About Ben Norman
Ben Norman is the CEO & Founder of Koozai, a leading digital marketing agency based in the UK. Ben has authored several SEO books that have sold in excess of 50,000 copies worldwide and has been featured in various media publications.
In his Learn Inbound talk, Ben examines how marketers can take advantage of Google’s recent mobile update to increase their share of search and also discuss the potential pitfalls of not. He also looks at what has happened so far and what is likely to happen moving forward.
- Since Google’s announcement about mobile sites back in January 2015, 4.7% of desktop sites became mobile responsive in the space of two months.
- To improve the performance of your mobile site, take a look at tools such as Screenfly, which alters your display for different devices, and Kraken Image Optimizer, which takes one image and sets it to the right size for different devices.
- Mobile users expect to see information they want quickly. They expect websites to load quickly and they expect to be able to do everything from their mobile devices.
Tonight I'm here to talk about mobile and its role in search. I think it's a bit of an understated subject. A lot of people look at mobile as a bit on the side. I view it as a massive piece of the SEO puzzle. So the update on the 21st of April, Google obviously rolled out its new mobile update so mobile pages will be scored and ranked separately to desktop. Now, what they said when they announced, obviously a lot of bump for you aside, but this was the long and the short of it. Read More
As an industry, what we heard was this, and we still remember these guys. I think a lot of people are still...still have sour memories of Panda and Penguin. So, straight away everyone is thinking, "Okay, this could be bad," and we spawned this mobilegeddon, which really, in a nutshell, I don't think could be further from the truth. Speaking from what I've seen, it's only marginal shift, two or three places. We're not seeing anything massive. Obviously, there are a few cases of big shifts, but for the norm, it's minimal.
But what I want to start with tonight is what actually happened. So a lot of people panicked, a lot of people went to our Google Mobile-Friendly Test to see whether their site was mobile-friendly, if it wasn't, they probably panicked a bit more. If it was, they probably thought, "Hey, we're going to be safe." Some people went to PageSpeed Insights to get a bit more of an idea of what was happening with their site, and a few people went here. Barry, I was probably with you.
So firstly, why did Google actually do it? And I think the thing we have to remember is it's always about the user experience. It's the best thing for the user. I mean, we know that brands are getting better results and you've got to have, you know, you've got to earn good links and rank well and all of this, but they're doing it for the user. We have to remember that they are a business at the same time. Probably going to help PPC a little bit, I imagine.
But also, if you think about it, if everybody is focusing on mobile as well as desktop and if people are looking at crunching down their sites, making the resources more efficient, making it easier to crawl, it's actually going to be a little bit easier on their servers, I'd imagine. And I think at last count, I think I had about a million odd servers, which is quite a lot.
So what was the effect? What actually happened? So Google stated that in just two months after they made the announcements, they made the announcement in February, so by D-Day, April, there was 4.7% more mobile-friendly sites than before they made the announcement. I think on first glance, it actually looks quite a low percent, but if you factor in how many websites are probably unmanaged, no one is really bothering with, that's quite a big percentage of people that actually went, "Whoa, okay, probably need to do something here."
Other than that, there wasn't really an awful lot of data, so with some help, we actually ran a survey. It spanned across a few different countries, but I'm going to talk today about the UK study that we did and just put in a few stats. It was with 1,000 SMEs, so typically less than 50 people but 76% of those businesses believed that the whole mobilegeddon thing was over-hyped, unhelpful. I imagine most people probably feel that way. Fifteen percent of businesses didn't know if their website was optimized for mobile, which is a little bit scary. And 56% of businesses did not know if mobile played any role in purchases. Wow! That's quite concerning really because if we don't know what role it plays in business, how do we decide whether we really should be focusing on this or we shouldn't?
So what's the significance? So these are all stats that I've pulled from recent Google kind of surveys and stats and insights. Five percent are more likely to abandon a task if it's not optimized for mobile, which I think is probably quite likely. I don't know about you guys, but with me, if I'm looking for something in my mobile, I'm normally in a bit of a hurry. I don't really want to wait around if the site is crashing, if it's not loading properly, I'm not really going to hang around. On the flip side, 74% of people are more likely to return to a site if it is mobile-optimized. And 61% only view the first page.
Now, another thing. I haven't actually put it in from the study. There was a high proportion of people that stated even when they had believed they had optimized for mobile, they still saw drops of two or three positions, and that's significant. This was a study that I found, it's a year or so old now and it was on desktop and it was in the U.S., but I still think it's quite interesting looking at the drop in share of search that you get from the first page of Google. You can see that you may have only had like a one, two, three position shift in mobile rankings but if that shift was from position one to position three you're only getting a third of the traffic you were before and if that was revenue generating traffic and you extrapolate that out across a lot of your search terms that can cost you a lot of money.
Also mobile real estate is a lot smaller there is not as much on there which has its benefits because people are more focused there is not as many ads round the site to destruct people but you've got to try and find a way to stand out.
One tip if you're really focused on mobile, use AdWords and ad extensions to actually test which search phrases convert because you're going to get a lot more data from AdWords than you are through organic search. Instead of investing a huge amount of time maybe going after a keyword or making sure that you get that ranking back it might be worth actually looking at well is that actually going to generate anything for me.
A mobile in the user journey, I think this is really important. I hear from a lot of people when they say to me, yeah it's all fair enough but I'm not really interested in mobile, we don't really get purchases from mobile, I don't really care, it's not really important to me. The other thing you got to look at is the user journey and well you might not actually get sales from it but what about the person who is waiting for their train or their tube and they're actually searching out a new supplier. If you're certainly in front of those people anymore it might not be that you're seeing those people directly buying but if you're losing people at the early stage of your sales cycle that can cause you some big problems too.
Now actually diving in a little bit. I've tried to keep this to tools that I know a lot of people have access to so Google WebMaster tools, search analytics, Search Console as it's now known. So if I start calling it Google WebMaster Tools it's because I'm forgetting. I don't know why they keep changing the names of these things. We can actually go in the search analytics and we can drill down on devices into mobile. We can actually have a look at some of the search terms the queries that we're actually getting our site found for. We can look at what's popular but the bit that I find interesting with this is actually looking at the queries from the point of what stage of the sales cycle are people actually at. Are they asking a lot of questions? Are they searching really random stuff you didn't even know existed on your site? Or is it that they are there trying to buy?
Now it's not 100% conclusive that if they're asking a lot of questions and you believe they're at the beginning part of that sales cycle that they're not going to buy from you. It might just be that those pages aren't optimized but it gives us a starting point. They also put a handy little line as well from when the update came in so obviously if you're looking at the graph and it suddenly goes you probably got a bit of an issue. If it's going up, happy days. And if it's staying the same that's okay too.
We can then scoot over to analytics. We can start off looking at overall traffic because then at least then we know what overall traffic we're getting. We can then drill into the segment and bring this down into mobile traffic. We're then just going to get returned what quantity of mobile traffic we're getting. We can quickly work out then what percentage of search is coming from mobile. Obviously if you're sat there with like here 15%, yeah it's not a massive amount of your traffic, it's still relevant. Obviously if you were sat there and mobile is making up 80% of your traffic this is probably something that's going to be a lot more important for you.
We can also in here look at devices and this is important for later on if you're looking at developing a new mobile app so for Android or Apple. If we come in here and we find that actually we're not really getting any Android users, there is no real point developing it, developing an Android app you might as well go with Apple, that's the majority. But it gives us an example of whether people are using smartphones or feature phones. By feature phone any phone that isn't smart.
We then want to look at how do mobile users actually see our site and for this I'll use a cool tool called Screenfly. And it basically just emulates so you put in whatever webpage you like you can then select whichever mobile device you want and you can see exactly how your site renders on that device which is really handy. If I suddenly create a new device we want to just check how it's looking to make sure there are no bugs in your system and you've not got a certain mobile that it's looking rather odd on.
Obviously that was very different to how Google views your site. So we can look at the Google mobile friendly test which will give some information but it's not going to give us everything. We can see Learn Inbound. We're getting an awesome this page is mobile friendly and that's a really good start. We can also see underneath just about that there is 14 resources that are being blocked. So we would want to look in there and find out what those resources are. Is there a reason they're being blocked? Is there a reason that we don't actually want them to be seen? Or are they just being blocked because but we'll look into this with a bit more depth. We can find out what issues there are.
So by going back into the search console and looking at the mobile usability it will give us certain errors. It will tell us things like touch elements are too close so they would be referred to as touch elements, tap points things like that. Google specify that there should be a minimum of 7 millimeters so that's the point if you've got a button or an element that you're actually going to click on, it needs to be a certain size otherwise people are having to kind of pinch and zoom to actually really get in there. It will drill down it will give us some of the pages that we've got issues with we can go back and have a look.
And the same with flash usage and things like that. We can actually drive through see which pages have errors we can add them to our list of things that we need to fix.
Crawl errors, probably we're doing this for SEO anyway just for desktop but also tell you the time to actually look in smartphone and feature phone and see is there any specific server errors or any issues that are going on there that aren't on desktop that we haven't yet dealt with or looked at. We can then take those, add them to our list of things that we need to fix.
Screaming Frog love this tool. It's probably my favorite tool in them out of all the tools that I use. We can actually set this up. It's a crawling tool so it'll basically just go away and crawl our site. But if we go into configuration and we change the user agent to Google's mobile bot it will crawl the site as if it was Google's Mobile Crawler crawling it. It will then relay to us all of the issues that it finds so we're not being stuck behind what Google wants to show us is the issue. We can see real life all of the issues that we've got.
I think one of the most important things on a mobile is speed. It really, really does matter. Just being microseconds quicker than your competitors can make an absolutely massive difference. Speed matters now on a desktop but it's more important on mobile, where people are more impatient. We can look at Google's Page Feed Insight I've ran it for Learn Inbound here. You can see we've got a few issues. The main ones that we've got are optimized images which will come onto later and there is a few others on caching and Gzip and things like that and there is also a really quick way to fix this if you're on WordPress, if you're using other sites, there will be other different plugins that you can use to kind of one touch turn this stuff on. If not it's then a case of going in adding code into the htaccess file which is a bit more involved.
The reason I think I found this and I was reluctant whether to put it in or not. There is a one guy who actually did a search one day and he was returned results with this red Slow Tag. No one's been able to replicate it and Google won't confirm whether it's actually being tested or not but to be honest Google will warn you if you're about to go to a site that's got issues with security and it'll say you probably don't want to go here. Actually putting a slow tag on doesn't really seem a great leap and I would imagine that if you've got one of those next to your site not many people are gonna wanna click it. I think it's quite interesting it's obviously not rolled out yet but something to be aware of if it did.
GTMetrix is something that we use quite a bit to actually go through and run our site. It will check how fast things download. Here we can see where the stress points are if you've got certain plugins on your site that are absolutely killing you. We used to use a social media plugin for sharing innocent plugin and it would pull through Facebook, Twitter all of these kind of social platforms and next to it, put the lovely amount of shares that we'd had or likes. And it was all great until we realized that that social plugin took six seconds to load. So we sped our site up massively just by removing that and custom building our own links. But this will help you see exactly what elements are causing you the issues. You can then go through and actually see what's causing the issue and work out if you're doing it yourself what you need to do if you're working with your developer, what you need to add to their list of things to do.
Another one that is similar is WebPageTest.org. I tend to use both of them because I think it just gives you a nice split if one of them is having a bit of a funny five minutes. It's giving you some odd results. You can confer between the two. The waterfall screen both of them have it. It's a really good way of visualizing what is taking a long time to load and you can see the big things that are taking a long time to load, they're the things that we need to identify and try to work out, okay can we get rid of that? Or how do we speed it up if we can't?
Now I'm aware I've been talking about a lot of different things that we can look at and check and we've been adding them to this kind of made up list. This is the bit where there are two main slides in here that I will point out and I think if you take nothing away from this, if you just take those two slides, it will have a massive effect on your desktop results and your mobile results.
Before we do one warning, you still need a good SEO. If your SEO is absolute poop and you're thinking well we'll shortcut with mobile you're not going to get the effect. If you're not out there working hard to try and be a brand and earn good links and citations and make all the right noises doing mobile yeah it will make you look good on a mobile but it's still not going to get you the rankings that you want. Good SEO is essential.
Ways to be or go mobile I'm not going to go through all of them in depth but responsive, adaptive, dedicated and mobile app. I put mobile app on it but I don't view that as a substitute for having a mobile site because I think then you are forcing everyone to download a mobile app to view your site and that's just rubbish because not everyone wants your mobile app. They are great if you want to send push notifications and if someone walked past your shop alert them with the latest software, fantastic but we need a mobile site as well.
Pierre Far said at SMX London a while ago, "Responsive web design is the way to go for mobile SEO," and I will go with him. I love responsive design because you've got one design, you got one set of files and you just work out which different break points you want the page to change. Typically you've got desktop, tablet, mobile, different orientations but you can then go through that responsive kind of timeline and work out that everything does work at all of those sizes so suddenly if you do get some mobile that comes up with a funny screen size you know it's going to look good anyway.
We need to compress like I said with Learn Inbound site earlier, a couple of things is being held up with is cache, Gzip and minify. Now caching you need something to cache. I'll go into a cool tool for that. Gzip and minify if you have to do it the hard way you'd normally in the htaccess file adding a few lines of code but what it enables you to do is take bigger files and effectively zip them and make them smaller. It's going to take a lot less time to transfer those files. It's going to speed your sites up but have no effect other than that.
If you are using WordPress W3 Total cache is awesome. It will enable you to stuff like minify and Gzip and with this. It will enable you to effectively tick tick boxes to make it happen. It will do it for you. The other beauty of this is it will actually enable you to use things like CDNs and set them up in literally... I setup a CDN on one of these using Amazon as their content delivery network in about 15 minutes.
Basically a content delivery network for anyone that doesn't know it basically is say you're stationed in Ireland that's your hub, your hosting is in Ireland where it should be but you also serve the US and that's a really important market for you but every time someone from the US goes to load your site they're having to pull the images and all of your main big resources from your Ireland data center. That's going to take some time. By using a content delivery network what happens is when you upload different files they get pulled into that delivery network and they get sent across the network and they will have stations in America wherever, however far that reaches which means that what happens is when someone in the US goes to use your site instead of having to come to Ireland to download all your resources, it's downloading them straight from their nearest network in America. This will massively speed things up.
One of the biggest things, this is my biggest bug bear that I get whenever I look at any single site. You take one image normally this big and we upload it and then we display it on a desktop of this size, on a tablet of this size, on a mobile this size and we waste all of that resource all of that download speed on this massive great big image.
Whether you use WordPress or not, if you use WordPress, my developer had us fully functional on this in two hours and it's one of the best things we ever did. Kraken will basically plug into the back end of your website. If you're responsive your CSS and everything is already setup so that when you go through the different break points it will load in a different size image. What Kraken does you load a really big image, big as you want when the image gets uploaded Kraken takes the image off and it delivers it back in whatever sizes you've set. For us with desktop, tablet, mobile it deliver those 3 images but they're optimized for those sizes, the sizes that we've set. Which means that if you come to our site on a desktop you're going to get the right size image. If you come to it on a mobile we're not going to make you download that image, we're going to let you download the small one which pushes all your speeds through the roof because suddenly all of this clutter, all of this stuff that you're downloading for no reason is much, much smaller. This is the biggest thing I think that you can do to get some really, really quick speed gains especially if you've got an image hungry site.
But also it's about clear design. You've got to look at the UX side of it. If you're trying to deliver a mobile user a desktop site I would imagine you're bounce rate is going to be high and the time on the site is going to be low because people don't want all of that. People want to be able to find the information really, really quickly.
So a few considerations, tap points like I said before they need enough room for their big chunky fingers to actually click the buttons. If they don't if everyone is having to kind of pinch and zoom it's no good. Clear menus everyone's probably seen the Burger Star Menu's now. Normally when you're on a mobile device you get this little icon at the top right, it's like a little burger you click on it you get this big menu. Really easy to navigate people expect it.
We got mobiles that use tap to call numbers, mark out the numbers so that when people actually do come on a mobile device if they do want to call you they can literally click that button.
The other thing I find interesting is like removing non-essential elements. Everyone seems to be fixated with trying to put everything that's on your desktop on a mobile as well. We don't need to. As you're going for the different break points you've got an opportunity there to actually remove some of this bits. If it is clutter and you've done your research and you know okay well the majority of our mobile users are coming to our site in research mode, might not be that you need all of those sales things that you've got or the extra files that you're using.
Popups, why? And Flash, for the love of God if you are using Flash still please stop. HTML5 if you've got it. If you want to annoy people use animated GIFs like everyone else does.
In content we've got 2 brilliant content talks coming up in a minute. Don't forget content. The amount of times I've seen brilliant content pieces and I've been out and I've said to my mate, look at this. and you log on a mobile and go I love your little warning saying, sorry he's not available on this device please use a desktop. It's like you've got people in mobile mode, they're social, they're sharing it you need to think you're creating these really cool pieces of content make sure that they are compatible for mobile.
If you do want to be lazy, if you don't have the skills, if you're not setup like that Embed Responsibly is a cool little site you can take things like YouTube videos and images and all sorts of things you can plant them into here, put the link in, hit go and it will generate you a piece of code that you can stick on your site and it will make sure it's responsive. It is a bit of a cheat but I thought I would put it any way.
With mobile local is massive. A lot of people using their phones they're out and about they're trying to find things. I don't have time to go into everything with regards to local here. I put a really good link here for I believe it's a Moz post on going local which is really good but yeah the long and the short of it is if people are out and about on their mobiles, they're trying to find you, you do need to take local into account.
Also with that comes Schema. I was saying to Lisa earlier we did a bit of a test last year on the Koozai site and we basically rebuilt it from the ground up mobile first, decluttered everything. We didn't do any of our optimization. We stopped our content work, everything and we were doing blogging and videos. One of the terms that we were going for is a term SEO agency quite a competitive term. We were at the bottom of page three. Mobile focus we crushed our images, we put schema in place that took us from the bottom of page three, to position three, four on page one. That's all we did. We just focused on good technical SEO making things quicker, faster, smoother, easier to load. With Schema it's just a very quick way of marking up content on your page like your phone numbers, addresses things like that so when Google comes along it can really quickly clearly see what that is. The one thing with that is if you are using it make sure social profiles, any local listings you've got, any relevant directories that you've got like if you're on yellow pages or whatever make sure phone numbers, addresses, business names, they all follow the same format. If you've got a space in your phone number in a certain place make sure that's consistent. It just avoids confusion.
Rankings. I've probably got to speed up because I've probably got about three minutes left. Yeah we all know with rankings it's kind of a necessarily evil. It's a very good KPI but it's not the be all and end all, it's about sales conversions. The thing I love with AccuRanker A, not very expensive. B, updates daily. C, with all of this you can put in your keywords, you can split how it ranks so you can select to view them as on a desktop or on a mobile and you will see different results. The other thing if you are doing local SEO you can select different phrases, different keywords and you can actually have them searched for from that geographical location which is really handy because it differs so massively now.
Remember if we are looking at keywords, brand plus location service plus location. The future, is our last slide. You don't have to listen to my voice anymore. Crystal Ball Predictions, there's not really any show stoppers, more weight to site speed it's getting more and more important. I think as we go on it's who has the fastest, cleanest site that loads, looks good, is really good to use but you need the other signals as well.
Bigger gap between mobile and desktop results, Google told us about this update. It was never going to come in really hard you know the other updates they're not so forthcoming with and they hit hard with this they are going to tighten the screws. They test everything, they test clicks through rates, bounce rates, everything. The more they understand that hang on if we are trying to send people to un-mobile optimized site, people aren't interested it won't matter if you are the brand if you have the most established, relevant content you could still see yourself sink under people that don't just because they're quicker.
Look mobile search volume in the US and China is just top 50% over 50% of traffic is coming from mobile devices. As that gets bigger more search volume, more business.
Love to hear your thoughts. Tweet me if you think I'm wrong especially let me know and if you've got any other things that I haven't mentioned please share them and yeah thanks for listening.