Google’s commitment to the mobile consumer user experience has proven unrelenting; today, brands that fail to prioritize mobile are missing out on multiple opportunities.
Back in the summer of 2016, Google shared with us that 40% of consumers were leaving pages that took any longer than 3 seconds to load. This obviously presented a huge problem for U.S. retailers, especially since the average page load time at that point was more than double that threshold, at 6.9 seconds.
Improving those page speeds was the impetus behind AMP, the Google-backed Accelerated Mobile Pages initiative that launched in October 2015 with a handful of technology company partners. On Feb. 24, 2016, Google officially integrated AMP listings into its mobile search results and today, you’ll find AMP on over 25 million domains.
AMP continues to evolve. Google recently said there are “more than 700 folks contributing over 10,000 commits running on many millions of websites,” and AMP is moving to an “open governance model.” For its part, Bing finally announced the release of the Bing AMP viewer, enabling Bing mobile searchers to access AMP-enabled pages from the search results.
As you look ahead to 2019, you must consider mobile-friendliness in general, and AMP in particular, in every aspect of your marketing. This involves more than formatting content to render properly on a smaller screen. There are AMP-specific features to be taken advantage of in the SERPs — it’s the only way to be featured in a Top Stories carousel, for example. Given the impending holiday shopping season, there’s no time like the present to renew your commitment to mobile.
In this article I will explore three specific areas of focus for improving your mobile strategy:
BrightEdge (my company) research found that, as of last year, 57% of all US online traffic now comes from smartphones and tablets.
Traffic from wireless and mobile devices will account for more than 63 percent of total IP traffic by 2021, according to networking firm Cisco. The world is online, and the majority of people on the planet are using mobile devices to find answers to their immediate needs.
When it comes to local content, mobile use is even more prevalent, as 30% of mobile queries are location-based. Mobile searchers demonstrate great intent to buy, too; 76% who perform “near me” searches (whether or not they use that actual term) visit a local business within a day, according to Think With Google research. What’s more, 28% of those searches result in a purchase.
For national brands, 85% of all engagement takes place on local media assets such as local landing pages. How can you tap into mobile-local opportunities, whether it’s for your single-location business or for hundreds of locations across the country?
- Use location data to target customers. Already, 50% of brands are doing this. You need to get in the game and there’s still room to surpass local competitors who’ve been slower on the uptake.
- Narrow down your local marketing radius. Consumers will travel farther for less frequent purchases like clothing or auto repair, but 93% typically travel 20 minutes or less for their general shopping needs. According to the Local Search Association, “Urban consumers, who represent 83% of all shoppers, prefer even shorter distances, with 92% traveling 15 minutes or less…. Thus, local businesses must adjust their marketing reach to account for the small radius of their audience. However, that audience might include local residents, commuters who work nearby or out-of-town travelers. So remember that distance becomes relevant at the micro-moment when a need arises and isn’t a static point for each individual.”
- AMP your local landing pages. Frederick Vallaeys wrote a great piece about this with a few case studies, Q&A with a Google rep and tips for getting started. Whether you’re selling online, reliant on ad revenue or driving traffic to real-world stores, you’ll find his AMP tips useful.
- Prioritize your AMP efforts. AMP improves mobile user experience by reducing the weight of HTML pages through superior code hygiene and the AMP cache. Essentially, AMP markup enables you to deliver a separate version of a page optimized for fast delivery on mobile. Google hosts AMP files on its own content delivery network (CDN), so content behaves as if it’s loading from the browser cache rather than a remote server. Even so, it’s not necessarily needed across your entire site.
- Audit your domain for site errors. Be on the lookout for slow load times and noindex tags, and use average time on page and bounce rates to better understand how users engage with your content.
The number of image thumbnails displayed in Google’s mobile search results has risen dramatically recently. Google continues to invest into visual search. Recently, Google announced that it’s making visual content more useful in search by “helping people better find information visually, and making it easier to pursue the things people come to Google Images for help with.” Among these latest updates:
- AMP Stories will now be displayed in Google Images and Discover, in addition to Search and News.
- Google is beginning to use AI to intelligently construct AMP stories and surface this content in Search.
- Users can now visually preview topics with Featured Videos in Search
- The Google Images algorithm has been “overhauled” over the last year to rank results that have both great images and great content on the page. Page authority and content freshness are two ranking signals with substantial weight in this algorithm.
- Google Images will show more context around images, including captions that show users the title of the webpage where each image is published.
- Google Lens is being incorporated into Google Images, to help searchers explore and learn more about visual content they find during Image searches.
It’s all part of Google’s ambitious, just-published 20-year search outlook, which as you might have guessed, relies heavily on AI. (Read that outlook piece from Google VP of Search, Ben Gomes.)
What can you do to step up your visual search performance, with an eye to mobile?
- Focus on the data that tells searchers and search engines what your images are about. Optimize image labels, data, tags and descriptors to help Google better index graphics and images.
- Choose images carefully. Pay attention to image quality, load speed, viewability, context, authenticity and general visual appeal of the image.
- Be cognizant of image placement. This latest announcement from Google states, “We now prioritize sites where the image is central to the page, and higher up on the page.”
- Use both videos and images for products. According to Google, “Using computer vision, we’re now able to deeply understand the content of a video and help you quickly find the most useful information in a new experience called featured videos.”
- Get familiar with AMP Stories. This is a great opportunity for early adopter brands to align with Google innovation here and gain visibility in competitive SERPs.
The prevalence of voice-activated assistants and the tendency of searchers to use voice for mobile queries has given rise to two distinct, lucrative types of “position zero.”
The first is via a direct answer at the top of the SERPs, which eclipses not only organic results but ads, as well. Google chooses a resource that best answers the user query in a succinct few sentences or single paragraph, and gives it the most prominent page placement.
The second type of “position zero” is the single result that comes back on a voice query to a digital assistant. Of course, with no visual interface, there are no other blue links to click or videos or images to peruse.
Shoppers aren’t satisfied with voice search alone yet, though. According to a report from Slyce.it, 74% of shoppers report that text-only search is insufficient for finding the products they want.
How can you increase your voice “visibility” and deliver a more satisfying user experience for voice searchers?
- Pay attention to site structure and architecture. If you have separate URLs for desktop and mobile, make sure that all desktop content maps one-to-one to your mobile URLs.
- Structure content for verbal queries. Voice searches tend to use full sentences and natural language, as opposed to shorter, keyword-focused text searches. Voice queries may also be more specific and contextual, which demands a different method of structuring content. Google recommends, “For optimal audio user experiences, we recommend around 20 to 30 seconds of content per section of speakable structured data, or roughly two to three sentences.”
- Mirror the Q&A style by which voice results are delivered. What question is it that your content answers for searchers? Include that in your title or subheadings to increase the chances that Google will choose your answer as the most relevant.
- Apply Google’s best practices on speakable structured data. For example, use concise headlines and/or summaries that provide users with comprehensible and useful information. Read more on that.
- Evaluate your site’s mobile readiness for speed and usability.
- Track and trend mobile rank by device.
- Check your mobile share of voice and be aware that you might have different competitors in the mobile SERPs and the desktop SERPs
- Track AMP visibility on important keywords and prepare to migrate the content and pages as you see higher AMP utilization.
- Configure your tracking for local search and voice search.
AMP is just the tip of the mobile iceberg and recent changes and news mean that you should all be prioritizing how mobile fits is search, content and digital marketing strategies.
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