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How to stay visible in mobile search.

Meghan Burton, Director of SEO

The author

Meghan Burton

Director of SEO

Mobile websites are still often seen as an afterthought, with less content and more emphasis on conversion than their desktop counterparts. Google’s move towards a mobile-first index confirms that this isn’t the right approach to take.

Smartphone usage has been rising consistently each year, with 74% of UK adults using a smartphone in 2016, and 27% of users using a smartphone and nothing else. Google’s research also shows that over a fifth (21%) of people in the UK are using two devices in tandem, consuming content on both desktop and mobile in the same hour.

For brands, adapting for the mobile-first index should tie in nicely with a focus on the mobile-first future. For every stage of the conversion journey, consumers are using their mobile device - this means that not only product and conversion pages need to be on mobile; but so do guides, FAQ’s, and blogs.

We’re past the days when a few responsive pages or a specialist ‘m’ site would work; now, brands need to ensure that their entire site is mobile-first. Consumers now expect to use their phones for the same tasks they would have previously undertaken on desktop.

Having format agnostic content is imperative; content needs to be amazing regardless of how your customers are accessing it. Web designers and developers need to take a mobile-first approach to new websites, so relatively simple tasks such as optimising images for mobile should become commonplace. Even more complex tasks such as keeping the speed of your site as low as possible must become a matter of course as these are crucial to mobile conversion.

How to own more SERP space

There are some gaps where brands can ‘own’ more SERP space, which is key on a smaller format screen. Traditional search-engine results pages are already being replaced by a mix of ready-prepared answers, suggestions and the Knowledge Graph. The more space brands can own, the better your chances of getting in front of your consumers’ eyes at the right time.

Although it’s not a traditional ranking position; gaining featured snippets is one of the best ways to have more visibility on mobile. Not only are featured snippets shown at the top of search results pages but they’re also read aloud by virtual assistants for voice search queries. This means that regardless of how a user has searched for a query, brands can ensure users will always hear or see them, associating the brand with useful information.

We’ve found that gaining a featured snippet also often correlates with a ranking boost for that particular page in the traditional SERP listing, which can confuse the data slightly, but it’s certainly a bonus.

It’s worth keeping in mind that only one website can appear for a featured snippet for a particular query; so brands should ensure that the rest of their online presence is optimised for search too in case this snippet is taken by a competitor’s newer content, or the feature is removed by Google altogether.

A few ways to ensure this include keeping your brand’s Knowledge Graph presence as complete as possible by using effective mark-up, checking that local listings are complete, citations are correct, and following the same technical and content best practice as for your desktop site.

What can you action now?

  1. Optimise your content: Make sure that all of your content is working on mobile, not just those pages you’ve identified as relevant to a mobile audience; even long-tail searches can add up to a substantial number.
  1. Take a mobile-first approach: Sites should be created with a mobile-first approach; they should be able to load quickly and convert regardless of the platform.
  1. Own more space: Look for opportunities for your brand to gain featured snippets for terms that are relevant and if appropriate, work to occupy them. Ensure you’re as effective in the Knowledge Graph as you can be, and if you have local businesses, ensure that your Google My Business presence is complete and citations are accurate.

For more advice on your mobile marketing strategy, you can download our latest guide here