Mobile-Friendly Google – A Rare Opportunity

Just a few short weeks ago, Google’s mobile-friendly hammer came down on websites across the country. You may or may not have heard, but Google announced that they would start to penalize websites that were not mobile-friendly. But why is this such a big deal, and why now?

Why Mobile is Important to Google

As I’ve written about previously, Google wants to create the best possible and relevant experience for its users. When people use Google search, not only is it important for them to find relevant information, but it should also be in a form that is accessible on the device they’re using. Because of this, Google is cracking down on sites that are not mobile. The last thing they want is to direct a mobile user to a site that is not mobile-responsive. This is because the likelihood of that person staying is drastically less if the site is not mobile-friendly. Known as the bounce rate, if a lot of your traffic ends up leaving quickly, this is seen as a sign that your site is either no relevant or not usable, harming your site SEO stats.

Check your site’s mobile friendliness

Google isn’t very well-known for being forthcoming about their SEO metrics. That’s the silver lining in all of this–their public announcement of these changes are an opportunity to get a guaranteed boost in your SEO. These opportunities don’t come along very often, so it’s important that you move quickly on this to get an edge over your competitors that fail to seize the moment. But where should one start?

The first thing you should do is head over to Google’s handy mobile-friendly tool. Simply type in your domain name and hit ‘Analyze’. After just a few moments, you’ll get a message regarding whether or not your site is being recognized as mobile-friendly or not. If not, you’ll also be given the specifics on what’s wrong, in addition to some great resources on fixing the issues.

How to make your site mobile-friendly

The cleanest and most future-proof solution is always responsive design (at least until the future where we have brain chips that embed it all directly into our brain).  Responsive design is built to accommodate all devices at every screen width. The time that it takes to build a responsive site is well worth it, since it is a good way of “future-proofing” your site in this manner. One drawback of a responsive redesign, however, is that the development cycle can take as long as building a brand new site. In many cases, such as those where a site is not using a CMS platform, a responsive redesign is really the only choice. In these cases, we like to use tools like Twitter Bootstrap, a responsive CSS and Javascript framework that will help to scale your site redesign as fast as possible.

If you’re using a CMS platform like WordPress or Drupal, there are some great plugins and themes that will allow you to satisfy Google’s changes. In some cases, the setup can be accomplished in just a few hours, depending on your design criteria for the mobile site. One WordPress plugin we’d highly recommend (as does Google) is WPTouch. Both the free version and pro version offer a variety of themes that work great out of the box. One thing to keep in mind is that there will be some limited debugging with the site’s robots.txt and .htaccess files to make sure that the Googlebot is able to access the mobile version of your site. If you’re using Drupal, there’s a great module called Mobilizer that can assist you in creating a mobile version of your site without upgrading to a responsive theme.

Time is of the Essence

Google’s recent changes are just that–recent. This means that you still have a great opportunity to improve your SEO (almost) immediately. A report last year noted that 91% of small- and medium-size business websites were not mobile-friendly. With the pace of the internet, that figure has surely gone down somewhat, but we can be certain that the majority of these sites remain non-mobile-optimized. These sites are both yours and your competitors. Now, with Google’s recent announcement (and others to surely follow), it’s time for you to get the leg up and build your future, today.

 

 

 

 

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How Responsive Design Improves SEO and your SERP

If you haven’t picked up on it yet, we’re crazy about responsive web design here at Attome. There are many reasons why responsive web design just feels better at an instinctual level. But the strength of responsive design isn’t only skin deep. The fact is that responsive design also has a big impact on your site SEO and SERP (Search Engine Results Page).

Responsive design is still a fairly new idea, but many of the top search engines have already adopted responsive design as a benchmark for improved user experiences. Search companies like Google have noted the mobile revolution for many reasons. One of the main reasons is that they see some of their most promising growth opportunities in the mobile ad delivery market.

Because of this, they are keenly interested in how mobile users interact with the web. Google’s efforts to do so involves two main areas: crawl statistics and mobile user statistics.

Googlebot prefers Responsive Design

One of the fundamental reasons behind the power of responsive design is its unified code base.  In the early days of the mobile internet, web pages would have two or more versions of the site. One for desktop and more for mobile platforms.

The problem with this setup is that search engine crawlers like a simple and clear page hierarchy. Another consequence of multiple sites is that they duplicate content on each of the site versions. This is another factor that can lead Google crawlers to downgrade a site.

When you have multiple versions of a site, the crawler must individually navigate each of these pages. This slows it down and decreases the likelihood of a good site ranking. A responsive design uses a single URL and code base for all devices. This makes for a speedier crawl and thus higher page rankings.

Google prefers original, non-duplicate content when it judges the desirability of the content offered. With a single, responsive site, you can guarantee that none of the content will be duplicated and harm your rankings.

Tracking Mobile Behavior

Google’s rankings are also based on how mobile users interact with web pages. Google wants to know how the user experience is on mobile compared to those on desktop setups. Therefore, Google looks primarily at the bounce rate and its difference between mobile and non-mobile.

They do this in order to get an idea of whether a site is mobile-friendly or not. Data collected by Google has suggested that 61% of mobile users who encounter a non-responsive website will immediately go to a competitor’s site. Google tracks this behavior to improve its SERP to better rank relevant content. They may deem your site as not relevant to the keywords used because of a high bounce rate.

Conclusion

One thing we frequently run into here at Attome is a mismatch in the value proposition offered by responsive web design. On its face, sure, it makes web pages pretty and more accessible, but what is its practical value?

As evidenced by the above, responsive web design is not merely a slick reiteration of design practice. Ultimately, it has a relevant and lasting impact on SEO and your SERP.

 

Usability Efficiency

Users want usability – How to give them what they want

A website that simply does not work is clearly not usable in the traditional sense. But what is it that makes a website ‘usable’? Usability is the simple idea that people come to your website for a reason, and usability is the measure by which they are able to achieve their goal–in as little time as possible. As much as we’d like others to come and spend an afternoon on our site and faithfully read all the content we worked so hard on, the fact is that people just don’t spend much time on websites. They want to get in and out as quickly as possible.

Fast Information > More Information

Data from Tony Haile at ChartBeat shows that 55% of users spend 15 seconds or less on your website. Why so little time? As people have grown more and more comfortable integrating the internet into every part of their life, they’ve become much more adept at filtering out the non-essential and zeroing in on the information they really came for.

The information they may want is an address for your business, the hours that a restaraunt is open, or a blog post on how to fix a buggy computer. So, in more than half of the cases out there, you have 15 seconds or less to give your users what they want or risk them just moving on.

Know your Audience

Before you can make a usable site tailored for your needs, you need to know your audience. What kind of business do you run? Do you have a physical store location for all your sales? Are you a consultant that thrives on private appointments? Knowing your audience is key to designing a useful site. That way you can prioritize information in a way that is accessible and efficient.

Once you know your audience, you need to clearly define your goal. Do you want more people to call you to set up an appointment? Do you want to engage your audience more across social networks? Once you set a goal for your website, you can move on to designing your site around achieving this goal.

High Design ≠ High Usability

A slick website is a great start, but the design needs to be a means to an end, not the other way around. The design needs to complement and emphasize your goals on the site, rather than getting bogged down in unnecessary flourishes and information overload. Flat, responsive design is your friend, whose wide and open spaces are a great way to frame the important bits of content and information on your site.

One of the most important elements on a usable web page is the Call To Action (CTA). CTAs are buttons that call on site visitors to take a certain action that satisfies your goals, like ‘Start Today’, or ‘Sign Up Now’. The key to a good call to action is giving your user just enough information to encourage them to take action, but not so much that they lose interest halfway through the pitch. CTAs should be featured prominently throughout your website to maximize user goal conversion.

Keep it Simple

Any website can be made usable, but every site’s usability depends on a tailored approach to your particular needs. First, you need to identify your audience and then formulate goals specific to your audience and the aims of your business. From there, you need to use a design that looks clean and professional, framing the necessary information without clutter or confusion. Employ a liberal use of Calls to Action that dovetail with your website goals, but beware of making too hard a sell. Finally, consider adding functionality that may expand your ability to meet your goals, such as an integration with your CRM or a newsletter signup.

If you’re interested in learning more about usability in web design, I’d highly recommend taking a look at Don’t Make Me Think, by Steve Krug. You can find his blog here, and follow him at @skrug on Twitter.

 

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Analytics–Know Your Customer Better

However we feel about the NSA’s snooping, it is no secret that the world runs on data. The internet is certainly no exception to this rule. The trick is use data safely and constructively for your own benefit, rather than just for the spooks among us. User analytics is in fact a perfectly reasonable extension of business and commerce for the digital age. Think about it, if you’re conducting all your business in the real world, you’ll get to know your customers through real world interaction. Maybe you’ll start to realize that a lot of recent moms come into your shop, or that retirees just can’t get enough of that one widget you sell. The fact is that analytics platforms allow you to understand your customers better even if your only interaction is virtual. Knowing your customers better and what they want from you is a business idea much older than the internet.

If there was a single analytics platform that bears mentioning, it’s Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a free platform available to any website owner that wants to know more about their customers. Once you get it installed and set up, the data available to you can be mind boggling. Knowing what to look for is half the battle, but here’s a few ideas. First, you will want to look at some of the broader data made available. Some points that should be of particular interest are the number of users that are new versus returning, as well as the average session duration and the bounce rate. These metrics help give an overview of the people coming to your website, and gives you a general sense of whether people are spending enough time on your site.

Beyond the broader data, more granular information can help you nail down specific demographics of interest. We love to look through the data on mobile devices and see how mobile users compare to desktop users. Typically, they spend less time on a site than other users, an insight that might help guide future design changes. Another great place to investigate is data collected regarding user location. This information can help especially for those businesses that have a store front or operate in a specific region.

Analytics has an incredible depth of uses. One of the most powerful applications of analytics when it is combined with broader marketing strategies. You can see if site traffic spikes after you paid for a print advertisement, or you can see what social networks tend to drive more traffic to your site. Overall, analytics offers an opportunity that your business simply cannot pass up on. Contact us today for more information on how we can help you leverage your data.