April 16, 2014, 1:24 PM

Five tips for achieving high mobile search rankings

Searches on mobile devices will soon exceed those on computers, Google says. Retailers that keep in mind what mobile consumers are trying to accomplish will move up in search rankings, says a Zog Digital executive.

Mobile searches are growing rapidly, and retailers that fail to optimize digital assets for mobile users are likely to miss out on sales. The mobile search market will soon overtake desktop search in terms of volume globally, according to two Google Inc. executives who spoke at industry conferences in recent months. Therefore, retailers need to prepare now to serve consumers searching on mobile devices.

Consumers are expected to spend $626 billion globally via mobile devices in 2018, according to investment bank The Goldman Sachs Inc. That’s roughly half of total e-commerce sales on all devices worldwide in 2013, as estimated by market research firm eMarketer.

To optimize for mobile search and ensure high rankings and conversion rates, retailers should focus on these five mobile search engine optimization (SEO) strategies.

  1. 1.      Reevaluate target keywords

Retailers should not use the same target keywords for mobile users as they do for desktop users. Specifically, retailers should take conversational and voice search into account. Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, says consumers using voice search are less likely to use keywords and are more likely to ask questions in what he calls the “natural voice.” For example, instead of searching for “oil change location,” voice searchers are more likely to search by asking a question like, “Where can I get my oil changed?”

  1. 2.      Use responsive design

Google specifically recommends all businesses, including retailers, use responsive design because of its ability to adapt to any size device while using only one URL structure, which makes it easier for Google to rank. To further increase rankings, retailers should include features for mobile users, such as an easy-to-use search bar and bigger, finger-friendly buttons. Mobile site architectures should focus on allowing users to get information with the fewest clicks possible. Mobile sites are also more effective at creating sales than mobile apps because almost two-thirds of consumers prefer to shop on mobile-optimized web sites over mobile apps, according to a new report from web and mobile site and app builder Siteworx.

  1. 3.      Speed matters

Slower-loading pages rank worse on search engines. Google recommends displaying above-the-fold content in less than a second. (The average page load time on mobile devices today is 7.25 seconds, according to a 2013 report from performance and security vendor Radware.) A site that loads slowly turns off consumers as well as search engines. “Tenths of a second can make a difference in the conversion rate of a mobile site, so every effort must be made to improve mobile site performance and stand out from the competition,” says Ken Harker, mobile performance expert at Keynote.

  1. 4.      Focus on local

Mobile searchers are more likely to want local information, a Google survey finds. Retailers that operate bricks-and-mortar stores should make sure to have a separate local web page for each store to help direct consumers there and provide its unique details, such as store hours. Mobile searchers say the most important information to them is directions, operating hours, contact information and product information. To rank higher on mobile searches, retailers should focus on providing the local-centric information that mobile searchers are looking for.

  1. 5.      Feature quality content

Search engines strive to provide searchers the most relevant and authoritative content. Retailers looking to rank high in mobile search results pages should focus on creating content, beyond basic contact information, that will appeal to mobile searchers. Some retailers have created mobile sites that allow searchers to compare products and prices, match outfits together, check store inventories, or read consumer reviews. By providing quality content and features mobile users search for and use, retailers have a better chance at ranking higher on mobile searches.

Jason Squardo is the executive vice president of optimization and one of the founders of digital marketing firm Zog Digital. Follow Jason on Twitter at @ZOGDigital.

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