Thomas Coppen, UK director of pay-per-click (PPC) agency Keel Over Marketing, talks about how to ensure your website is optimised for mobile.
2014 proved to be a tipping point in the annals of internet history, as ComScore research revealed that, for the first time, mobile devices were used more frequently than desktops to access the web.
Then, in May 2015, Google announced that mobile searches outnumbered desktop searches and, more recently, projections from eMarketer suggest that the global mobile advertising industry will be worth $100 billion by the end of 2016.
The growth of mobile-specific advertising demonstrates that marketers are responding to emergent technologies and user habits, optimising their offerings to match. Tech retailers will be familiar with the mantra that standing still is falling behind, so what should be done to compete in the increasingly mobile world?
The importance of mobile marketing - what needs to be different?
Mobile-specific marketing matters because of the way consumers use mobile devices. According to Smart Insights, apps account for 89 per cent of mobile media usage, with the other 11 per cent spent on websites - but only a quarter of consumers start searching for products while in an app.
This means that consumers get to know brands through using branded apps, but when they have a specific problem and want a product to solve it, they turn to the internet at large. 43 per cent start off with a search engine, and 33 per cent start off with the website of a brand they already know and trust.
What do these behaviours mean for marketers? If you can produce an app that does something useful or fun for a customer, do so: apps build your persona and consumers’ confidence in you, provided your app offers something that they actually need.
However, while app development is booming for many sectors, especially those that prioritise B2C custom, it’s unlikely that tech resellers and distributors will ever want or need to invest in bespoke platforms to reach new buyers, so getting your website up to scratch is really the only option.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is as important as ever, since the majority of mobile users start looking for products via search engines. Ensuring that your site is structured properly so that search engines can read your content is much more important than the old SEO tactics of keyword stuffing, and building a portfolio of backlinks from reputable sites will also give you a boost in the rankings.
But there is another way to ensure you hit top spot in the SERPs: pay-per-click marketing.
Pay-per-click (PPC) has grown exponentially in recent years, with AdWords now accounting for the vast majority of Google’s vast wealth. In short, users bid on the keywords that potential customers will be searching for, with ads then placed at the top of search results - guaranteeing optimal presence.
It’s a remarkably cost-efficient way of promoting your business, because you only pay (as the name suggests) when people actually click on your ad, ensuring targeted traffic to your site.
However, it’s not as simple as the highest bidder getting top billing, as Google will still favour the websites with the best 'quality score', i.e. those that are fully responsive and up to scratch.
One-third of your custom is going to come from your own website, so make sure it’s optimised for mobile devices, with no technical issues to disrupt the consumer journey.
Fortunately, your mobile optimisation and SEO needs share many solutions. Since April 2015, Google has used responsiveness (how your website responds when viewed on different devices) as a primary criterion in their search result rankings. Therefore, adjusting your site to improve responsiveness, according to Google’s responsiveness guidelines, also serves your SEO goals.
The core ideas of responsiveness are almost deceptively simple. A responsive site looks good and is easy to use when it’s viewed horizontally or vertically - more smartphone usage means more users are viewing your site on vertical screens.
Menus and images need to resize and scale so they can still be seen and used, sidebars need to be hidden so that core content remains accessible, and text must be broken up so that it flows well even when it’s twice as deep and half as wide.
Secondly, interaction needs to be streamlined. On a desktop site, clickable buttons are fine - mouse pointers are small and easy to guide. On a responsive site, too many clickables mean too many things that can be accidentally activate on a touchscreen. Accessibility has to be balanced, though - tucking core functions away in obscure menus means users can’t find what they’re looking for, so they may take their custom elsewhere.
Optimising for mobile searches
Responsiveness helps your search engine performance, but it’s not the be-all and end-all. At each stage of the consumer journey, you can collect data on what your customers are interested in (how they’re arriving at your site, what they’re looking at while they’re there, what they do before they purchase or leave). You can check your visitors’ browsing habits via Google Analytics, a powerful tool that gives you access to in-depth real time data which can be used to gauge what pages are performing well and where you need to improve.
Google rewards websites that deliver the best possible user experience, and they’ll prioritise those with quality content in the organic search rankings. The methods they use are many and varied, but they’re looking for evidence that your site features relevant material that offers real value to the end user: for example, if they can see that a high proportion of visitors browse several pages on your site, and spend a reasonable length of time engaging with your content, that’s a strong indicator that your site is of high quality.
That data can be used to tailor your website to their habits (improving pages with high bounce-rates, thus improving responsiveness). It also provides inspiration for content which directly addresses your consumers’ needs and concerns - and that content can help you climb the search rankings.
Quality content is key
Ultimately, users need a reason to visit, and the more quality content your website has, the more visitors you’ll attract. Sites that regularly feature engaging content that’s informative or entertaining will receive regular visitors, as there’s a reason for people to keep coming back.
How can tech retailers and distributors improve the user experience of their sites? You can’t go wrong with a regularly updated blog that prioritises valuable, interesting insight rather than being a direct sales tool.
Think ‘tell’ rather than ‘sell’ to ensure that you’re offering real value to your customers, perhaps commenting on industry news as well as offering in-depth product reviews. Doing this not only helps to establish yourself as a trusted voice of authority, but it should also boost your organic search rankings in two ways: One, the more content you have, the better chance you have of appearing in search results, and two, provided the content is of a good quality, more people will, theoretically, spend more time on your site, ensuring you have a lower bounce rate, leading Google will favouring your site more organically.
The growth of mobile searches shows no sign of slowing down. If anything, mobile commerce is only set to grow - global mobile payment revenues are likely to pass the $100 trillion mark in 2019, as retailers devise more attractive loyalty packages to entice contactless and smart payments.
Tech retailers are advised to keep their eyes open and their strategies agile, without losing the focus on gathering, retaining and using consumer data.
Again, pay-per-click marketing comes into its own here, as it offers a varied source of analytics to track user behaviour, allowing you to refine PPC campaigns and make adjustments to your site until they work in unison to deliver serious results.
If you’re not taking the mobile revolution seriously, it’s likely that you’ll get left behind, as Google goes all-in on its mobile-first approach and consumers follow suit.
About the author
Thomas Coppen is the UK director of pay-per-click (PPC) agency Keel Over Marketing.