Why Mobile Matters to Local Search
All of the world’s information in the palm of your hand—that’s the promise that was made to us when smartphones came on the market. Now, as cellphones become more and more like a “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” version of our desktop computers, over half of all Google searches come from cellphones. Of those mobile searches, about 56% have local intent (compared to 46% of desktop searches).
Mobile matters because these on-the-go local searches are often the first point of contact that potential customer has with your business. An off-the-cuff search for “restaurants near me” can lead to a new customer walking through your door that same day. In fact, they often do. 78% of local mobile searches result in an in-store sale.
Tailoring your website to appeal to that mobile user is key to bringing new customers through the door.
So, let’s take a minute to consider the mobile user experience. What do they want? What’s their goal?
Even with recent developments in smartphone technology, you just can’t do everything on mobile as easily as you can on desktop (e.g. shopping, sending a long message, browsing certain sites). So, there must be a trade-off—a benefit to the mobile experience that makes it worthwhile to sacrifice some of that functionality. That benefit is convenience.
When was the last time you pulled out your phone to do a quick fact check during a conversation with a friend? When did you last use it to look up the number for a nearby takeout restaurant? What about when you last needed to look up directions?
In all of these scenarios, your goal is to find a simple piece of information as quickly and efficiently as possible.
If your website is incompatible with those goals, it’s likely that you’ll see a higher bounce rate among mobile users. That higher bounce rate then signals to the search algorithm that your site is not valuable to its users and pushes it down in the search results.
That’s why, when we talk about optimizing your local business for mobile search engine optimization, the main focus should be on user experience, especially during that initial discovery phase.
5 Simple Steps to Improve Your Site for Mobile Browsing
Equipping your website with a responsive design (one that automatically adapts based on the size of the screen that the content is presented on) is one of the most impactful steps you can take toward making your site truly mobile friendly.
A complete website overhaul, involving a change in coding, copy, and creative, can be, however, a large and time-intensive investment. The good news, however, is that you don’t necessarily need to revamp your entire website to make a noticeable improvement to your mobile search optimization. (And, who knows? Once you see the difference even these small tweaks can make, maybe you’ll soon be ready to take the next step into complete mobile optimization).
1. Localize SEO: Because mobile searches tend to be location-dependent, your first step toward a more mobile-friendly website is to localize your search engine optimization efforts. Localized header tags and URLs are strong signals that help your website rank in searches with local intent. Also, make sure to claim your Google My Business listing so your business may appear in the three-pack at the top of related Google searches.
2. Optimize Content for Mobile Viewing: Have you ever tried to read a novel on your phone? If so, you know that it doesn’t really work. Smaller screens translate to less visible text, which makes it difficult to keep track of your place in the story. Breaking your content up into short sections, using bullet points or numbered lists, and limiting your average paragraph length are all quick and easy tweaks that instantly make your content more appealing to mobile users.
3. Limit Options: It’s always best to offer more choices, right? Not necessarily. Browsing is more difficult on a mobile device. On a smaller screen every last bit of real estate is valuable, so you want to limit unnecessary components and allow your visitor to focus on the information they need.
You can actually make your site more user friendly by limiting the number of choices your visitors have to juggle. Cutting down on your navigation options or your number of social sharing buttons streamlines the potential actions a visitor can take and clearly outlines the next step in their journey. For example, BuzzFeed News only offers three sharing options for mobile users—Facebook, Twitter, and copy link. No Pinterest. No FB Messenger. No email. Just the two top social sites that people are most likely to share that type of content plus an option to copy the link to share elsewhere.
4. Limits Ads and Overlays: Ads, pop-ups, overlays—basically anything that requires the user to dismiss it prior to viewing your webpage. Remember, speed and ease of browsing is especially important for mobile users, and requiring your visitors to deal with a barrage of pop-ups (which can often be tricky and inconvenient to dismiss on a mobile device) can often send them clicking back to the search results page.
5. Track Analytics on Desktop and Mobile: Do you know which of your pages gets the most mobile traffic? Google Analytics offers the option to sort your site’s pages based on percentage of visits from mobile devices. Use this feature to see which content is driving the most traffic. Then experiment with mobile SEO on your other pages to see if Google delivers better results.
Some companies will see more of a benefit from these changes than others. Depending on your type of business and your target audience, mobile optimization may not be at the top of your to-do list. However, these small changes should be the bare-minimum standard for any local business to create a mobile browsing experience that draws in customers (rather than driving them away).