Mobile use has skyrocketed, surpassing the desktop. Learn the latest optimization and content strategies to maximize SEO:
- Generation Z and multi-gen usage trends
- How different industries are being impacted and the rise of mobile pioneering industries
- SEO content strategies for mobile
Ben: Welcome to Mobile Month of the Voices of Search podcast series. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro, and this month we’re going to take a close look at the small screen and discuss what SEOs need to know about optimizing their strategies, content, and technology for maximum impact on mobile devices.
Ben: Joining us to kick off content this month is Jordan Koene, who is the lead SEO strategist, and CEO of Searchmetrics Inc. Jordan and I are going to walk through some of the differences between mobile and desktop experiences for consumers.
Ben: But before we get started, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise-scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data-driven decisions.
Ben: To support you as our loyal podcast listeners, we’re offering a complimentary digital diagnostic with Searchmetrics. A member of our digital strategies group will provide you with a consultation that reviews how your website, content, and SEO strategies can all be optimized.
Ben: To schedule your free digital diagnostic, go to searchmetrics.com/diagnostic. Okay, here’s the first installment of Mobile Month with Jordan Koene, CEO of Searchmetrics Inc. Jordan, welcome back to the Voices of Search podcast.
Jordan: Thanks Ben. Looking forward to kicking off Mobile Month and sharing some of my thoughts here.
Ben: I’m really excited to kick off Mobile Month. Not only is it Mobile Month, but it’s the Mobile Month of March. So, lots of m’s this month,
Jordan: That’s right. Maybe a little tongue twister there, say it 10 times fast.
Ben: Mobile much-oh God, I can’t even do it once.
Ben: We’re off to a flying start already. Let’s talk about mobile; we’re going to cover a lot of ground this month. Let’s start at the top. When you think of mobile and how it relates to SEO, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?
Jordan: There’s a lot of topics that really come to mind from my perspective, but first and foremost, I think that the common understanding is that mobile today is just a primary medium; it’s the way that almost everyone now consumes content. Whether you’re in developed nations or developing nations, mobile has become the primary access point for content and for engagement through the web, and that is just kind of a common fact.
Jordan: I think that it’s really at the core of a changing a mindset and that this mindset is not just for SEOs, but that even a lot of digital marketers’ mindsets have historically and still have been in this transitional process. Well, wake up, it’s no longer transitional and mobile is the primary medium nowadays.
Ben: I think I have a good understanding of why, but just for our listeners, why do you say that mobile is something that is now a bigger consideration than non-mobile experiences?
Jordan: Yes, there’s a couple of things that we look at, and some of it is not at all relevant to just search, right? This is more relevant to your business and managing your business. And one of the interesting things that I was looking at and reading up on a few weeks ago, was a study by a center of generational kinetics.
Jordan: And this organization basically did a study on the different generations, and how much they use mobile devices. In particular, the one data point that really struck me as the most interesting was for Generation Z. So this is the up and coming generation right now who are literally pure mobile consumers.
Jordan: They only know mobile devices, and they’ve had mobile devices their entire life. Less than two percent of them use a mobile device for less than an hour a day. So, less than two percent of the current generation that has grown up exclusively with mobile devices is using mobile devices less than an hour a day, and that’s kind of crazy and mind boggling.
Jordan: And so, if you can only think about that as that generation gets into the consumer consideration set, and they start to go through college, get jobs, and contribute to the society in those ways, obviously the only way they’re going to do that is through mobile, because that’s their only medium.
Ben: Not to go too much down this path, but you and I both have young children, and the interesting thing to me is that it is damn near impossible to get an iPad out of a 2-year old’s hands when they’ve figured out that there’s a video or a game that they want to play.
Ben: Mobile devices are on some levels addicting, and the user experience where you’re not actually typing and using a keyboard and a mouse is so much easier than a desktop experience, that we’re seeing people start to use those devices younger and younger. But let’s talk a little bit about the search landscape and how it relates to mobile. Give me a sense of how big mobile is relative to the desktop now, and what direction is it heading?
Jordan: So for many industries, and we see this across the board, obviously in some of the more heavy content-driven industries like news and media, those folks have transitioned to a 60, 40, or higher split of mobile traffic compared to desktop traffic. And that gap is kind of flattened out for what I like to call mobile pioneering industries.
Jordan: But what we really notice is there is a trend that has trickled down into much more traditional businesses, ones like real estate or even other businesses that normally would be protected from just a pure mobile experience. There have been pioneers in innovating companies who have really forced the envelope of mobile being the primary medium for accessing their content.
Jordan: And even if you think about it from a local standpoint, what Yelp has done on a local standpoint for a local business, how many businesses are so reliant on Yelp as a source of awareness to generate foot traffic into their local business–it’s pervasive throughout all industries.
Ben: So, it’s interesting to me what you’re talking about, and for local businesses, mobile is essentially the only way to go. Very few people are looking on a desktop device to figure out where they’re going to dinner, where to get their haircut–that is all mobile at this point, right?
Ben: For those industries that ship has sailed, but with some of the larger purchases, things that require more consideration like buying a home and buying a car, we’re really seeing a shift towards mobile, right?
Ben: You see someone like Zillow, or Cars.com, or any of the other major car retailers–even down to Tesla–you’re seeing mobile experiences that are becoming equally as important as the desktop experiences that they’ve crafted.
Jordan: Absolutely, and what happens is that as you have some of these mobile pioneering companies, or innovators, say like a Zillow in the real estate industry, those companies create an entirely new set of expectations for users, and then when users visit your website or they want to access your content through an app or other means, they become reliant or dependent on those mobile expectations.
Jordan: And so those transitions haven’t happened overnight, but they certainly have evolved over time. So now, if you’re just a real estate agent in a local market, well you need to be thinking about, “Am I delivering the content and the experience in a mobile-rich way that buyers and sellers of homes would expect?”
Ben: I think the big question for me is not what industry is mobile pervasive, but where is mobile not actually the primary form of content consumption? Are there industries that you’re seeing where mobile isn’t basically the most important user experience?
Jordan: Yeah, Google uses this acronym, ‘YMYL’, so your money, your life, and in some of those industries that are considered that you’re still seeing kind of a slower adoption towards mobile, particularly some of the finance industries, taxing, taxation, banking, but the reality is even those industries have become incredibly focused on mobile, and in some cases trying to create their own kind of innovation track for mobile.
Jordan: But those are still kind of maybe some of the laggards that still are out there, but again, I think that goes back to the mindset that we’ve kind of started the show off talking about, which is this is no longer a transitional thing. Mobile is the primary content access point for consumers these days.
Ben: So basically, the big slow-moving industries, tax, banking, finance, medical insurance, probably government, those are places where mobile is not necessarily the biggest industry, but pretty much everywhere else, mobile is the predominant form of content consumption, right?
Jordan: Right, correct.
Ben: Okay. Talk to me about the different content types. I know that we talked about Zillow as an example of a large purchase that has a mobile facet to it. Obviously, they have some long form content, and they have some short form content. One is a mobile experience, one isn’t, are there different content types that are specifically suited to mobile?
Jordan: Most definitely, and I think there’s a couple of ways of looking at the mobile content landscape, and I’d like to start off by kind of demystifying one of them, which is this idea of long form content, right?
Jordan: We talk a lot about long form content, not just as SEOs, but we talk about long form content when designing certain sections of our site or working with editorial teams. The reality is that everything is a long form content in mobile.
Jordan: So, there isn’t like this binary like distinction that suddenly you have shorter content that just automatically works for mobile. That’s kind of a falsehood, there’s such limited real estate, such limited exposure in mobile that all content forms need to be reconsidered, and rethought to ensure that it is creating both the best utility.
Jordan: So, the best utility being sharing the right message, as well as the right experience, or set of expectations for those consumers. So, the first piece is just kind of this concept of a long form, versus not long form. Everything needs to be considered when you’re designing your content for mobile.
Ben: So, let’s dive into that a little, because I have some questions. Searchmetrics for example, we write blog posts that are about SEO, and we can’t distill a thousand word article that is about the various ranking factors in SEO into a short form piece of content that’s just going to fit on a mobile screen.
Ben: So, what is considered, you know, I’m using air quotes, short form content, and long form content on a mobile device, and what’s the way to handle an experience when you have a true long form piece of content that’s you know, blog posts, and things that are just a little bit more in depth?
Jordan: Yeah. So, there’s a couple of ways to enrich that experience, and the first one is ensuring that you’re above the full frame has the capabilities distinguish, or feature the most important content asset within the story, or the content that you’re displaying.
Jordan: So, whether that’s a table, or a summary statement, or a bulleted list, or a numbered list, having that functionality that surfaces the meat of what you’re trying to showcase at the top is probably the most important capability that you can leverage in mobile.
Jordan: Working off of that, the next layer from there is how you look at say, menus in the general navigation, and the navigational design is the next piece, because you cannot expect that consumers are going to be able to digest all of that information in that one mobile page, but getting a user to do multiple sessions can often convey the full story.
Ben: I mean maybe I’m biased, but I think that there’s also an opportunity to have your longer form content, but then also supplement it with audio, so you can have somebody play what you’re talking about, but then again, you know, I’m a podcast host, what do I know?
Jordan: Right? Video, audio, and other assets to consolidate your content is also a very, very good mean.
Ben: It sounds much better when you say it. Talk to me a little bit about some of the navigation, and imagery. You know, mobile is just inherently a very visual way to consume content, because you don’t have a lot of space. How much does that stuff matter?
Jordan: A ton. It is surprising the projects that we have done with partners around navigation, in both the introduction of the right navigation. So, what I mean by that is do you need to have multiple navigation menus, not just one. Say you have a hamburger menu, you have a header menu, maybe have a footer menu, there’s different ways to expand, and collapse these menus these days.
Jordan: That is maybe one of the most vital assets that you have in mobile, because it is fundamentally the ease of use. It is that swipe, that quick click, that ability to shift into other content within your experience very quickly, is ultimately what the optimization of those menus will do for the user, but those user signals, along with the ability for Google to navigate, and crawl that is the secondary benefit that you generate from that.
Ben: Yeah. That’s the one thing that I don’t quite understand with mobile. In terms of doing your navigation, it seems like you want to simplify, and take as much as you can out to just drive people to the primary points on your website.
Ben: Basically, mobile is a distillation of your desktop experience, but then you lose all of that navigation, and linking. How do you rationalize having a simplified experience with losing out on the internal linking?
Jordan: It is a very tricky topic, but it is one that has evolved a lot in the mobile space. Part of it is that there’s a lot more capabilities, and features that just didn’t exist even a few years ago in terms of navigation, the expandability of navigational menus, the collapsibility of navigational menus, also the ability to embed menus within the body of the page.
Jordan: So, the reality is that there’s a richer set of capabilities that many companies who maybe went through the quote, unquote transitional period, and became mobile ready, and are now competing against fiercely optimized mobile first companies, they may want to really revisit their mobile experience, because many of these companies who just took those menus, and took them for granted as is from the responsive design, or the kit that they used to become mobile ready, they’re missing out, because that’s a huge asset for them to enrich both the user experience, and create more accessibility for Google.
Ben: I think the other thing that comes to my mind when you talk about navigation with mobile is that there are different formats of navigation. There is your swipes, and your soft clicks, and hard clicks, and there’s all sorts of different things that you can do on a mobile device that you can’t necessarily do on most desktop device.
Ben: So, there’s different ways to get around, and we’re going to go into mobile design a little bit later in the month, and talk about some of the ways that you can get from point A, to point B. One of the things that I want to ask you about is, you know, we’re talking about mobile specific features.
Ben: How much does it matter when you’re building in things like transactional features, right? One click pay, some of the device, you know, the defaults that Apple has built out for the iPhone, like using your face to recognize who you are to do sign in, and authentication. Does Google look at those signals to understand whether you’re a cutting edge mobile site? Does that affect your SEO?
Jordan: That’s a great question, Ben. Right now today, there is no data that justifies that those enhancements around transactional ease of use, whether it’s Apple Pay, and Google Pay, and the ability to have that instant pay stream that those have any impact.
Jordan: However, I would predict that that will become one of those features that Google, and not just Google, but really just in general that users are going to demand, and expect, because it’s really nice when you click that Apple Pay feature, and all of your data populates in all of those fields, your name, your address, your phone number.
Jordan: You know, all these things that are kind of hard to do when you’re on a mobile device, and have to fill them all in, that instantly populates, and you finish the transaction right there.
Ben: Just take my money, it’s cool.
Jordan: Well, I mean, you know, the two of us, we’re buying a bunch of baby products. So, I think that I’ll take the ease of use any day.
Ben: I think I bought something for myself this month. I don’t remember what it was, but yeah, no, we’re all buying baby products. So, let’s talk about the strategy of mobile, and optimization.
Ben: When you think about advising Searchmetrics’ customers, what direction are you pointing them in, what are the priorities for making sure that you’re optimizing your mobile experience for SEO Performance?
Jordan: So, we are really still incredibly focused on mobile speed factors. So, ensuring that you have the fastest possible mobile experience, priority number one, and that is largely because there is a huge difference between the level of expectation that a desktop user can have in terms of accessibility to internet speed, whether it’s through Fiber, or other means, pretty fast most of the time, and pretty reliable.
Jordan: The accessibility on a mobile device, that’s a different story, and you can have one user who has access to the WIFI network, and is on Fiber, and is running at top speed, and you’ve got another guy, or gal who’s sitting in Montana on top of a mountain, and trying to access that same page, and barely even has a good 3G connection.
Jordan: So, this very vastly different a set of expectations in terms of accessibility, in terms of the speed of the internet that, that user has makes speed so much more important in mobile. So that’s, that’s priority number one.
Ben: It’s literally the difference between life, and death sometimes. I was going on a jog the other day, and I was sitting in traffic, and one out of 12 people consistently was sitting there driving while looking at their phone.
Ben: They should not be doing that, but let me just tell you, if your site isn’t performing, they’re not going to be paying attention to the road. One more reason why site speed is really important.
Jordan: Let’s hope that that’s not the reasoning behind why we should be making our sites bad, because people just shouldn’t be doing that, and driverless cars should be here as much sooner.
Ben: I’m sure Google is working on that as well. Talk to me a little bit more about some of the other factors outside of speed that you think of when it comes to mobile optimization.
Jordan: Yeah. So the next really critical factor around mobile optimization is a topic that we kind of covered a little earlier, which is the accessibility of the core message.
Jordan: So, how you get that surfaced on the page, and visually above the fold in the majority of mobile experiences, that is the next most important factor, and really helps drive engagement, and also helps drive your conversion, which is one of the topics that we’re going to be covering later this month, and I think is going to be really interesting, because most people just kind of take it for granted, and just expect their mobile experience to operate at a same, if not better rate than their desktop experience.
Ben: Basically, that goes back to the idea of doing the executive summaries that you’re putting above your blog posts. If they’re long form content, whatever it is, whatever piece of content, whatever the purpose of the page is, you need to get that point across above the fold, which is a tiny little bit of space. So, you really got to consolidate your message down top of fold in mobile.
Jordan: Right, and I mean in some cases, it’s about having a much richer feature set for your mobile experience. So, having carousels, or as you alluded to earlier, Ben, having the ability for people to access different content forms like video, or audio, and having that right up at the top, because yeah, it’s a lot easier for me to listen to a 25 second, or 30 second audio clip about this article, than it is for me to try to scroll, and read for 10 minutes. So, those kinds of capabilities make a big difference.
Ben: What are the other big strategy topics that you think about when you’re advising clients? How about things like, I don’t know, the design, and linking, a couple of things that we talked about. What about usability?
Jordan: There is a ton of opportunity for not only web masters who are designing, and mobile designers, but also SEOs, and search optimizers, as well as marketers to really think critically about both navigation, and then the crawlability, or accessibility of the mobile experience from Google.
Jordan: And we haven’t spent a lot of time going into some super heavy Google geek-speak here, but the fascinating thing that I always recognize, and I see not only in our clients, but in having conversations with SEOs, is that they often overlook the accessibility, and crawl path of their mobile experience, and they prioritize their desktop experience nine out of 10 times, and it’s comedic, because mobile first has become this cliché, and what we end up doing is we just spend all this time looking at the desktop experience.
Jordan: Crawl your mobile experience, focus on optimizing your mobile experience both from a usability and design standpoint. We talked about that earlier in this episode, but also from an accessibility standpoint, use your footer menus, and allow Google to access more content.
Jordan: Use your expandable menus and include more categories or subcategories that Google can access your content and crawl your content through your mobile experience; it makes a big difference. In fact, I think it makes a bigger difference in mobile than it doesn’t desktop, because Google is recognizing that you’re trying to use its real estate in a much more valuable way.
Jordan: So, there’s a lot packaged into that summary there, but I think if folks really think critically about how their navigation and accessibility to Google go hand in hand; there’s a ton of value for you there in growth that you can generate from Google traffic.
Ben: Yeah, mobile is very much a mindset, and I think that maybe this is just some of the companies, and experiences that I like. But the companies and brands that focus on building out a mobile experience or started with a mobile experience, their desktop experiences tend to be more simplified, and a little bit more articulate.
Ben: And so, going through the process without having a lot of real estate to understand what really needs to be there helps you focus on what’s important, and hopefully that transfers over to a simplified desktop experience.
Jordan: Yup, absolutely. Certainly does.
Ben: Okay, well, we’ve covered a lot of ground. I think that there’s a lot to think about when we talk about mobile, and SEO, and so for the rest of this month what we’re going to do is we’re actually going to bring in a couple of different people that are experts in mobile optimization.
Ben: We’re going to talk to someone who is a conversion rate optimization specialist, someone who is a mobile designer, and we’re working on scheduling one of the preeminent technical mobile SEO experts. So, lots to look forward to when it comes to mobile. Jordan, any last words before we let you go?
Jordan: This is an exciting Mobile March, and there’s a ton to be learned here, and I hope that if you’re listening now as we introduce this month, I hope that you pass these recordings on to the key stakeholders that help you with mobile.
Jordan: Whether it’s other marketing members, or your development teams, because there’s a lot that can be unlocked here, and there’s so much more value unlocking these mobile optimizations, than many of the other topics that we talk about, and that are considered much more traditional desktop optimizations.
Ben: It’s Mobile March madness here on the Voices of Search podcast, and we’re excited to bring you the rest of the month coming up soon, and with that said, that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast.
Ben: Thanks for listening to my conversation with Jordan Koene, the CEO of Searchmetrics Inc. We’d love to continue this conversation with you. So, if you’re interested in contacting Jordan, you can find a link to his bio in our show notes, or you can send him a tweet where his handle is @JTKoene.
Ben: If you have general marketing questions, or if you want to talk about this podcast, you can find my contact information in our show notes, or you can send me a tweet @BenJShap.
Ben: If you’re interested in learning more about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic online visibility, or to gain competitive insights, head over to searchmetrics.com/diagnostic for your complimentary advisory session with our digital strategies team.
Ben: And if you liked this podcast, you want to regular stream of SEO, and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app, and we’ll be back in your feed next week to talk about conversion rate optimization for mobile.
Ben: Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed this podcast, and you’re feeling generous, we’d be honored if you’d leave us a review in the Apple iTunes store, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Okay, that’s it for today. Until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.