Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
Can you imagine life without a smartphone or tablet? Before 1994, access to the Internet was limited to desktops and laptops, confining website commerce to the home and business. Believe it or not, the first micro/mobile browser made its debut that year. And 13 years later, how we all use the Internet changed immeasurably with the introduction of the iPhone. And it continues to change for businesses such as yours and your customers’.
As I wrote back in March of 2015, Google has begun to think beyond the desktop and is now catering to the mobile user. This makes continued sense, as 1) Google is always thinking of the search engine user’s experience and 2) e-commerce transactions via mobile browsers are slowly overtaking desktop purchases:
• Fifty percent of website traffic is coming from mobile devices.
• We spend almost 30 hours per month accessing media via mobile browsers and mobile apps.
• Mobile browsers accounted for more than 20 percent of 2014 holiday sales. And that number should be much higher this year.
(From my own personal experience, I have found that I am ordering much more through my mobile devices than I was a year ago. I’m sure that most of you reading this are as well.)
The end result, as of April 2015, is that Google’s algorithm has added “mobile-friendly” as a factor in ranking your website on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). So what does this mean to the book publishing industry? It means that in order to stay competitive with your peers and the major retailers, you’ll need to bring your website to your customers wherever they are on whatever device they are on (including the full e-commerce transactional experience).
Some of you are already there. In our evaluation of the 12 participants, half have optimized their sites for mobile browsers. The average score for this Search Engine Optimization (SEO) factor was a 3.1 (a “C” grade). For this factor, the site was either “mobile-friendly” and received a score of 5, or wasn’t mobile-friendly and received a score of 1. One site (Dragon Moon Press) had some mobile-friendly features on the book page, but not the homepage (we tested both for each publisher). And the book page had some errors that prevented the testing tool from finishing the test. So let’s delve deeper into what being mobile-friendly entails and how to adjust your website accordingly.
Let’s Take a (Mobile) Friendly Test
To start, visit Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool, copy your homepage URL, paste it into the box and hit “analyze.” Then do the same with one of your book page URLs. Let’s use the University of Hawaii Press (UHP) homepage as an example.
Unfortunately, UHP didn’t pass the test. Fortunately, Google lists all the problems that are preventing UHP from being mobile-friendly:
Analyzing Xist Publishing’s homepage, which received a 5 in our evaluation, returns the following message:
Here are some criteria that Google is looking for when it makes determinations on whether your site is indeed mobile-friendly:
• Can you read it? With a desktop browser, you have quite a lot more surface area to work with for links and content. Mobile browsers are a bit more restrictive, however. You need to be sure that your customers can read and access content when holding their mobile device in the vertical or horizontal position. Additionally, be sure that the size of the content does not force users to scroll or magnify in order to read it.
• Can you find the information? Within a mobile browser, you want everything to be within reach so that the user does not have to scroll too far to find it. Current mobile navigation options (a three-line icon and a magnifying glass icon) allow mobile users to access links and to search quickly and easily.
• Is it fast enough? Page load speed can be a vital factor in retaining your site visitors. The same strategy can be attributed to mobile page load speed. Mobile users often have limited bandwidth compared to desktops, and may need information on the go. Be sure to test your mobile page speed. Additionally, think about adding shortcuts for your users—such as one click phone number links—to help them access information faster.
It is important to note that Google judges mobile friendliness on a page-by-page basis, meaning that every page in a website is ranked individually for mobile (similar to Google’s ranking system for SERPs).
Find Your Mobile Solution
As I have mentioned in my previous post on page load speeds and SEO, a single second can mean the difference between a user leaving your site for a competitor’s. The same is beginning to take shape for mobile commerce. A website that is not optimized for users to visit with their phones or tablets can mean that your visits will not convert into actual purchases, as a customer may not want to wait until they have access to their desktop later to make their book purchase on your site.
So how do you fix these problems and update your website to be more mobile-friendly? You have two options: a separate solution or a responsive solution.
• Choosing the Separate Mobile Solution – Your first option is a separate mobile solution. This solution creates a separate mobile site. When a mobile user tries to access your site, a well-placed direction in your HTML code sends them to the mobile version. This is usually a subdomain of the desktop website. When choosing the separate mobile solution:
o You have bit more control over the user experience on the mobile site.
o You can implement this solution quickly and cost-effectively.
o You will need to more aggressively manage your content and links on your mobile and desktop sites to confirm they are consistent. Google actively looks at mobile versions of your site to ensure there is a full 1:1 correlation of all content between your non-mobile and mobile versions.
• Be Responsive and Be Mobile – The second option is called a responsive solution. With a responsive strategy, you essentially rebuild your website from scratch, allowing mobile users access through coding made to your Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) which define which content format is presented. When choosing this mobile solution:
o You have more control over your content and link consistency. They are all sourced from the same data but presented in different layouts based on the user’s browser (desktop, phone, tablet, etc.).
o You will probably need to rebuild your website from scratch for this solution to work. This will potentially take more time/resources/money than a separate solution.
In our work at Biztegra, we recommend the second solution, creating a truly responsive site that changes the way it looks based on the size of the browser (desktop, tablet or smart phone – and ‘phablet’ in today’s world).
Mobile Friendliness for Our Future
The closer we get to complete mobile access, the further down the list that non-optimized websites will be placed in terms of ranking and interest. I hope that the statistics and information presented in this post will encourage all our participants and everyone else to “go mobile,” if they have not already made the changes. Let me know if you have any questions or comments about becoming more mobile-friendly in the comments below.
Our next post moves into an even friendlier area for SEO: social integration. Time to make some more friends.
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