You should have known, that is if you are a digital marketer or part of business operating in digital platforms, that mobile has already outdid the desktop. Data released by StatCounter in November 2016 showed that more users accessed the internet via mobile devices than traditional computing devices for the month of October. There is no surprise in that really, because early in the year Google already stated that mobile searches had already surpassed desktop searches in at least 10 countries. But it is still a big deal: for starters, that’s the first time it ever happened; and for businesses, that means whatever digital marketing strategies you have been doing must be reinforced on mobile.
Mobile is on the rise, perhaps faster than most have guessed. When it comes to Search Engine Optimization, more and more digital marketing agencies have been moving towards mobile-first or mobile-only strategies. There is no doubt that mobile, smartphones in particular, has changed our habits and how we live our lives. But what does this mean for businesses and branding strategies? Do you just drop the desktop and perform SEO for mobile exclusively? Mobile internet usage is impressive, but how do you maximize it without losing your other audiences.
Understanding Google’s Mobile-First Policy
Google recently rolled out its mobile-first index. What does this mean? Well, Google used to crawl websites as a desktop user, but now it will crawl websites as a mobile user. Why does this matter? Not all websites are optimized for mobile — displays may be different, some links don’t appear, loads slower, etc. And as you know, Google bots cannot follow links that are not there and are impatient about pages that don’t load fast enough, which means your ranking might take a hit.
But mobile-first index doesn’t mean your websites can’t be indexed anymore. Google will still crawl them just fine. Your site will not be ranked based on mobile friendliness. In fact, Google has said that it does not expect to affect search ranking in a major way.
However, marketers advice that if you don’t have a mobile site or is not optimized for mobile yet, you better do something about it.
Is Desktop SEO Dead?
Not so fast. While mobile usage is growing, it doesn’t mean the desktop is done.
For one, the desktop still rules the workplace. While there has been a steady increase in the sales of laptops and mobile devices for office use, the traditional desktop is still largely preferred. One reason is that many industries have been using Windows for decades and they don’t see the need to switch. Industries such as accounting, insurance, and architecture depend on Windows PCs because the software they use is simply not available on Macs.
Apart from this, eMarketer found that 80% of conversions are still taking place on desktops. It also found that desktops still account for three-quarters of retail e-commerce sales. Nearly 56% of traffic to retail sites also come from non-mobile sources. With improved business revenue as the ultimate goal, marketers must also note that consumers are also most likely to close transactions in person or via desktop. As transactions also get more complex, such as insurance or investments, people tend to make the decision on a desktop.
Understand that consumers also engage with devices differently. According to FlurryMobile, 90% of the time spent on mobile is spent on apps, not search. Consumers use their smartphones to email, chat, engage on social media, get directions or play games. This means users are still searching somewhere else, largely on desktop during working hours. That’s morning to early evening, mind you.
This means that cutting the budget for desktop SEO significantly should be given a long second thought.
What Does This Mean for Businesses?
With the number of mobile users growing and the number of hours spent on smartphones increasing, it is almost very easy to conclude that a mobile-first or even a mobile-only strategy is the way to go. Certainly, your website should be optimized for mobile and you should strengthen mobile SEO. But other devices shouldn’t be thrown out the window outright.
Businesses or brands need not worry too much. If you are already following the best practices for SEO, there’s no need to sound the alarm. Mobile revolution may have been disruptive but your SEO strategy can still go above the changes. However, businesses need to consider doing some actions. First, ensure mobile compliance and optimization. Make sure your mobile version is working well and the design is as responsive. Second, ensure that your mobile version is equivalent to your desktop version. Should you want to make mobile the primary version, make sure it is always up to date. Finally, consider developing an app for your business just because mobile engagement deals more with apps more than searches. Find a way to have all these components work together.
Weighing on the desktop vs mobile SEO mix also requires businesses to understand their consumers better. Learn about their habits. Study your web analytics and find out when consumers visit your desktop site or mobile site and why. What motivates them? What are they looking for? This will give you an idea on how to maximize content for desktop and mobile.
In the overall marketing mix, mobile and desktop are largely and still equally important. Mobile may just run away with it all in the future, but for now, businesses must leverage the strengths and influence of each device. People still use them differently, at different times, and search engines crawl through them still. The best SEO practices must be observed across devices and platforms, they should not discriminate, and brands must know how to maximize the use of each device wisely.
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