In today’s guest post, Greenlight Digital’s Head of SEO Bea Patman shares her thoughts on the mobile-first revolution, and why digital marketers need to invest more time and resource into their mobile strategy.
SEO loves its tropes: if we’re not insisting for the thousandth time that ‘content is king’, we’re predicting that next year really will be ‘the year of mobile’. We’ve become so accustomed to heralding in each new year with this particular forecast that it feels a bit strange to be calling an end to the tradition. But do so I must, because here’s the thing – The Year of Mobile has happened.
Perhaps the biggest piece of evidence for this is ‘Mobilegeddon’; the delightfully melodramatic nickname given to Google’s mobile-friendly update in April 2015. It’s rare that industry news makes mainstream headlines but this update was widely covered in the press – not least because of the headline-friendly epithet, but also because it was a rare instance in which the update was announced in advance by Google. The apocalyptic name belied what was actually a fairly low-key initial impact, but more than anything this update marked the beginning of a major sea change in the significance of mobile performance to organic search success.
There’s no great mystery behind the intense focus that Google placed on mobile performance in 2015. The number of searches made on mobile devices surpassed that of desktops worldwide, meaning that mobile users became the majority that brands should seek to satisfy. One of the more interesting consequences of this transition has been an almost unprecedented level of transparency from Google about what best practice should look like. It provides a mobile-friendly testing tool with which webmasters can assess their pages against specific design criteria, as well as a dedicated mobile test within the PageSpeed Insights tool. In October 2015, Google announced support for the Accelerated Mobile Pages project (AMP) – a project which utilises existing web technologies within a new open source framework, designed to help brands create much lighter webpages. AMP enables sites to observe best practice by managing the size, order and rendering of page elements, making it much simpler to adhere to Google’s PageSpeed guidelines.
I think that this consistent focus on mobile experience has been responsible for stimulating a somewhat subtler transition in the way that brands treat their mobile propositions, too. For the past few years we’ve been in what some are calling a ‘land grab’ phase, which has seen brands rush to stake a position in front of a mobile audience, often compromising on quality in favour of getting to market faster. This was the era of clunky mobile sites, confusing redirects, inconsistent functionality and lots of strange and unhelpful apps – all contributing to a poor user experience on mobile. 2015 was the first time that we really began to see brands recognising that mobile was actually an incredibly fertile ground in which to develop meaningful, enhanced experiences for their customers.
These kind of experiences range from the simple, such as creating adaptive or responsive mobile-first websites, to ambitious projects such as the use of iBeacons at airports to facilitate a smooth, mobile-only journey from ticket purchase to check-in. Beacon technology is a particularly interesting field of opportunity for any brands that have a physical touchpoint with their customers, because of its ability to drive offline behaviours at highly specific locations and moments in time. If you were a wine producer, for example, you might be able to use a supermarket’s beacon technology to promote an offer on your products via a push notification at the exact moment a potential customer was browsing the aisle.
While there’s been plenty of debate around when the year of mobile actually happened, what’s certain is that the latest updates and algorithms are far more mobile-focused. With that in mind, the best advice I have for any SEO or digital marketer is to seriously consider the time and resource that is going towards your mobile activity, so that you can tap into what is now the mobile-first consumer.
Bea has worked in digital marketing for over eight years, specialising in organic search. Having originally joined Greenlight in 2012, she now leads the team of consultants as Head of SEO. She has led SEO strategy for a variety of major UK and international brands, both in English and German, and draws from her background in writing to bring creativity and a content-led approach to her work.
You can catch-up with Bea at this month’s Search Leaders Masterclass, which takes place at Etihad Stadium, Manchester on Tuesday 29th November 2016.