By Paul Bondsfield, digital and marketing director of Travel PR
Rumours are flying about another ground-shaking algorithm update from the all-knowing masters at Google Towers. This time it’s all about mobile and the accessibility to your website principally by users of smartphones, although smaller tablets might also get caught in the same net.
Before you panic unduly, I think the changes are more likely to be gradual than explosive, part of an ongoing programme of delivering mobile-friendly search results.
Last November they introduced “mobile-friendly labels” for example. The changes will most probably affect only those results delivered on mobile devices too, so if smartphone traffic accounts for say 20% of all traffic to your site, then the remaining 80% of it will be safe, for now.
Panic aside, it does make all sorts of sense to be thinking mobile, simply because more and more people are accessing content on the move as part of a multi-screen journey.
A remarkable statistic is that 66% of all emails are opened on mobile devices, so if your primary channel to market is via email or e-newsletters, then you had better be sure that your email and web pages linked from it are clear and easy to read.
A useful tool to check your own site through Google’s gaze is provided on Google’s webmasters tools. If your site doesn’t look good to them, you’ll get a curt “Not Mobile Friendly”, along with some tips about what’s wrong and how to go about fixing it. If they like it, on the other hand, you’ll get a slightly over-stated “Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly.”
In the travel industry around 40-50% (and growing) of all traffic is mobile, from both tablets and smartphones, but that traffic is likely to comprise just part of your customer’s journey. You need to know which part that is and what the ramifications are of your mobile presence providing a block to that customer’s journey.
Your mobile strategy needs to be about the tech and not about the message – that needs to permeate all channels irrespective of the technology.
The top three reasons people use mobile are for communicating, either one-to-one or to many people via social media, consuming content (video, words and images) and lastly looking for answers, whether via a search engine or directly on your site.
It’s far less likely that they will be completing transactions in this channel, although even that stat is on the rise. Again make sure you understand why customers access your site on their phone and what it is they’re looking for, then provide it.
Creating a mobile site is a costly affair if you’re not already there, but you need to do the sums to see if ongoing changes at Google are going to cost you more in lost sales.
Notwithstanding my ‘non-explosive’ comment above, it’s likely that Google is working on an algorithm update around mobile and at some point they will launch it. You need to be ready.
Your options are;
• Build a fully responsive website, viewable on any screen – recommended!
• Use a stand-alone mobile website – not recommended for SEO and resource reasons.
• Fudge your existing site – really not recommended.
• Create an app through which you can communicate. Although Google can increasingly index content within apps, generally it is a little way down your customer journey timeline and given the prime reasons people use their smartphones, is not a discovery tool for most people.
So once again think holistically. Consider your customer journey and the message you want to impart. Really, really consider mobile soon…now…whatever your current stats say.
I’ll finish with an incredible set of statistics that really do illustrate the massive use of the mobile phone. No less than 10% of all photos mankind has ever taken were in the last 12 months, and Facebook’s image library already stands at 140 billion photos with a further 70 billion likely to be added this year.