Mobile search is important. More and more searchers are performing their searches on a mobile phone. If your website doesn’t provide a good user experience to mobile visitors, your rankings in the mobile search results will suffer.
Today, Google announced that it will now warn users when a mobile search result is broken or incorrect. The update means that anyone searching on a mobile phone will be met with a warning message if the search result is “not properly set up to handle requests from smartphones”, also known as a “faulty redirect”.
Here, we explain how mobile search affects your business and how to ensure your website isn’t flagged as a ‘faulty redirect‘ by Google.
How Mobile Search Applies to Your Business
According to eConsultancy in March 2014, 32% of UK consumers make their purchases on a mobile phone. But it’s not just ecommerce sites that need to think about their visibility in the mobile search results.
Indeed, B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to consumer) businesses alike are seeing a real uplift in mobile conversions, from holiday companies who find people browsing their deals of an evening to business vending machine suppliers whose enquiries are no longer restricted to working hours.
- Consumers spend 15 hours per week researching on their smartphone
- Most smartphone users start their research about products or services on a search engine vs a branded mobile website or app
- Mobile influences purchases across channels, so users who start on a mobile will either buy there or go on to purchase through another channel
Consider your own behaviour; you get home from work, you sit down and you reach for your mobile phone or tablet. Your audience doesn’t switch off at the end of the working day. It’s important they can find you from their mobile device as well as their desktop.
The Basics of Mobile Search Optimisation
So now you know that mobile search is important to your business, what do you need to do about it?
1) Consider Responsive Web Design
Responsive web design is a way of designing your website that means any changes to the dimension, be it through viewing it on a different screen, on a tablet or on a mobile, will be made automatically by the site.
Take a look at this in action on our site now. Try shrinking your browser window down by pulling from the bottom right corner. Make your browser window smaller and bigger – you’ll see that the Hallam website is using responsive web design because the website changes to fit the size of the browser window. Nifty, huh?
These days, responsive web design is more than a nifty design choice. It’s more important than ever to mobile search and Google has recommended its use in its mobile best practice guidelines:
Responsive design isn’t something you can add on to your site at a later date. It will require you to rebuild the site within the new framework – but if you want your business to rank well in mobile search, it may be an investment worth making.
2) Improve Your Page Load Speed
According to Google’s own guidelines, “optimizing a page’s loading time on smartphones is particularly important given the characteristics of mobile data networks smartphones are connected to”. Basically, we need to make sure our mobile websites are able to load quickly on a mobile phone, despite data restrictions that might be in place.
One of the most common reasons for websites not loading quickly enough on a mobile is the size of images. If you are going to upload an image to your site, you need to make sure you’ve resized it to the appropriate size for your site before you upload. Otherwise, both your desktop and mobile versions are going to struggle to load the image quickly enough to maintain a good user experience.
You can use Google’s Page Speed Insights tool to check the loading speed of your website.
Have you ever clicked on a search result on your mobile phone, expecting to see a specific page and instead been redirected to the homepage of the mobile site? That’s an example of a faulty redirect, whereby the redirection from desktop to mobile version of a site is incorrect. When a user clicks on a mobile search result, they should be served the relevant page.
Note – with responsive design, this wouldn’t happen as the user doesn’t need to be redirected to a mobile ‘version’ of the site, the site is simply resized for their phone.
There are plenty more examples – for example, have you ever tried to view a business’ website and found it simply too small to read on a mobile? Or tried to click on something on your mobile only to find the link or button or whatever it is you’re trying to press is too small for your finger?
A good mobile website, whether it’s a responsive design or a mobile version of the site, will serve its users a good user experience, where everything works as it should and all of their needs are considered. And a good mobile website stands a far better chance of ranking well in mobile search.
To read more about mobile user experience, take a look at this article from UX Mag, ‘Why Mobile UX is More Than Users On The Go’.
4) Understand Your Mobile Audience
As MobiThinking stated in their most recent mobile SEO best practice guide, “mobile and PC users search for different things”.
The context of the search on a mobile phone is often quite different from that of a desktop user. It’s important to think about the terms a mobile user might be using and how they compared to your desktop searchers. Have you got the content on your website to appeal to a mobile user?
MobiThinking shares a good example of this:
“One company that gets this is the US insurance company State Farm. Accident Help is a prominent feature found on the mobile site m.statefarm.com, but not present on PC site statefarm.com. Accident Help states in basic terms what you should do in the case of an accident with links to make a claim and find a repair facility (which allows you to search by zip code and by language spoken). First and foremost this clever feature is for the benefit of the user, but should also be popular with the spiders.”
5) Use Google Plus
Google Plus has many benefits for SEO and we’ve previously blogged on the benefits of Google Plus for local SEO.
But did you realise that having a Google Plus Local page not only adds your business to the desktop Maps, but to Google Maps for Mobile too?
Make sure your Google Plus Local page is correctly set up. Read our guide to making your Google Plus page a local page here.
Avoiding the “Faulty Redirect” Message
As discussed at the beginning of this article, Google has today announced a change to mobile search results which flags ‘faulty redirects’ to the user. This means that, if you have a ‘faulty redirect’, users will be warned against clicking on your site on a mobile. Which can’t be good.
According to Google’s announcement, the warning message will look something like this:
To avoid the ‘faulty redirect’ message, you need to:
- Ensure any redirects from a desktop version to a mobile version (e.g. yourwebsite.com to m.yourwebsite.com) are done properly and that they link to relevant pages. Don’t just redirect all mobile users to the mobile version homepage.
- Consider responsive design. This negates the issue entirely.
How to Check for Faulty Redirects
There are a couple of ways to check for faulty redirects on your site:
- Do a few searches for your site on your own mobile. What do the results look like? When you click on them, how does your website look?
- Check Google Webmaster Tools. This is a free service from Google that enables you to see any issues on your site. Go to the Crawl Errors section and you’ll be alerted to faulty redirects here.
Mobile search is a really important part of digital marketing. If you’d like to discuss mobile search with us, or to find out about any of our digital marketing services, contact us using our online contact form or call 0115 948 0123.
Thanks to Witer on Flickr for the mobile phone image used at the top of this blog post.