In 2017, SEO and content platform company BrightEdge reported that 57% of all search traffic on Google occurred on a mobile device. This data alone should light a fire under any site owner who hasn’t yet delivered a mobile-optimized user experience. If that stat isn’t incentive enough, consider what Robert Bellovin, SEO expert and director of marketing at Gartner, shared with ClearVoice on the topic:

With Google’s ever-looming Mobile First Index, not only do digital marketers need to be thinking of UX [user experience] and CRO [conversion rate optimization], but they need to be thinking of how to get the same SEO performance from often abridged mobile content and internal linking.

What does mobile-first design entail? The most obvious consideration is how the site’s design is optimized for a smartphone or tablet. However, mobile-first thinking doesn’t stop there. Website owners must also consider:

  • Search intent of mobile users
  • Site speed on mobile devices
  • Mobile-friendly navigation
  • Easy-to-interact-with calls to action

You don’t have to be a behavioral psychologist to understand the impact of the mobile phone on your buyer’s day-to-day behavior. People use their smartphones for everything now – texting and emailing, watching TV and movies, looking up directions, making purchases, getting a ride from Uber or Lyft, taking pictures for Instagram, listening to podcasts and music, and more. Mobile devices are a fundamental part of your target audience’s lifestyle. If your site doesn’t fit into their lifestyle, you have created an obstacle for them to connect with you.

Even in the business-to-business (B2B) segment, mobile-first design can make an incredible difference. According to The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), 80% of B2B buyers use their smartphones and other mobile devices on the job. BCG also found 60% of B2B buyers report that mobile played a significant role in purchasing and that around 50% of B2B search queries happen on mobile devices. Suffice to say, smartphones are here to stay – whether you’re B2B, B2C or B2-whatever is coming next – so you better start designing for it, writing for it, and optimizing for it.

Expert advice on mobile-first design

Why Mobile-First Design Matters for Future SEO

Talia Wolf, founder and chief optimizer at GetUplift, specializes in “emotional targeting and persuasive design to generate more revenues, leads, engagements and sales” for her clients. Wolf took a few minutes to share her insights with ClearVoice regarding how to optimize your site for mobile:

The key to generating higher ROI from your mobile audience is understanding their emotional intent and designing a customer journey that addresses those needs. We don’t use our mobile device as a replacement for the desktop. We use it in a whole different way, for different intents and tasks. Psychologically, on mobile, we have a different intent, different emotional drivers, concerns and needs.

On desktop I may take the time to read through your “About” page, all the features you have and an article. On mobile, I may need your contact details or address; I might want to see some testimonials or reviews to get a sense if you’re trustworthy or not; or I might just want to browse your gallery of photos.

Ask yourself: What led mobile prospects to your site? What search terms did they use? Was it brand-oriented or pain-oriented? For example, are they searching for “Slack” or “how to work well in a distributed team?” The prospect’s state of awareness, her intent and place in the customer journey is completely different in both searches.

As for how the mobile user experience differs from desktop, Wolf goes on to elaborate on the difference in behaviors. But just don’t make assumptions. Wolf implores people to get in touch with their audience to better understand user intent.

Take the time to speak to your mobile visitors and survey and interview them. Track their behavior separately from desktop and map out their distinct behavior. Most importantly, don’t treat your mobile visitors as mini-desktop users, but as a different type of customer that requires a unique experience.

In a similar realm, search industry veteran Scott Litvack, director of organic search for Wpromote, has spent the last 15-plus years generating SEO and digital marketing experience while developing “performance-driven, organic optimization strategies” for B2B and B2C companies.

Litvack reinforces the importance of ranking on mobile in the era of smartphones.

Mobile-first is coming. With mobile traffic outweighing desktop, making sure your site is better optimized is critical for success. More and more people are consuming content on their mobile devices. If you don’t make sure your content is ranking on mobile, you will likely miss out on relevant traffic.

If you think the spikes in mobile search and traffic are confined to entertainment and retail, think again. Litvack reveals that his firm has observed changes in mobile traffic in many non-traditional areas – areas once thought previously reserved exclusively for its desktop counterpart.

We’ve seen one of our financial services clients experience a nearly 7% increase in mobile traffic while seeing a 13% decline in desktop and a 9% decline in tablet traffic over the past year. Currently 73% of their traffic and 65% of their new business leads derive from mobile traffic to their website

As user behavior changes every day, spikes in mobile search are happening in industry sectors where you might least expect them. Be ready to capitalize as it’s only going to get more so as we look ahead.

What to watch out for when designing for mobile content

Why Mobile-First Design Matters for Future SEO

Slapping a responsive theme or design on your website isn’t enough by itself, but it’s a start — and way more user-friendly than an approach that requires your visitors to pinch and zoom (which is so yesterday). As Talia Wolf mentioned, your mobile customers require a unique experience that is native to the platform. When designing your mobile site, be sure to avoid the following pitfalls that can damage user experience, thus compromising your SEO.

  • Hard-to-read or small-size fonts
  • Fixed-width elements that don’t fit a small screen
  • Design that takes too long to load
  • Content that isn’t easy to interact with on a phone or tablet
  • Poor mobile navigation
  • Pop-up elements that overlay the majority of the page content

Use Google Analytics, or your preferred analytics platform, to measure mobile device traffic. As you make changes to your mobile site, monitor changes in traffic (especially organic traffic) to understand if your site meets the criteria Google has set for mobile-optimized web experiences. This will set you well on your way to getting the mobile site you need — and one that mobile users have come to expect.

Are you crafting your content to keep up with search behaviors?

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