In case you had somehow missed this huge milestone, 2018 is the year that saw the balance between the volume of mobile search and desktop search tip decisively in favour mobile.
End-of-year stats reports that 52.5% of search traffic was generated from mobile in 2018, with certain types of search queries receiving well over 60% of traffic from mobile. If you didn’t think this had implications as to how you manage and market your business online, think again.
Not optimizing for mobile in 2019 means putting yourself at a serious disadvantage. Here’s what to consider in ensuring you don’t lose rankings, traffic or engagement in the era of mobile search.
Mobile-First Search Engine Preference
Google have been amongst the first to cater toward the increasing number of search queries generated by mobile devices. In other words, the mobile compatibility of a website has now become a big ranking factor. This has shaped modern search engine optimisation, whereby mobile optimization is now a top priority for those brands who want to compete with their mobile-friendly competitors.
The remarkable nature of this development should not be understated. Until very recently, a desktop version of a site was considered ‘primary’ with the mobile version as an ‘added bonus’. Now, the mobile version is ‘primary’ with desktop increasingly less important. The Webmaster points out, however, that certain types of search queries are still predominantly performed on desktop. Optimizing for mobile is therefore not yet equally important for all types of businesses – at least not yet.
Screen Size Considerations
Website management platforms are now incorporating features that enable webmasters to view their content as it would appear on different popular mobile devices. This has resulted in some designers creating alternative themes and layouts in response to different devices, whilst others have taken the approach of creating themes which are compatible amongst most types of devices.
What does ‘compatible’ mean in this case? Some layouts, image sizes, functions, widgets and fonts only appear seamless on certain screen sizes. Being able to see precisely what your website looks like on different devices will help you remove incompatible features, resize images and texts accordingly, and create an overall more practical and aesthetically pleasing ‘above the fold’ presentation of your site.
Mobile Page Load Speed
A ‘light’ version of your site for mobile will be necessary in helping your pages rank. “We noticed a considerably lower bounce rate after improving load speed on our mobile site,” says Lucy Jacobs from PlayFrank. “Load speed is now one of the key factors we take into consideration when optimizing for mobile”.
However Zhiheng Wang from Google explains that this ranking factor, though important, will by no means affect all rankings. Wang tells us that Google “applies the same standard to all pages, regardless of the technology used to build the page” and that “the intent of search query is still a very strong signal, so a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.”
In other words, don’t focus all your efforts on building a fast and snazzy site if the right content isn’t there to begin with.
Scroll and Command Functions
The age of mobile has changed the way that we interact with websites. Whereas webmasters would previously worry about including everything of importance ‘above the fold’ to encourage a user to scroll, the ease with which we scroll on smartphone has led to scrolling, in general, becoming an instinctive part of visiting a website.
Minimalist web designs with simplified navigation has furthermore become the new fashion, in part because of mobile. On top of that, we have come to expect types of buttons to appear in certain places in our screen due to how frequently we see them presented in such a way on social media apps.
These design considerations must be taken into account when optimizing a website for easy interaction from mobile users.
“The speed and extent to which search behaviour is developing in light of new technology and globalisation has reached unprecedented levels in the last five years”, says Jason Doyle for Wolfpack Search Solutions. “Staying ahead of competition means responding quickly to the latest trends”.
In 2019, webmasters and online marketers will need to pay close attention to changes that could directly or indirectly affect the mobile friendliness of their website. Staying up-to-date through search and marketing journals is advisable.
Many expected 2018 would be the year to conclude ‘mobile comes first’, and they were right. Web designers, webmasters, SEOs and online marketers have already started to see the affects. Love it or hate it, it’s quite apparent that mobile search is not a ‘phase’. It might more accurately be described as an ‘unstoppable trend’.
The release of increasingly sophisticated mobile and tablet devices will likely come to be responsible for an ever greater percentage of overall search traffic in the near future. Expect ‘mobile first’ for the foreseeable future.