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Google’s upcoming mobile-friendly algorithm is fast approaching, and many webmasters have questions about exactly what they need to do to prepare their sites ahead of time. This was especially clear in a recent Google+ Webmaster Hangout which allowed some webmasters to directly ask Google employees all their lingering questions on the new mobile update.

There is a lot of good info to be found in the hangout, but I’ve collected some of the most important parts in case you don’t feel like sitting through the hour-long video.

Expect the Rollout to Last a Week

Initially, Google made it seem like the algorithm would be like turning on a switch, but it sounds like the rollout will actually be more similar to past algorithms. Current estimates say it could take up to a week to fully be implemented. Keep this in mind as you start monitoring your traffic starting the 21st.

There is No Grey Area

Your site is either mobile-friendly or it is not. There is no scale or middle ground. If you live up to Google’s criteria you will be considered mobile-friendly, and otherwise your site will be flagged until you make the necessary changes. Thankfully it is easy to know ahead of time if your site is ready for the rollout with a simple testing tool.

Google Yourself to See if You are Ready

Google’s testing tool is the official way to check your site’s status, but you can also see if your site is mobile-friendly with a simple search from your smartphone. According to the experts, if you see a grey “mobile-friendly” label next to your site in the listings, you are all set. On the other hand, if you don’t see that label you should probably get to work.

Common Mistakes

These tips follow a list of common mistakes websites make when going mobile-friendly, which Google recently published. If you aren’t seeing the “mobile-friendly” label, make sure to check out this list to guarantee you aren’t missing a small mistake.

SmartphoneNot long ago Google announced its upcoming mobile-friendly algorithm change, but the search engine is making efforts to help webmasters prepare as well as possible. Google has been offering a steady stream of information helping webmasters avoid common mistakes while converting websites to mobile-friendly designs.

After answering questions over Twitter, Google also decided to directly ask webmasters what they were confused about and what problems they were encountering. Then, Google compiled the most common mistakes and shared them in a simple and easy to explore list.

According to Google, the most commonly mentioned mobile mistakes are:

  • Blocked JavaScript, CSS and image files: In order for Googlebot to see your site as a real user would, always allow access to these files in your site’s robots.txt.
  • Unplayable content: This consists of certain types of videos, or other content, that are not playable on mobile devices, such as license-constrained media or media that requires Flash.
  • Faulty redirects: If you have separate mobile URLs, you must redirect mobile users on each desktop URL to the appropriate mobile URL.
  • Mobile-only 404s: Some sites serve content to desktop users accessing a URL but show an error page to mobile users. Instead, redirect mobile users to an equivalent mobile page to avoid 404s.
  • App download interstitials: This is when websites block the view of pages with a prompt to download the site’s native app. Instead, use a small HTML banner at the top of the page.
  • Irrelevant cross-links: This is when users are linked to desktop-optimized pages from the mobile version of the site, and vice versa. Check your links to make sure that they point to the correct equivalent page.
  • Slow mobile pages: In order to avoid user frustration, ensure your mobile pages load quickly. You can check your page speed with Google PageSpeed Insights.

You can learn more from the complete guide here.

Google is making it easier for mobile users to fill out forms thanks to a new enhancement to its autocomplete attribute in Chrome, the company announced yesterday.

As in the past it is up to webmasters to make sure the forms on their sites are marked up with the autocomplete attribute, but it is an important step to take. Past analysis shows implementing autocomplete on your forms increases conversions and reduces cart abandonment.

Google also encourages sites to use the autocomplete attribute, citing increased completion rates and saying:

“Making websites friendly and easy to browse for users on mobile devices is very important. We hope to see many forms marked up with the “autocomplete” attribute in the future.”

The new enhanced autocomplete attribute allows you to easily label input element fields with common data categories like ‘name’ or ‘street-address’ without having to alter other aspects of your site. This way, Chrome is able to accurately fill-in each line when users tap on the field from their smartphone or tablet.

Google offered a sample form so you can see get an idea what the new markup code looks like. You can see how each field is marked up by going to this page and viewing the source.

Google Mobile

Google has been giving webmasters some pretty heavy hints that mobile-friendliness was important to the search engine, and today the company made it official. Mobile-friendliness and indexed apps are officially ranking factors in search results.

The motive behind the addition to the search engine algorithms is fairly obvious. People are using mobile devices more and more to search the web, and mobile-focused ranking factors such as these are the best way to ensure quality results no matter what device you come from.

The mobile algorithm update won’t take effect until April 21, so you have time to make any necessary changes you may have been procrastinating on until now.  Google also says the update will affect all mobile searches in any language around the world.

If you are concerned your site may not be up to Google’s mobile standards, they offer a mobile-friendly test. Google also suggests examining mobile usability issues by reviewing the Mobile Usability Report in Google Webmaster Tools.

In the meantime, Google will begin considering information from indexed apps as a ranking factor for signed-in users with the app installed on their phone. This way, content from indexed apps on your phone have the potential to rank higher in the search results you see. As a side-effect however, app developers will have to establish a relationship between their sites and app deep links.

SEO is an essential part of growing your business online, but it can often seem impossible to keep up with the constantly changing trends and policies. With the never-ending changes coming from Google and the other major search engines, you could drive yourself crazy trying to react to every single update.

Thankfully, a recent infographic from CJG Digital Marketing breaks down the most important trends and changes coming for SEO in 2015. With these tips, you won’t have to fight to keep up to date with the latest changes because you’ll be prepared before they even happen.

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Best-Android-phones-for-Christmas-2013Now that the holiday season is over, several companies including Target and Amazon are releasing statistics related to 2014’s holiday shopping. While there are several interesting facts to be found in the reports, Target’s release may have the most striking bit of information.

Target claims the majority of traffic to its Target.com website came from mobile devices throughout the holiday season, making it clear that mobile is quickly becoming the primary option for online shopping.

The company says, “Mobile traffic made up 60 percent of Target.com traffic November through December.” The press release also highlighted other mobile milestones for the company:

  • Black Friday weekend purchases made via mobile phones were 2 times higher than 2013
  • Cartwheel, Target’s digital coupon app, added 2 million new users over the holiday period and surpassed $1 billion in promotional sales since it launched
  • Target.com store-pickup orders hit a new record high on Thanksgiving Day
  • Store maps in Target’s new iPhone app were accessed more than 400 thousand times

Long-time mobile leader Amazon reported similar findings to Target, saying, “Nearly 60 percent of Amazon.com customers shopped using a mobile device this holiday. Mobile shopping accelerated as customers got later into the shopping season.”

Amazon also mentioned that Cyber Monday was the biggest mobile shopping day of the season, but Black Friday “had the most rapid growth in mobile shopping.” The company also reported that total sales of the Amazon smartphone app had doubled last year, which coincides with Amazon mobile entering comScore’s Top 15 US Smartphone apps list.

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A recent report from Chitika Insights shows the iPhone generates more traffic across both apps and the mobile web in North America than any other smartphone manufacturer. Perhaps surprisingly, its share of traffic was larger on the mobile web than across app usage.

For the study, Chitika analyzed two sets of data including half a billion mobile exchange impressions through their Cidewalk platform (for app traffic) and millions of ad impressions from the Chitika Ad Network (for web traffic).

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While Android devices collectively make up 54% of app-based internet traffic throughout North America, Apple takes the largest individual share. Apple also generates more web traffic (52.5%) than all Android devices combined. In both instances, Apple leads the second most popular smartphone maker, Samsung, by approximately 20 points.

This may seem strange to many, as Google search is prominently featured and more deeply ingrained in Android devices, while the iPhone emphasizes its app store strongly. Chitika explains the interesting findings by saying:

It’s likely that Apple users, in aggregate, are simply more likely to use their browser throughout the course of a given day. Safari has regularly earned praise for its functionality on mobile, and, perhaps more importantly, Apple makes it the default browser for any link clicked on an iOS device. This familiarity may predispose iPhone users to more often trust in their browser when performing tasks, as opposed to finding and using an associated app.

Mobile-Search-Image-MashableDespite numerous  studies showing that mobile is beginning to overtake desktop, a new survey by Marin Software shows only a third of the 300+ digital marketers polled in the U.S. and UK make mobile a priority.

Over half (57 percent) said they optimize for mobile when they can but don’t put great focus on it, while 10 percent said mobile is not a significant part of their strategy at all.

The survey does suggest lack of time and resources could take partial responsibility for the lag. Three-quarters of those polled said their jobs became more complex over the past year as a result of media fragmentation and data overload.

Other portions of the findings suggest hurdles in implementing cross-channel marketing may also play a significant role. Attribution modeling across channels was cited as the biggest road block to implementing effective cross-channel marketing. As Ginny Marvin explains, “If marketers can’t successfully measure the impact of their mobile campaigns, they’ll put their attention elsewhere.”

These problems were reflected in the findings that half of those surveyed also cited a lack of transparency into the necessary data.

While properly prioritizing mobile can be difficult, the latest indications show that mobile will only be more important in the next few years and smartphones improve and society gets more comfortable using phones and tablets in their day-to-day life. Marketers and businesses who stall on prioritizing mobile will eventually have a lot of catching up to do.

Google has been emphasizing the importance of mobile design and usability over the past year and now the search giant has added mobile usability reports to Webmaster Tools. Many believe this could be a sign that Google may be making mobile usability a ranking factor sooner rather than later.

The tool is intended to show whether your mobile site has any of the common usability issues that degrade a user’s mobile browsing experience.

Currently, the tool included specific errors for showing flash content on mobile (which can also result in a warning on mobile search results for your site), missing viewport meta-tag for mobile pages, improperly small fonts which are hard to read on mobile, fixed-width viewports, content not sized to viewport, and clickable links and buttons spaced too closely together.

John Mueller from Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst team based in Zurich said they “strongly recommend you take a look at these issues in Webmaster Tools.”

Of course, Mueller could simply be encouraging this because it improves user experience, but there is strong evidence to suggest Google will eventually make mobile user experience a ranking signal within search engine algorithms.

You can see an example of the reports below:

Mobile Usability Reports

The report from the 3rd Annual U.S. Mobile Path-to-Purchase Study conducted by xAd and Telmetrics shows that as consumers mobile shoppers are increasingly receptive to relevant mobile ads, reflecting the increasing trust in mobile browsing.

The report, published earlier this week, shows that nearly 50 percent of mobile shoppers reported they felt mobile ads are informative or helpful, up 113 percent from 32 percent last year.

Even more, 40 percent of those surveyed said they have clicked on ads and nearly half of those have taken secondary actions such as viewing the referring website and searching for additional product information.

Clearly, mobile advertising is a blossoming target as the internet becomes increasingly mobile. In a market where mobile use has begun outpacing desktop access, it makes sense that users would become equally interested in relevant ads for their mobile devices.

You can get more information in the infographic shared below, or you can view the report in full here.

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