Google mobile searches surpassed desktop and tablet searches, the company announced this week. Ecommerce sites take notice – Google’s recent changes in mobile search for both websites and mobile apps represent an opportunity you can’t ignore.
The revelation came as part of Google’s #StepInsideAdWords event showing off new paid search features in AdWords, but has ramifications to organic search as well.
Google’s Vice President of Product Management for AdWords Jerry Dischler is quoted as saying, “We’ve hit an inflection point where more Google searches are taking place in mobile than desktop in 10 countries, including U.S. and Japan.” The other eight countries haven’t been specified yet.
…“We’ve hit an inflection point where more Google searches are taking place in mobile than desktop in 10 countries, including U.S. and Japan.”
This crossover in the leading method of searches clarifies Google’s focus on mobile search. The majority of its searchers are on smartphones — tablet searches are lumped together with desktop searches — so Google needs to make sure that the experience on both its search engine website and app is as positive as possible.
That experience extends past the search to the search result chosen. Searchers hold Google responsible for the relevance of the page that they land on, but the experience they have on that page-one click away from Google also reflects on Google’s overall customer experience. Hence Google’s recent implementation of the “Mobile-friendly” algorithm, which works to connect mobile searchers with mobile-friendly sites.
Sometimes, the best answer to a mobile search query isn’t a web page at all, but content found within a mobile app. In April, Google announced that it would be offering links to pages within mobile apps, not only for searchers who have the app installed, but also for all mobile searchers on Android devices. This is good news for ecommerce sites with excellent apps that are having trouble increasing their app user base, because Google’s search results can help increase install rates as well as boost re-engagement from existing users.
The world of mobile search can be confusing, though, with so many different areas on which to focus. Use this as a guide to clarify the options and work with your marketing and development teams to chart a course to take advantage of the newly dominant mobile search.
Mobile Web Search
The single best thing you can do to maximize customers and conversions driven by mobile web search is to serve a mobile-friendly site. Sites that use responsive design are more easily rendered mobile friendly. But separate mobile sites can also be mobile friendly as well, as long as the appropriate mobile annotations are applied as outlined in Google’s mobile guide.
Just remember that Google is the judge of mobile friendliness with regards to organic search performance, not your marketers or developers. To ensure that your site meets Google’s specific criteria for mobile friendliness, enter the URLs for your site’s major pages into Google’s Mobile-friendly Test.
The test will identify which pages pass and which fail, and give some direction as to how to resolve any issues. For more on Google’s algorithm update and test, see my article “SEO: ‘Mobilegeddon’ Is Here, Now What?”
If you offer customers a mobile app as well as a mobile website, you’ll need to consider optimizing both your app store page and the app itself to maximize your potential to reach mobile searchers.
Mobile Apps: App Store Search
With app store optimization, your mission is two-fold: increase visibility for your app in the app store’s internal search results, and improve rankings for the app’s page in the major search engines as well. The end goal is to increase installation rates for your app and squeeze out your competition.
The app title and description optimization are much like traditional search engine optimization. Do your keyword research to understand the words your audience is likely to use when they’re searching for an app that does what your app does. Avoid marketing-heavy titles and stick with descriptive wording. If your brand is well recognized, include it at the end as well.
The description should likewise be based on your customers’ language rather than your company’s marketing-speak. Describe what the app does and how it will benefit the mobile user, rather than using marketing phrases that mean little to your audience.
Categorization matters, also. Choose the categories that your app appears in carefully, because they can affect your install rates as well. Categorize your app incorrectly and you’ll get lower visibility and fewer installs based on the app’s lack of relevance.
Regardless of whether you’re optimizing for iPhone, Android, or Windows, these are the core search optimization pieces that impact findability.
Once your app is findable, though, other factors come into play. The app icon is the first thing mobile users will see when they’re exposed to the sea of apps. Make sure yours is high quality and stands out. On the page itself other factors apply, like the quality of the screen shots that show what the user can expect from the app, ratings and reviews from other users, and more. Make it clear that the app is from an official source, a reputable and trustworthy brand, as opposed to a piece of copycat malware that’s using your brand.
Mobile Apps: App Indexing and Deep Linking
Optimizing your pages in the app stores yields potential improvements in app store visibility, but optimizing the app itself can increase your audience to all Google mobile searchers using Android devices. When apps take advantage of app indexing, Google may show searchers on Android devices results that include content within the app.
App indexing is essentially a way to identify relevant content with “deep links” in an app that Google can index much the same way it crawls and indexes regular web content. The details of how this process works are best left to your app developers. For purposes of this article, it’s enough to know that it is possible and that Google offers a guide, App Indexing for Google Search.
Implementing app indexing enables your app to rank alongside your website, offering a button to install the app directly from the search results. Searchers who click the button to install are redirected to Google Play Store to complete the install, and then redirected again to the correct content within the app after the installation is complete. Searchers who already have your app installed will see be able to click on the result to open the app and land on the desired content.
Google is touting its mobile app integration as a boon to mobile marketers that could boost new installations and drive re-engagement for existing users alike.
There’s a heavy caveat here, though. Google’s mobile app integration only works with Android searchers. Whether it’s to purposely exclude iPhone apps from deeper inclusion in search results or simply because it’s easier to integrate one of your own products (Android and Google Play Store) into another (Google search), the end result is the same. Don’t expect a similar iPhone implementation anytime soon.
If you’ve been putting off creating an Android version of your iPhone app, or waiting for the right moment to build an app for your ecommerce site, this may be the push you need to get started.