Google Now Rewarding Mobile-Friendly Websites

Today Google rolled out an algorithm change that is designed to reward websites that are “mobile-friendly” and demote those that aren’t. What does this mean and how might this impact your business?

mobile-friendly-websites

First, we think it’s important to remember the goal of Google’s search engine, which is to deliver its users (people who search for things on Google) the best experience possible. Google’s job is to match the intent of the searcher with the best possible results. There are many factors that go into its ranking of one site over another and those so called ‘ranking factors’ are always in motion. However, in light of growing mobile usage, one of the factors that has risen in importance is having a website that is “friendly” for mobile users. 

What does it mean to be mobile-friendly?

Google wants people who access your website via a mobile device to have a good experience. According to Google, this means it should meet the following criteria as detected by Googlebot:

  • Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
  • Uses text that is readable without zooming
  • Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
  • Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped

How can I test if my website is mobile-friendly?

One way to know if your site is mobile-friendly is to check it against Google’s own indexing. You can look at your listing in mobile search results and see if it has the mobile friendly label.

Here’s an example:

mobile-friendly-label

You can also check your pages with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test

What happens if my website isn’t mobile-friendly?

It depends. Mobile traffic now makes up an estimated 60 percent of all web traffic but your own web traffic might be different. If your traffic from mobile users is small and your site isn’t optimized for mobile, you probably won’t notice the difference even if your search rankings take a hit. The impact might just be incremental. However, if your traffic from mobile is high (our hotel clients tend to be in this category), the lack of a mobile-friendly site could result in a significant decline in traffic from Google Search and that could be very impactful.

If I don’t get a lot of traffic from mobile do I need to worry about this?

Yes! While you might not be impacted today, it is a very good idea to recognize the growing trend of mobile and understand that while your visitors might not come from mobile right now, statistics show that more people are planning to go “mobile only.” Consider this your wake up call and start working toward meeting the mobile-friendly goal soon.

Will all of my rankings be impacted?

The Google mobile-friendly algorithm update impacts searches from mobile only. It has no affect on searches from desktops or tablets. It has also been reported that the algorithm change will not impact Google’s local search results from mobile, which should be a relief to many of our clients who are non-mobile friendly and rely on local search.

How can I fix my site?

Google supports three mobile configurations: responsive web design, dynamic serving, and separate URLs. Responsive design is Google’s recommended approach because it focuses on offering a consistent experience with one URL for all content. Responsive designs can also be expanded easily to accommodate new devices as they emerge. 

Every site is different so we invite you to talk to us about how we would approach transforming your site from its current configuration to a responsive design.


Bye, Bye Google Places. Hello Google+ Local

Attention all you businesses who rely on locally-relevant search traffic. Hotel? Yep – that’s you.  Restaurant? You too. Professional services? Yeppers. Retail shops. Uh-huh. The list goes on and on. If your customers find you in part by your location, this news should interest you.

That little Google+ profile you set up and have since neglected is about to take over the world.  Well, sort of.  At least it has become quite a bit more important. On May 30, 2012, Google+ Local replaced Google Places (the listings that represent a business in local search and Google maps), which means about 80 million Google Places pages worldwide have automatically been converted into Google+ Local pages.

I’ll wait here while you run and Google your business to check it out.

Back?

So, how’s it look?

Disorienting? Confusing? Here’s the essence of this news: Google+ Local combines local business information with social networking capabilities to give business owners the opportunity to be more relevant, more marketable, and more easily found by consumers. We’ve outlined a few of the changes so you don’t miss a beat as you aim to amp up your search engine rankings and resulting revenue.

See-ya Stars, Hello Numbers

Google+ Local has replaced its star ratings with Zagat-numbered ratings. Users will no longer be asked to rate businesses on a four- or five-point star continuum – a more structured form (regarding service, atmosphere, etc.) will be used and additional comments should be welcomed by businesses.

 google+ local search

What you’ll see: For instance, consumers who Google “hotels in Pismo Beach” will get local search returns – but they’ll have to make a choice based on the 30-point Zagat rating scale rather than the very visual yellow star ratings. What’s good: The 30-point spread provides a more accurate rating of an establishment rather than offering just a blanket bad/ok/great (1 star/3 stars/5 stars) kind of review.

Get There Any Which Way

By searching through Google.com, Google Maps, Google+, or using a mobile app, users can land on the new Google+ Local pages and get the local search results they want.

google + local results 

The new “Local” tab in Google+ also takes users to a personalized local home page which will contain a collection of recommended content. Consumers can browse their home page content or continue to search as they normally would. While a user and all of their neighbors won’t see the same home page, there will be common elements. The bottom line is that if your biz is located in San Luis Obispo, you want it to be showing up on the Google+ Local home page of everyone in the 5 Cities area.

Go Social through Google+ Local

Google+ Local is poised to become as social as Twitter and Facebook with its versatility, rich content, and heightened functionality. Your friends who post photos of the amazing dinner they eat out every night on Twitpic or Instagram? Soon they’ll have a new outlet for their food mania – posts like these will be the visual fodder that makes Google+ Local pages appealing.

google+ local optimization

 

 

Google+ users can earmark pics, reviews, and recommendations for their Google+ Local “Circles” which are essentially filters that allow users to share what they want with the people they want … just like they do through other social media. However, Google+ Local’s method is much more discerning and aims to improve upon the Facebook format – users can separate out friends, family, and colleagues into their own circles.

Interact With Your Customers

Google Places gave enterprises an online presence, but through Google+ Local, merchants and business owners will have the opportunity to develop followers and directly communicate with them through messaging – essentially, the same kinds of social methods that are already available through Facebook and Twitter. According to Google, there are even more merchant features on the horizon that will enhance your online marketing efforts.

Your Google+ Local Page Will Be Indexed

If you use Google Places for Business, don’t worry – you can still access your page and dashboard as you normally would. However, the consumer face of your Google Place now shows up in the context of a Google+ Local page.

Google Places pages were not indexed, but Google+ Local pages will be – which means the opportunities for you to use SEO have just grown exponentially. If you’ve ignored that element of marketing online in the past, you truly can’t afford to do so now.

A Last Word About Google+ Local (For Now)

This new action by Google is an amazing opportunity for every business owner to develop better and stronger interactions with their customers and become social in one central place – but it also demands that you learn how to really use Google+ so you can work it to your advantage. The more you absorb and utilize the ins and outs of this development, the more your business will thrive.

Online marketing is crucial to the life of your business – don’t resist this shift. But we want to know: How do you feel about the shift from Google Places to Google+? Are you overwhelmed with yet another social media duty or excited about the opportunities that lie ahead?

 

Need help? We do this stuff!

 


Local Search Engine Optimization is All the Rage. (For Good Reason.)

Local search is here. In a big way. If you’re a local business operating especially in a competitive business segment (hotels and restaurants, for example) you are probably aware of just how important local search engine optimization is. What used to be all about high rankings in natural search has become about high rankings in the local listings.

Why? Of the well over 10 billion unique searches done each month in the United States alone, 40% of them have a local intent*. In other words, the search is related to something a user might be searching for based on location. Hotels are great example. (And try Googling the word pizza). As a result of this local intent, Google and other search engines are placing more and more emphasis on delivering search results to users that are locally-relevant.

When it comes to local search, much has changed in the way it works and this has resulted in business owners who are aghast at finding their once-highly-ranked business dropped down or off the local search engine listings. If your local business relies on web referrals and has over time seen its placement in Google’s (or Bing or Yahoo) local listings fall, your cash register has probably felt the pain.

The question is, what can you do about it? The changes in local search have happened fast and have left even the most experienced search marketers scratching their heads at times. So what’s a time-starved business owner to do? In this blog post I’m going to try to (briefly) shed some light on the subject.

Who Killed the Organic Results?

Check out these search results for the word, “restaurant.” Those listings with a red marker are part of the local search results.

Local Search Engine Listings

Notice I didn’t search for “restaurant in San Luis Obispo” yet Google is giving me those local results assuming that the intent of what I’m looking for is to find a restaurant near my current location (which, by the way, is the happiest place on earth). As mentioned previously, Google and other search engines are increasingly focused on search queries with local intent.

What’s significant about these local results (besides the intelligence of Google’s algorithm) is that it turns everything a business owner has been taught about search engine optimization on its head. Today, if you’re a local business you almost have to invest time in local search optimization. And while you might think the strategies for high placements are the same, ranking in local search and ranking in organic search are quite different.

Actions You Should Take Now to Improve Your Local Search Engine Optimization

David Mihm is widely regarded for his publishing of the top local search ranking factors** as determined by his survey of search engine experts. Below are a few of the most helpful factors believed to improve local search engine rankings, as identified by Mihm’s report:

1. Claim Your Place Page and Local Listings: Google Places (the local business center for Google) is the place to go to claim your Google local listing. I also strongly recommend you head over to GetListed.org (a David Mihm creation) to check the status of your listings in important local sites, including Yelp, Yahoo, Google, Bing, and HotFrog. You’ll also find links to Localeze and Universal Business Listings here. Make sure all of these bases are covered.

Local Search Listings

2. Have (and List) Your Business Address in the City You Want to Reach: There’s a reason it’s called local search. If you want to appear in the local listings for a particular city, you almost definitely need to have a physical address in that city – and a local phone number. I say almost because sometimes you could be listed in the results for a nearby city if, for example, there isn’t enough data for the city searched. And by the way, P.O. Boxes don’t count.

3. Associate Your Listing with the Proper Categories: When you claim your listings in Places and other directories you’re often given the option to select a category for your business. Selecting the proper category is critical — and easier to do for some businesses than for others. In Google you can even customize categories. Do this right!

4. Get Cited. A lot: Search engines are always interested in delivering relevant and authoritative results to their users. In traditional search inbound links from one site to another can help Google understand that you are who you say you are. In local search web citations – street address, local phone number, etc. – are used to help Google “verify” that your business fits in the local and category you’ve claimed. As such, you want to make sure your local business is cited in a variety of vertical directories and data sources that are relevant to your location and business type. Customer reviews left on relevant websites are another source of citations so be remarkable to earn lots of ‘em!

Need Help With Your Local Search Rankings?

The changes in local search have been dramatic. Staying on top if it all is tough, especially when you’re busy running a business! Let us take a look at your local presence and we’ll let you know how we can help. Request a proposal or give us a call at 800-474-1573.

*Source: http://getlisted.org/resources/why-local-search.aspx
**Source: David Mihm Local Search Ranking Factors Report