Mobile Search Is Evolving—Is Your Business Keeping Up With …


Hand holding mobile phone with search page on screen

Organic traffic will always be of the utmost importance to businesses and brands across the globe. With mobile usage on the rise and mobile-first indexing now in effect with Google, focusing your time and efforts on securing top mobile search rankings is more important than ever before.

As we all know, we are simply playing in Google’s arena and rules can change at anytime. Industries and markets can also disappear overnight. Google doesn’t need to have a reason to act the way it does—it simple does as it likes.

It’s not enough to simply have a website or blog with quality SEO in place; it’s also about knowing what works, what methods to stay away from, and also how your competitors are getting the upper hand.

With all this in mind, we are going to cover some of the more important questions, comments, predictions, and best methods to consider when focusing on mobile search—all of which are provided by industry experts and brands that already have these methods in motion.

Big mobile SEO misconceptions

Search engine optimization (SEO) can almost feel like black magic at the best of times, so it’s perfectly understandable that so many entrepreneurs suffer from so many misconceptions, especially when it comes to the “mobile-first” approach which Google has been taking and will continue to take in 2019.

Many business leaders have a fundamental understanding that their websites need to be reasonably accessible from mobile devices, but from there, the details get fuzzy. “Most entrepreneurs think making their site responsive and load fast are enough to address mobile SEO,” says MailShake and Ramp Ventures co-founder Sujan Patel. “But that’s really only scratching the surface. Entrepreneurs need to focus on the mobile experience and adjust their strategy based on what call to action a mobile user is going to take.”

But it’s not like load times are inconsequential either. Startup growth consultant Roy Povarchik asserts that it’s not just about content; the technical aspects are just as important. “On mobile, everything is on the go,” he says. “Patience is the one thing your users and customer don’t have. Every second that your page takes to load, if your button is a bit too small—whatever delivers a bad experience—creates frustration, which leads to bad site engagement. Google cares about that, especially on mobile.”

The most common misconceptions about mobile SEO really come down to scope and what “mobile first” really means. “Entrepreneurs are conflating the concepts of mobile indexing, mobile crawling, and mobile UX,” says Dan Shure of EvolvingSEO and the “Experts on the Wire” podcast. “Google is not only taking the content it finds on the mobile version of your site as the primary source of content, but it’s also using your mobile site for link discovery, crawling, and accessibility.”

So your first step is to get on the level with what mobile SEO really means, what the mobile user experience is all about, and what Google is really prioritizing with its mobile-first initiative.

The power of user experience

Google’s mission has always been “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” This refers not only to the actual content itself, but also how it is presented. A website with the best information, but a terrible layout, will not win many favors. The user experience (UX), which includes such considerations as navigation, usability, and page load times, mustn’t be ignored. For example, mobile web pages that load in under three seconds are likely to rank higher than those that take longer.

“The first thing you need to do is to align your mobile SEO and UX optimization strategies,” asserts Agente Studio Managing Director and Partner Andrew Terehin. But what does that actually mean? Terehin highlights the importance of “thumb-friendly navigation” where you’ll need to pay attention to details like “button sizes or reachable menus with up to seven items.”

But mobile UX optimization is about more than design. “Great UX is what makes you stay on a site, engage with it, consume its content, and spend more time on it,” says Povarchik. He also points out another key difference in the user experience on desktop and on mobile. While we are perfectly comfortable navigating around multiple pages on our desktops, users generally don’t want to do that on mobile, “so we might be seeing sites that have fewer pages actually ranking better.”

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More big changes 

If you’re trying to anticipate where mobile search is headed in 2019, you first need to understand how Google has been approaching its mobile-first indexing and algorithm updates: deliberately and incrementally. In fact, many websites are still not included in Google’s mobile-first index, and some may never be.

What’s more, with the rise of voice search, it matters less whether your site ranks on page one of the search results than it used to. Now it’s all about optimizing to appear in the “answer box” above the top result, because that’s what Google Assistant reads back to people in response to their queries.

Then there’s the evolution of “local search,” where Google discerns searchers’ intent to find information relating to a location near them. Elliott Davidson, CEO and founder of Contrast Digital, believes that Google “will put more emphasis on proximity and also show more listings like featured snippets. This means readers’ questions will be answered directly in the SERPs, and in turn reduce click-through rates on mobile.”

This has been a growing challenge for many site owners, as readers are getting the answers they want without actually clicking through to the website itself. For featured snippets, answer boxes and voice search, your ability to surface in the search results hinges on your use of “schema” tags in your content’s source code.

“Schema markups are going to be more important than ever, since Google is focusing a lot on its knowledge cards and giving the user the answer right on the search page, ” predicts Povarchik. “Sites that can leverage that will get much more traffic and attention than sites that don’t.”

Where the ball is going

From choosing the right fonts to optimizing image sizes, ensuring that you provide the best possible mobile user experience will be critical if you want to gain, retain, or improve your mobile search engine rankings. The ongoing mobile search algorithm rollouts next year will have a dramatic impact on rankings, and you don’t want to be caught with the short end of the stick.

RELATED: Designing Effective PPC Landing Pages for Mobile Devices: Advice From Real Experts

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