how the search engine will handle sites. For example, several years ago Google warned that secure sites would get a ranking boost at some time in the future. There was scrambling and gnashing of teeth as many heeded the warning and spent the time and resources needed to make their sites secure. The result was that when the change finally occurred, the impact was minimal for most of the top-ranking sites.

Google’s warning about site speed seems to have had the same result. It seems that top-ranking sites are those that heed the warnings and put the resources into responding.

For the past 18 months, there have been warnings about the advent of mobile-first indexing. On March 26, Google announced that it has finally started migrating sites to mobile-first indexing. These are sites that currently follow the best practices for mobile search. If you heeded the warnings and spent the past 18 months focusing on mobile, you can yawn now.

How Does Mobile-First Change Indexing?

Historically, Google has used the desktop version of a page’s content in its crawling, indexing and ranking systems. As mobile users and sites have changed and evolved, a gap has grown in how the page and content are displayed on a mobile device vs. the desktop.

The demands of the small screen often require a reshuffling of the content presentation. Google recognizes this mismatch. With mobile-first indexing, Google will be using the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, thus giving the mobile user better search results.

The recent announcement clearly stated that Google will not be maintaining two indexes and will be notifying sites on an individual basis via the Search Console when they shift over to mobile-first indexing. Google reassures that the change only effects how the engine gathers content and notes that content gathered by mobile-first indexing has no ranking advantage over mobile content that’s not yet gathered this way or desktop content.

Moreover, if you only have desktop content, you will continue to be represented in Google’s index. While this may seem reassuring, don’t be too reassured if you have not gone all-in on mobile. It is not clear where or when you will be displayed. It appears that a desktop version will be shown when there is no mobile page that meets the user’s needs. Sounds like desktop pages will slowly be consigned to the equivalent of the back tables of the restaurant close to the kitchen — far from prime ranking positions for competitive searches.

Clearly the Move Is to Mobile

Google has been strongly urging sites to go mobile; providing tools for webmasters to evaluate how mobile-friendly their sites are, developing AMP for delivering mobile pages faster and now introducing mobile-first indexing. This all points to a strong preference for the mobile user.

Mobile users want their content delivered instantly. To further benefit this huge user base, Google continues to put pressure on site owners to improve their site speed. Come July 2018, content that is slow-loading may perform less well for both desktop and mobile searchers. Sounds like a thinly disguised penalty to me.

Check your stats and see just how much of your traffic comes from mobile. Or better yet, check to see how much desktop traffic you have.

You may be surprised. It may have already gone mobile.

You have been warned. Do you really want to persist with a desktop-first design?

Add More Traffic With Universal and Extended Search Optimization

If your organic search optimization plan does not include optimization for pertinent elements of both universal and extended search, you may be missing out on a surprising amount of traffic.

SEOIf your organic search optimization plan does not include optimization for pertinent elements of both universal and extended search, you may be missing out on a surprising amount of traffic.

In the beginning, organic search optimization was focused on the pursuit of top placements for your site’s pages. Search has evolved and so, too, must your optimization plan.

Today, instead of 10 blue links on a page, most contain 8.5. An array of universal and extended search elements enhance and complement the Google search results pages. The inclusion of maps, images, video results, the Knowledge Box and Twitter results enhance the user experience and speed searchers to their desired information.

A recent white paper from Searchmetrics looked at the results from approximately 500,000 general, frequently searched terms. Because Google increasingly is applying different algorithms for mobile vs. desktop searches, the results from both were analyzed. This study clearly shows that any optimization plan is incomplete, unless it includes the elements of both universal and extended search.

Universal Search — Vertical Search Integrated Into the Results Page

Universal search, launched in 2007, was Google’s integration directly into the search results of vertical search elements that had previously been developed as separate search engines. These included: shopping, news, videos, images and maps. Although showing up integrated into the search results page, these vertical silos of information can still be accessed from tabs on the Google results page.

The type of elements displayed vary depending on the keyword search. For example, a search for a “Zen frog fountain” yields a results page rich in images and shopping details. There is even a video. A search for your local hospital will yield a results page with a map and directions.

Each element in universal search has its own optimization requirements, and many organic SEO plans employ them. The SEO can clearly guide the optimization of images so that relevant product images will be included in the array of images shown for keyword searches.

For e-commerce merchants, it is quite important to optimize all of your images, because they can drive substantial amounts of traffic. Similarly, video content can be readily optimized using available guidelines.

Google’s emphasis on quality of the information and the authority of the source has driven the evolution of news optimization from press releases to publishers. Today, the news integration includes just the freshest and most authoritative sources. Because the news elements evolved from vertical search, there are a set of guidelines for optimization of news.

Not all elements are equally important for every business, but traffic can be gained by optimizing all the germane elements.

Extended Search — More Boxes and Features

Extended search is the term applied to the additions to the search results that are not based on vertical search engines. These results are algorithmically developed from a variety of internal and external sources available to Google. Extended search includes: The Knowledge Graph, the image carousel, the Twitter Cards, the direct answer/fact boxes, the related questions that are delivered along with the direct answers, and the app packs found in mobile searches.

Because the results pull information from a number of sources, they are much more difficult to optimize for. They are best viewed as the result of a broad footprint of information that will satisfy the demands of these elements.

For example, the Knowledge Graph relies on Google My Business and Wikipedia information. If your company has a complete profile on these two key sources, you will be feeding the information needed to drive the Knowledge Graph. Similarly, sites with recipes, events and reviews can use structured data to enhance the likelihood of appearing in the direct answers boxes.

As we move into the fourth quarter and plan for the next year, do be sure to review the universal search and expanded search elements that have the most traffic-driving potential for your business and strategize for how to include them in your optimization planning.