Your website’s going great.
You rank for all of the search terms that are important to your business and traffic from Google is on the rise. You’ve avoided Google jail and the number of leads landing in your inbox are at an extremely healthy level.
So why is traffic to your website from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets flat-lining?
Introducing Google smartphone ranking
In recent years traffic to sites through Google has been increasingly accessed via smartphones and tablets, and the search behemoth has introduced algorithms to differentiate between search results displayed on desktop computers and smartphones.
Marketers who have got to grips with Google’s search engine algorithms and the Penguin and Panda updates, and are enjoying excellent rankings for their website, face another problem. If Google does not like the way the website works on a smartphone device it will push that website further down the rankings, leading to a drop in web traffic.
According to Google’s own statistics the number of people using smartphones has reached the same level as the number of people using a desktop computer to access the search engine, and those who do not optimise their website for mobile could be excluding half of their target market in one fell swoop.
Google has announced changes to its smartphone ranking system designed to punish websites that do not provide a sufficient user experience for the mobile user. Avoiding this rankings penalty will influence how marketers work in future.
5 reasons why Google is punishing your mobile website
1: Faulty redirects
Perhaps the main reason Google punishes websites based on their smartphone compatibility is because of faulty redirects. If the user visits a website on their smartphone it will typically redirect the user to the smartphone homepage instead of the homepage used for desktop users.
The smartphone homepage will be optimised for mobile users so it makes sense for a website to detect a mobile user and redirect them to the site that will provide the best user experience.
The most common mistake occurs when a search result displays a page on a website that is not the homepage but the desktop website redirects the user to the smartphone homepage instead of the same page in mobile format.
For example, a user who navigates to an ‘About’ page on a smartphone could find themselves redirected to the mobile homepage instead of the mobile ‘About’ page. This will be picked up by Google and is classed as damaging the user experience.
Google’s advice on the subject is quite clear: “Avoiding irrelevant redirects is very easy: Simply redirect smartphone users from a desktop page to its equivalent smartphone-optimized page. If the content doesn’t exist in a smartphone-friendly format, showing the desktop content is better than redirecting to an irrelevant page.”
2: Smartphone-only errors
Converting a website into a smartphone-friendly offering is the best way to avoid punishment from Google.
However some websites will not have smartphone versions of every page on the website. Often this means a website will display a ‘404’ page, on the mobile version of the website but not on the desktop website.
Google does not like error pages and visitors to your website will naturally be frustrated by reaching an error page in their search for information. As above the best solution is to simply display the desktop page instead of an error page.
Even an untidy, non-optimised desktop page will be better than a blank mobile page with no information on it at all.
3: App adverts
You may have invested significant time and money in creating a modern, interactive app that presents your website in a dynamic, exciting way and you are probably keen to have as many people as possible download and enjoy the fruits of your labour.
Advertising a mobile app on a mobile web page is a good way to notify visitors that there is a more elegant way to view the content on a smartphone device. However when these apps become too big, bulky and actively ruin the user experience of the mobile website Google sits up and takes notice.
Large app adverts not only disrupt visitors’ use of the website it can also cause indexing issues with Google and damage the website’s chances of appearing in search results. Instead, Google recommends including a small HTML banner advert integrated into the mobile website’s design or using Safari browser’s app advertising system.
4: Broken videos
According to research firm Strategy Analytics Apple has an 18 per cent market share when it comes to smartphones. With one in five people using an Apple device excluding these users from website content can be particularly damaging to a website.
Apple devices do not support Flash player, which is required to play some online games and, more importantly, videos. Google has cited videos that do not work as another reason why it may punish a website during mobile searches.
Google has also warned websites about videos that have been blocked because of licensing issues and recommends websites include transcripts of videos to enhance the user experience.
5: Slow load speed
Slow page loading speeds are enough to turn anybody off a website and if Google detects it takes more than a couple of seconds to load a mobile page it can negatively affect that website’s search rankings. It’s one of the SEO basics – a fast load time usually equals a great user experience.
Image- or video-heavy websites are particularly prone to slower load times and pages that are multimedia-heavy will need to be optimised to negate any Google punishment.
The future of mobile marketing
Google rolled out the updates mid-way through January and if the Penguin and Panda updates are anything to go by this will not be the last time Google updates how it deals with mobile websites.
As mobile internet traffic (and purchasing online) increases the need to optimise a website to offer an exceptional user experience is more important than ever before.
If you’d like to learn more about mobile optimisation and how it can improve conversions contact the Webpresence team today!