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?

If Your Site Is Not Mobile-Friendly—Fix It Now!

If you rely on search to assist new users in finding your site, you must now make sure that your site is mobile friendly. Here are the reasons. As Google focuses on ensuring the quality of the user’s experience and the number of mobile devices increases, the volume of search traffic going to Google from these devices will continue to grow.

If you rely on search to assist new users in finding your site, you must now make sure that your site is mobile friendly. Here are the reasons. As Google focuses on ensuring the quality of the user’s experience and the number of mobile devices increases, the volume of search traffic going to Google from these devices will continue to grow. Google does not want the user to have a poor experience with their search just because it is done on a mobile device, so Google has been testing a variety of strategies for improving the mobile users’ experience. These focus on offering mobile users results that show sites that are more easily readable and accessible on their phones. With millions of pages to choose from Google can simply select those pages that work best on mobile devices and show them to the user. If your site is not mobile-friendly, now is the time to adjust your site, or it will be demoted.

On Nov. 18, Google made it official that they are adding a “mobile-friendly” label to their mobile search results. This is to guide users toward pages that will display well on their mobile devices. If your site is not already mobile friendly, Google will in essence be steering users away from your content and towards content that displays well on their device. You can expect that this is just a first step. Google added at the end of the announcement that the search engine is experimenting with using the mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal. If your site is deemed unfriendly, you will be demoted.

So what makes a site “mobile-friendly” and when does Google decide? The determination will be made based on what Googlebot—Google’s crawler—finds as it follows your site. This lets Google cull out the friendly sites immediately upon the crawl. Googlebot will be looking for a list of criteria that will mark your site as friendly. These criteria include:

  1. Avoidance of the use of software that is not common on mobile devices. This includes Flash, so now is the time to trash the Flash pages, if you have not already done so.
  2. Use of text that is readable without zooming. Think of this from the user’s perspective and you will cheer.
  3. Content that automatically sizes to the screen so users doesn’t have to scroll either vertically or horizontally. (I hear another cheer from mobile users.)
  4. Links that are placed far enough apart that the correct one can be tapped easily. This eliminate a huge frustration for fumble-fingers like me who often inadvertently explore many pages.

All of these criteria are straightforward, and anyone who uses a smart phone for Internet searching will find the criteria refreshing. To assist site owners in making sure that their sites conform to the criteria, Google has provided a number of aids including a mobile-friendly testing tool and guides for how to create mobile-friendly sites. Users of Google’s Webmaster Tools will already find reports on their site’s mobile usability.

Although Google’s initial focus has been on mobile-friendly sites for smart phones, we can expect that in the near future Google will turn its attention to tablets. Users often shop from the comfort of home with their tablets. Google will look to improve the experience of “couch commerce” searchers in the future. If you have been postponing developing a mobile/tablet-friendly site, you can no longer put it off.

You Know Your Mobile Customers Better Than You Think

Consumers are generally very attached to their smartphones and only connect with those they trust. This very reason is why mobile marketing is perceived as a “friendlier” way to engage with consumers. Research shows 95 percent of mobile users read their text messages within three minutes. Now, imagine the impact your mobile marketing will have if you deliver relevant offers, mobile coupons and discounts to your customers-they are almost guaranteed to be read and are more than likely to be acted upon if the message is targeted based on the what you already know about the customer.

Consumers are generally very attached to their smartphones and only connect with those they trust. This very reason is why mobile marketing is perceived as a “friendlier” way to engage with consumers. Research shows 95 percent of mobile users read their text messages within three minutes. Now, imagine the impact your mobile marketing will have if you deliver relevant offers, mobile coupons and discounts to your customers—they are almost guaranteed to be read and are more than likely to be acted upon if the message is targeted based on the what you already know about the customer.

Over the last couple years, mobile marketing has proven itself as an effective way to acquire and maintain customer data. This is true because people generally keep their phone numbers forever compared to their email addresses. Therefore having strong persistent personal IDs, such as a phone number, enables brands to track, evaluate, and optimize their mobile marketing campaigns to determine overall effectiveness.

Leverage What You Already Know
There are major benefits from using mobile messaging as part of a brands overall marketing campaign. Now brands and organizations are tracking and segmenting the users who are in their marketing databases. Information that has been collected through loyalty programs, incentive based marketing and opt-in’s which enables brands to better understand their customers interests and what they will respond to.

Turn Loyalty Programs Into Customize Incentives
Connecting a consumer’s phone number to their loyalty program ID can turn generic SMS offers into customized incentives. If you know what your customers are buying, and more importantly, what incentives bring them into your stores, you can use this information to make offers more dynamic and personal. Which in turn will drive a higher return rate and increase on-going customer loyalty.

CRM and Triggered Messaging
Most CRM systems track events throughout the customer lifecycle. Many of these events represent an opportunity to sell more product and service. These events can be used to trigger personalized messages to your customers that facilitate the sales process. Include a click to call, or drive them to your e-commerce enabled website to move them to purchase faster. Make sure your website is mobile ready!

Extend Your Knowledge of Your Customers
Using Mobile Messaging in your retention marketing doesn’t have to be a one-way conversation. In addition to tying in what you already know about your customers within your CRM or loyalty databases, you can gain insight from the SMS interactions as well. An integration between your back-office systems and your SMS provider can push new data points into your database that round out your customer profiles and lead to additional re-marketing opportunities.

There is a lot that can be done with the information that is collected about customers within a CRM system. While this data can be a great resource for things like consumer segmentation and establishing marketing strategy, it can also be leveraged real-time on a very personal level. Leveraging this data via SMS or other mobile engagements can lead to greater results through right-time, right device, and the right-message that walk the customer down the path to purchase.

As brands continue to evolve their mobile marketing strategies through more personalized interactions, they will be able to build stronger relationships, increase engagement and drive loyalty.

4 Hi-Tech Direct Mail Tricks

Marketers continue to use direct mail in 2014, because it still leads in  ROI. However, traditional direct mail marketing is changing. We can  “tech up” direct mail to meet the needs of recipients and to increase  that ROI even more! By adding technology, you can spice up the direct  mail, create a wow factor and make it even easier to respond

Marketers continue to use direct mail in 2014, because it still leads in ROI. However, traditional direct mail marketing is changing. We can “tech up” direct mail to meet the needs of recipients and to increase that ROI even more! By adding technology, you can spice up the direct mail, create a wow factor and make it even easier to respond.

Here are four ways to “tech up” your next direct mail campaign:

  1. QR Code: At this point most everyone has seen a QR Code in a magazine or other ad (little box with squares in it). You can create personalized QR Codes so that the content is unique to each person or just generic for that campaign. This landing page content can be changed and updated as needed, creating an easy way to keep people coming back for new content. Make sure your content is mobile-ready since the recipients will be using a mobile device to scan the QR Codes.
  2. PURL: A personalized URL will provide a personalized landing page and content as you need it to. This should be setup with dynamic formatting—in other words, the landing page should work for both mobile users and desktop users since the URL can easily be used on both devices. You can even use the same page as the QR Code to save on costs if you are providing both on your direct mail as a means of response. This provides the recipient with the choice of which method they prefer.
  3. Augmented Reality: This can be a very sophisticated technology. Having an image come to life and be manipulated by the recipient is a very powerful wow factor. You do not have to go all out here if your budget does not allow it. You can create a great user experience without breaking the bank. Keep the recipient in mind when designing: What will they want to see, get out of it and like? This will take time and testing to make sure that a wide array of phones display correctly, and that you are conveying the correct message.
  4. NFC: Near field communication is the next great technology. Most cell phones that are now coming out have the NFC capability (iPhone still does not). This allows the user to tap their phone to the mail piece and launch the content you provide them. No scanning or application download required, which makes it better for the recipients. This is another sophisticated technolog,y and just new enough that it can be really exciting to recipients.

These “tech ups” do not have to be big budget items. Plan out your strategy and talk with your direct marketing company. They can help guide you through the process as well as steer you toward ways to keep costs down. Creating the bridge from the offline direct mail to the online content is a great driver of response. Keep in mind you still need the basic elements of direct mail. A good list, a good design and a strong call to action are a must. If any of these are lacking, your response will show it. You will also need information on how recipients can use the technology and then provide them with strong content to view. If the content is not well designed or planned out then the whole process will be a waste of time.

4 Things Mobile Users Need

With the speed at which mobile technology and innovation is occurring these days, it’s almost impossible to keep up. With more and more consumers adopting smartphones or tablets and relying on them in everyday shopping decisions, it’s put them in the driver’s seat. As a business owner, it’s your job to keep up.

With the speed at which mobile technology and innovation is occurring these days, it’s almost impossible to keep up.

With more and more consumers adopting smartphones or tablets and relying on them in everyday shopping decisions, it’s put them in the driver’s seat. As a business owner, it’s your job to keep up.

The best way to keep up with mobile consumers is to understand their needs.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about an interview I had with Brad Frost, a thought leader in the responsive design community. He broke down what is essentially the mobile hierarchy of needs.

He used the pictured pyramid to discuss a mobile user’s needs as it relates to a mobile website; however, I believe these needs apply to more than just mobile Web …

In fact, I think these four needs are key to business success when integrating mobile into the business.

1. Access

At the foundation of the pyramid, you have Access. As Frost will tell you, this means giving the users what they want. When we’re talking about mobile Web, this essentially means giving them the info they are looking for. If they came to your site for tips on cooking the perfect steak … they should be able to find that.

As for overall mobile strategy, you need to consider what your mobile customer needs. Can you give them access to tools that will help them in their lives? Can you give access to specials or coupons while they are on the go?

Access is the first and most important component of success with mobile.

2. Interaction

As Frost mentioned in our conversation, interaction usually results in navigation as it pertains to your mobile website.

Simply, can the user get around your site to accomplish the desired result?

When considering your overall strategy, creating campaigns that allow consumers to interact with you and your business will often lead to deeper engagement and increased conversion opportunities.

3. Performance

Performance is often overlooked—mainly because marketers make too many assumptions about our user.

Your users won’t always have the fastest Internet connection and, despite that, expect your site to load faster than the desktop, although that rarely happens when looking at most mobile sites vs. their desktop counterparts.

Your mobile strategy should be focused on performance, as well. When I think of performance from a strategic standpoint, I think of giving the users what they want as fast and efficiently as possible at my lowest cost.

4. Enhancement

At the top of the pyramid, we have enhancement.

As Frost explained, mobile is inherently different from desktop. Mobile browsers can do things that desktop browsers cannot.

If your customer needs to complete a mobile Web form, you can offer your user different keyboards to help provide important info, such as a phone number.

When it comes to strategy, it’s important to remember mobile is different. Thus, you must consider how you can leverage that in reaching your goals. Can you use location or the accelerometer to give extra value to your customers as you begin to better understand their context?

Whether you’re developing a mobile website or looking for guides as you develop a winning mobile strategy, moving forward with the hierarchy of mobile needs in mind puts you in the best position to succeed.

As a small business owner, this can be your advantage. Because, quite frankly … many big brands fail to do this today.

Now it’s your turn … What are you doing to satisfy your customer’s mobile needs?