Mobile UX May Soon Affect Rankings, as Well as Customer Satisfaction
Experts are predicting that any SEO company worth its salt needs to start putting mobile capability at the top of its list when it comes to building high-ranking websites. Google has given strong indicators in recent weeks that mobile user experience (UX, in industry jargon) may soon be added as a factor in its ranking algorithms. Is this good news for businesses relying on web traffic, or bad?
Thinking Like the New Google
Older forms of search engine optimization often relied on “thinking like Google” — determining the limited steps a non-sentient entity could take. This led to practices such as keyword stuffing and purchasing backlinks from less-than-reputable websites (both strategies that are now penalized by Google).
But as Google’s algorithms become more sophisticated, an SEO company must start to think like users, as well as like Google, because those two thought processes are becoming more similar. Google is constantly working to align its viewpoint with that of its searchers. So instead of looking for ways to exploit Google’s technological weaknesses, SEO experts must try to create a user experience that demonstrates the “value” of any given website.
Although Google doesn’t publish its algorithms, making it tough even for experts to figure out exactly how these determinations of value are made, it is becoming increasingly clear that Google’s bots are capable of judging a website’s user experience, crawling fully rendered pages just as a human consumer would view them (as opposed to simply analyzing code).
Universally Strong Strategies
Although this might be a discouraging move for businesses without mobile-capable sites who haven’t been planning on a redesign (just a few years ago, even a reputable Internet marketing agency might not have recognized the growing importance of mobile), it should be viewed — generally — as good news. Essentially, Google’s advancement means that the role of an SEO company and an Internet marketing company are merging; the same Internet marketing strategies that will make a website appealing to Google will (ideally) make it appealing to a customer. Businesses on a budget no longer have to choose between marketing themselves to the search engines and marketing themselves to consumers.
Recent statistics show that mobile accessibility has become increasingly important to users. About 50% of cell owners say they go online primarily using their mobile, and about 48% of mobile browsers say that landing on a page that requires excessive zooming and scrolling makes them feel the company doesn’t care about their experiences, making them less likely to remain on or revisit the site.
In one sense, then, mobile optimization can already affect a website’s search rankings. It is strongly suspected that “bounce rate” — how many users visit a site but leave almost immediately — factors heavily into Google’s current ranking system; therefore, if users frustrated with a mobile-unfriendly site bounce elsewhere, the site’s rankings would drop.
Presumably, any changes to add mobile UX to the algorithms would take a more direct route. Regardless, optimizing a site for mobile is about as clearly important a move as any can be in the ever-changing world of digital marketing. Any Internet marketing consultant who says otherwise is likely just attempting to hide his or her own deficiencies when it comes to mobile design.