The digital marketing world experienced something akin to a seismic shift at the end of 2015. This is when Google confirmed that mobile internet searches officially outpaced desktop searches. And by the end of 2016, figures showed that this trend spiked even more, as 60% of searches came from mobile devices. That trajectory has been skyrocketing ever upward, to the point that advertisers are projected to invest a whopping 65.8 billion in mobile ad spending in 2019 (compared with a mere 28.7 billion in 2015).
But while marketers are certainly aware of the ubiquity of mobile internet searches, many might not be aware of just how much Google is committed to this medium. They’ve pushed their chips to the center of the table and gone all in on mobile. After a year or so of research and testing, they announced that they were rolling out mobile-first indexing and migrating all websites to that standard in 2018. This move signaled that mobile is going to play a huge part in both the present and the future of search.
This has clear implications for marketers and web designers. Namely, all your websites now have to be mobile friendly to stand any chance of high rankings. And just as important, you need to ensure your SEO is properly optimized for mobile. Certainly, this goes for all SEO initiatives, but it’s also time to focus heavily on local SEO. Don’t believe us? Consider this statistic: 88% of consumers who search for a local business on their mobile device either call or visit that business within a day.
So now that we know how vital it is to optimize your SEO for mobile, let’s look at how to achieve that.
Go beyond “10 blue links” SEO
With all of these updates over the past couple of years, Google has moved away from the old results page that featured little more than the 10-most popular website links. Perform a search now and you’ll find that much of that prime first-page real estate is taken up with other elements like knowledge graphs, answer boxes, video clips, image bars, and local packs. It’s these local packs that marketers now need to pay close attention to when developing a strong local SEO strategy.
Many might remember not so long ago when performing a local search resulted in a local-packs list of seven businesses in the area in question. Now Google has reduced local packs results to three. Also, when searchers click on a listing a new search view appears containing a map of 20 local results.
How Google ranks the local results in this new system varies according to a number of criteria, but they place an emphasis on local, organic searches. So marketers need to eschew the simpler “10 blue links” mindset and start optimizing for SERPs with more page elements and features, and that take different ranking factors into account, particularly where it concerns mobile. Part of this involves making sure your local contact info is up to date and properly tagged in your meta descriptions. Then there’s other factors, like your content and especially, your links.
Rely on backlinks
One evergreen strategy that is just as crucial for mobile SEO as it was for desktop is backlinking. Regarding local SEO, getting as many links from local sites relevant to your industry is the key to maintaining high rankings in the SERPs. So not only look to authoritative sites in your field, but focus on local charities as well, and even your chamber of commerce. A mention there is always a great way to imbue your business with relevance and credibility.
Raise your content game
In the mobile world, people don’t have as much freedom to scroll as they normally did when, say, reading a blog post on a desktop screen. Plus, with a mobile device they’re using it on the go and many other environmental factors besides your content are vying for the user’s attention at any given time. Therefore, marketers have to do more with less space. Ultimately, your content needs to pack a punch.
Of course, maybe the blog post you intend to publish really does need to be a couple thousand words in order to properly communicate valuable info to your target local audience. Some trips to optimizing long-form content include a TL;DR summary at the top of the post, and/or providing anchor links at the start of the top which will allow the reader to jump down to the different content sections. This will help play into the broader strategy of making the navigation process as quick and easy for the user as possible. To that end…
Streamline your mobile navigation
That means focus only on your site’s top category pages (in this case anything focusing on local topics), and eliminating unimportant pages. This will inform your SEO as well, as it will help you decide which keywords, links, and CTAs to include on each page and which to leave out. Above all else, make sure all links on a landing page are contextual, so that once a user arrives there he or she will find further helpful topics they can click on that and it will carry them through your site in a clear hierarchy. This allows for an organic ranking of pages that looks good for the search engines and thus make for good SEO.
Improve your website’s speed
There’s a saying that goes “fast websites are profitable websites.” Certainly this is true, and it benefits not only the user experience but your SEO as well. Eliminating a lot of elements that slow down page speed and increase load times (excess elements, text, oversized images, etc.) will boost site quality, place a focus on your most important keywords, and thus result in higher search rankings.
Having trouble discerning which elements are exactly to blame for your slow site? You can identify the culprits easily by investing in certain browser extensions, plug-ins, image-resizing tools, image compression tools, CSS Sprite tools (to combine multiple images into one), cache-control and code-minimizing tools, and more. A helpful list of such tools can be found here.
As much as these tips are crucial for optimizing your local SEO for mobile now, remember to always be looking ahead to the future. Being able to spot trends looming on the horizon will better prepare you to stay ahead of the curve. Is it possible that 2019 will become the year voice search finally takes over? Will big data trends not only allow marketers keep pace with Google, but to help comply with quality guidelines, too? Knowing the lay of the digital land will help you know the answers to these and other pertinent questions before it’s too late.