Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm change served as a wake-up call last month for merchants who have yet to make their sites fully optimized for small screens.
While it remains to be seen if Google's latest update will live up to its “Mobilegeddon” moniker, the change is already impacting the rankings for some retailers. Much of the advice offered to merchants of late has understandably focused on offsetting any negative impact of the change by finding ways to improve the mobile mechanics of their sites.
Embracing responsive design principles, streamlining photos to improve upload speed and simply remaining vigilant to ensure pages are free of frustrating error messages are just a few important ways merchants can make sure their sites are streamlined for mobile users and networks. In all the discussion about how to best deliver content to mobile shoppers, it’s an opportune time for merchants to rethink what content they’re offering and whether it’s likely to resonate with and engage mobile customers.
Gone are the days when merchants could simply cram their sites full of keywords and expect, like a trail of breadcrumbs, that it would lead shoppers to find their sites. Google’s obsession with delivering results most relevant to its users has generated algorithms that see through such SEO tricks, focusing on more important metrics — e.g., the number of links to a particular website.
That’s why MarketLive works closely with its merchants to enable them to deliver truly exceptional, personalized experiences for their customers, ensuring their sites contain far more than product photos and descriptions. Rich content such as how-to videos, in-depth gift guides, and customer reviews and ratings, when properly tagged, can all transform a merchant’s site into a valuable source of compelling, relevant information, driving up search rankings naturally.
Relying solely on keywords as a SEO strategy falls short for others reasons, too. Increasingly the context in which search terms are entered is becoming more important as engines like Google attempt to divine a searcher’s intent. Google increased the ranking weight for mobile-friendly sites (for mobile searches, not those made on desktops or laptops) because it knows consumers are increasingly using their mobile devices to search for products and services, and they expect the most relevant search experiences possible. That’s just one example of Google taking the context of a search into account. Here are other ways context is factored in to optimize users’ mobile search experiences:
1. Location: When logged into Google, results are tailored to where a user is, whether on a mobile device or any computer with an IP address. While such tools raise privacy concerns for some, others feel the significant improvement in search results is well worth it. Merchants with physical stores should ensure the addresses are easy to find for both consumers and search engines, and offer shoppers the closest store to their location.
2. Autocomplete: More and more searches are being completed using Google’s autocomplete feature, which proposes possible searches based on whatever text is entered, even a single letter. It does this by searching its own database of searches, as well as a user’s own search history and profiles of Google+ users. Use this feature to see what kind of search terms and phrases are being used for products or brands, then tailor keywords accordingly.
The rise of mobile devices as the default interface for social media platforms offers merchants numerous opportunities to reach their most mobile — and often youngest — customers. Mobile is now consumers primary point of contact with brands. Close to two-thirds of all minutes spent with retail brands now occur on mobile devices, according to comScore. Furthermore, for a third of millennials aged 18 to 24, mobile is the only online touchpoint used for shopping.
To engage shoppers on their mobile devices, reach out to them where they’re spending most of their time — social media.
3. Social login: Allowing mobile customers to sign in or check out of a site using Facebook, Google+ or other social logins has numerous benefits to help streamline the customer experience. Benefits for the merchant include the opportunity to ask for access to profile and other customer data that can help it forge personal connections that build brand loyalty.
4. Mobile-friendly outposts: If a merchant’s main e-commerce site is generating strong traffic from mobile search, its social sites and marketplace listings will also reap the benefits from this as they'll see higher traffic rankings and conversions as well. Major players such as Facebook and eBay are mobile optimized to the hilt, and can give merchants a leg up in visibility with investment in marketplace listings, social sharing tools and fresh content on brand outposts.
5. Showcase social recommendations: Social media outposts have the added benefit of giving shoppers an opportunity to share their product experiences, good or bad. Strong recommendations and customer testimonials can be capitalized on and promoted by merchants through tweets, social shares and email campaigns. Such outposts also give merchants the chance to address and better understand product weaknesses as well as strengths, which ultimately lends itself to a win-win situation for both the merchant and the customer — merchants have their finger on the pulse of their customers’ point of view in real time and ultimately can deliver more relevant products and services their customers want.
Ken Burke is founder and CEO of MarketLive, an e-commerce software providing enabling total commerce.
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