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Mobile Friendliness and Search

Posted on Friday, June 30, 2017 at 12:23 AM

Tailoring your website to meet the evolving needs of mobile searchers and get priority ranking on search engines.

By William Dunkerley

If you benefit from online searches that bring prospective subscribers to your publication, it's time to rethink mobile. Increasingly, search activity is being dominated by mobile. An absence of mobile friendliness can put you at great disadvantage.

Last November, Search Engine Land reported: "Google begins mobile-first indexing, using mobile content for all search rankings." SEL is an online news site that covers search engine optimization issues. It explains that "if you're not mobile-friendly, that will have an impact even on how you appear for desktop searchers."

Are You Mobile Friendly?

Google has a tool for analyzing how mobile friendly your site is. You can check your publication by clicking here.

We tried the tool on a several publications, with these results:

New York Times -- "Page is not mobile friendly"
Interior Design -- "Page is mobile friendly"
American Banker -- "Page is mobile friendly"
Woodshop News -- "Page is not mobile friendly"

(We must confess that STRAT did not pass this test either!)

Another dimension of mobile friendliness is download time. Readers may approach a site with a variety of connection speeds and device capabilities. There is an online tool to tell you how your site performs. It estimates how many visitors are lost due to loading time. Click here.

We retested the above publications with this tool. Here are the results:

New York Times -- 19 percent
Interior Design -- 24 percent
American Banker -- 32 percent
Woodshop News -- 26 percent

(On this test, STRAT's visitor loss was reported simply as "low."

Mobile-First Google Index

Google is developing a new search index that places mobile first. Reports vary about the exact characteristics of the index and on when it will be completely implemented. But there seems to be little doubt that it is coming.

How to get ready for it? Writing in Forbes magazine, AudienceBloom CEO Jayson DeMers offers these recommendations:

--"Ensure full mobile compliance. First, if you haven't yet, make sure you have a fully functioning mobile version of your site -- preferably by using a responsive design on your site that automatically flexes based on the device used to access it.

--"Ensure equivalence between desktop and mobile. If you do end up using a separate mobile version of your site, you'll want to ensure complete equivalence between your two versions. Make your mobile version your 'primary' version, and ensure it's always updated first in future revisions.

--"Consider app development. Though mobile-first is focused on mobile sites, not apps, it's worth it to consider developing an app for your business, as I predict Google's mobile focus will likely lead the company to broader app favoritism (along the lines of app streaming) in the near future."

More Tips

There's even more to facing the challenges of mobile search. TREKK's Sarah Mannone, writing in Target Marketing, offers:

--"Those with responsive sites, where content and markup is the same across mobile and desktop, will have the advantage. But even then, you may need to adjust to accommodate mobile searchers. Today, voice search makes up almost 20 percent of searches. And the words they use are typically different than what they might type into a browser. That may make you want to research your SEO approach.

--"We've all seen these giant pop-ups that display an offer, ask you to download an app or sign up for an e-newsletter. They're easily dismissed on the desktop, but when translated to the smaller mobile screen they can be downright annoying. For 2017, Google made it clear that mobile sites that continue to show intrusive interstitials could see their search rankings drop. What Google doesn't want to see is pop-ups that cover the main content, making it inaccessible to the user. Exceptions are legal notices, like cookie usage or age verification, and login screens for paid services

--"It used to be that Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) was only necessary for e-commerce or sites that store highly sensitive information. To increase the security and privacy of all its searchers, Google has recommended that every site use this more secure protocol. Today, it uses it as a ranking factor signal, which means your ranking could get a bump if you have it. This year Chrome began putting 'not secure' warnings in the URL browser bar."

What Else?

It's important to keep in mind that as the search industry proceeds in catering more to the increasing demands of mobile searchers, it is still feeling its way along. What's unknown is exactly how search users will react to these changes.

For instance, we've seen pushback to the Chrome "not secure" warnings. Apparently they have caused confusion among a number of searchers who mistakenly interpret them as a "don't go there" signal.

This all means that planned initiatives and directions may change course based on how the market reacts. For publishers it means that we need to be poised to act with agility in order to succeed no matter what lies ahead.

William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

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