What Google’s Mobile Update might mean for Local Businesses

Google implemented it’s long awaited Mobile Ranking update yesterday – it says it may take a while to fully roll out. However, there are already a couple of interesting developments which have been spotted that might give some clues as to the way things might head. Let’s quickly recap on why Google are doing this.

Why Google are making you need a Mobile Site?

Firstly the changes are only going to affect search rankings on mobile devices. Google has said IT WILL NOT AFFECT Desktop Rankings.

Google Mobile Responsive Update

Google Mobile Responsive Update

Google has always been about relevancy but we are seeing User Experience on site becoming progressively more important. We have seen these factors grow year on year in the Local Search Ranking Metrics Guide. Google say they want mobile searchers to “easily find high-quality and relevant results where text is readable without tapping or zooming, tap targets are spaced appropriately, and the page avoids unplayable content or horizontal scrolling”. This is undoubtedly true but there may be other reasons at work.

We should remember that Google gets near 100% of it’s revenue from AdWords (pretty much everything else it does doesn’t make much, if any, net profit) and this revenue is under threat. We’ll come back to that later.

Mobile Search Volumes are Growing

Mobile (smartphone) growth has been rapid. Google has also said it expects mobile search volumes to exceed pc this year.

Global Mobile v desktop users

US device growth Q4 2014

US device growth Q4 2014

 

Mobile is KEY to Local

•Nearly 50% of mobile searches and 20% of PC searches have a local intent
•Growth of smartphones mean that more and more searches are “local”
•84% have searched for a local business.
•88% of local searches on a mobile, call or go to that business within 24 hours
•90% of purchases are still made within 50 miles of their home
•People are often looking for local businesses when searching on mobiles

Mobile Users Search Differently

It’s worth remembering that searchers on mobiles search differently. There are different searches on mobiles v desktop. Although this is quite old data it illustrates the point. In the Restaurant Niche desktop searchers are mostly looking for coupons, menus, locations, and specific names of restaurants like McDonald’s. What’s more, they’re putting geomodifiers like Nottingham or Didsbury to find a location in a specific area.

desktop dining keywords

desktop dining keywords

However, when we look at a visualization of mobile search queries, it’s different. A lot of the same words appear, but other words appear (like “number” and “nearest”) that didn’t appear in the desktop list. Searchers do add location modifiers but in addition many searchers are expecting the search engine to both locate them and their nearest restaurant with searches such as restaurant near me. These nearest/ near me searches are said to be about four times the volume on mobiles versus desktops (not surprisingly).  So if you have a restaurant you don’t want to serve your mobile searcher printable coupons, job applications or a Flash animation showing how great your venue is, as there’s a very good chance that user is just looking for a phone number, directions, or hours. It’s also really vital that you have your address details included in the correct format – Google likes Schema Data for Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) information. The reason for this is that Google knows where you are and can serve you up as a result on “restaurant near me” searches. Obviously searches other than restaurants also apply.

Mobile Dining Keywords

Mobile Dining Keywords

By the way the proportion of pageviews from mobile versus desktop in the UK is the highest in Europe (generally far fewer pages are viewed for each corresponding session on mobile).

Pageviews by Device across Europe

Pageviews by Device across Europe

Why this matters to Google – google are looking to make more money wherever they can

  • Conversion from mobile lower

Many AdWords Advertisers choose not to spend the equivalent increase on AdWords as the growing proportion of mobile searches. The reasons for this are often site dependent but say on retail sites the conversion is significantly lower. For instance, for one of our clients (a large retail site) mobile conversion is one third of desktop. Generally, it is reported this figure is 0.8% for mobile and 2.78% for desktop (similar differences to what we see).

Mobile Conversion rates

Mobile Conversion rates

Just as a quick aside (and coz I’m a bit of a geek for device use) it’s also interesting to see device use by time of day. It’s as you might expect with mobile use high first thing in the day, taken over by desktop during the day and tablet in the evening. Just think of how this might impact on your local site. Let’s say you have a plumbing site. Many customers will find leaks first thing in the morning or when they get in from work. It’s vital if you do emergency plumbing type work you are visible (on all devices), but especially for searches on mobiles first thing and on tablets in the evening. So have a mobile responsive site (these work on tablets too) and possibly choose to show ads on these devices within AdWords too at these times of day!

UK Device preference by time of day

UK Device preference by time of day

  • Growth of Google Shopping Ads

There is also the growth of Google Shopping ads (which are great for sites with large inventories and a Google Feed – we can help you get great results by the way). Many of the larger Google AdWords advertisers are shifting budgets towards these type of ads and away from traditional search (quite simply because they often work more cost effectively).

Google Shopping Ads

Google Shopping Ads

  • Google being attacked by other players

The homeland of Google AdWords is being eroded by other sites. There is enormous growth of Amazon and searchers going straight there to search especially if they have Amazon Prime Account. The Apple App Store and iTunes are other examples.

  • Google serving different types of results for a growing number of searches

Google are serving all sorts of different types of results through their Knowledge Graph, especially in mobile. They have also increased and diversified the number of aggregator-style “Sponsored” results that show up in mobile—especially on Android. The top mobile search result for most flight, hotel, music, and TV show queries are now specially designed, sponsored, aggregated results that push the old organic results below the fold. This is making the above the fold real estate either more valuable and/or you must advertise to be there.

  • The ability of Google to make money from Local Searches

In my opinion Google can’t make enough money through local searches. They effectively are now like the Yellow Pages of old but show map listings for FREE. I wouldn’t be at all surprised with an ongoing onslaught (like answers + Knowledge graph) to push Local Pack (7 Pack and Snack Pack – 3 Pack) even lower and get more space above the fold with extended AdWords Ads (with ad extensions, call extensions, offer extensions).

Plumbers Nottingham Local 7 Pack

Plumbers Nottingham Local 7 Pack

Local 3 pack

Local 3 pack

Local ad with several extensions

Local ad with several extensions

 

See if you’ll be ok

Google has 2 tools that allow you to test your website to see how well it performs on mobile devices. The first is the Mobile Usability Report that is found in your Google Webmaster Tools. The second is a Mobile-Friendly Test that can be run on a specific page URL.

The Future

mobile-friendly in ad

mobile-friendly in ad

There has been a Mobile Friendly Tag in Mobile Natural Results for a while. But this week a mobile-friendly tag also appeared for a search in Canada. This could well point the way Google are moving. Change Mobile Natural Search to favour mobile sites (and indicate with a mobile-friendly tag) and MAYBE follow up with mobile search AdWords Ads showing (mobile-friendly tag). Others have suggested slow tag to indicate slow download speeds. This will force advertisers hands as either the CTR will be lower and/or the Quality Score will be affected or they would have to pay more.

So what do you think. Think that your Local Competition will suffer when the Mobile Update filters through?

How will you change/adapt to the new landscape? Let us know

 

Thanks to Smart Insights for much of the data

 

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