August 8, 2012, 9:58 AM

Google points consumers toward mobile-optimized sites

It tests placing phone icons in mobile search results to denote mobile sites.

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One of the biggest frustrations for consumers searching the mobile web is clicking on a mobile search result and being directed to a traditional e-commerce site, which takes far longer to load than an m-commerce site and is more difficult to use and navigate on a smartphone. Now Google is doing something about it.

Google has confirmed it is testing placing little mobile icons in mobile search results to denote listings that will take consumers to mobile-optimized pages.

"We’re experimenting with ways to optimize the mobile search experience, including helping users identify smartphone-optimized sites," a Google spokeswoman says.


Google has not issued any statements on this subtle change, but it has said in the past it is placing more emphasis on mobile.

“I’m amazed the computer that I’m carrying in my pocket is as good as the one I had a few years ago on my desktop,” Google CEO Larry Page said in the company’s first quarter earnings call according to a transcript provided by SeekingAlpha. “I think we’re only at the very, very early stages of what’s possible with those devices.”

Retailers at the forefront of mobile commerce  have already been using tactics to show consumers in mobile paid search results that they will be directed to mobile-optimized sites and not have the slow-loading, frustrating experience of trying to manage an e-commerce site on their smartphones.

Bernard Luthi, chief marketing officer of, an online superstore that invests in mobile search ads, suggests putting the word mobile in mobile paid search copy. For example, a retailer could say: “Jeans from $12.99! Shop from our mobile site now!”

The first step, however, is getting that little icon to appear in mobile search results—and that means creating a mobile site.

Many companies, even those that invest in mobile paid search ads, do not have mobile-optimized sites, says Udayan Bose, founder and CEO of NetElixir Inc., a search marketing agency.  “This is the biggest culprit for low mobile conversion rates,” Bose says.  “The mobile searcher gets frustrated with the on-site navigation and abandons the site.”

Google also has taken other steps to try and improve the mobile web, including trying to make it faster.

“We aim to speed up the whole web, and mobile is part of that,” a Google spokesman said earlier this year. “It’s about making the web a better experience for users and businesses overall, which, broadly speaking, also helps our business since we’re native to the web.”

Efforts include a recent program with Akamai Technologies that helps site operators test their mobile site performance. Akamai operates a network of web servers around the world designed to speed content to web and mobile sites. Google publishes mobile and desktop speeds from global web sites on its Google Analytics blog to help mobile web operators see how they measure up.

In the first quarter of this year Google began to scale its GoMo (or Go Mobile) campaign. The initiative helps businesses set up mobile web sites so they can drive traffic from mobile search to mobile-optimized sites. It also recently added a click-to-download mobile feature that lets marketers promote their mobile apps in Google’s mobile search results and link consumers to the advertiser’s Google Play or Apple App Store page, where they can download apps.

The Google Developers hub also features a long list of specific tips for making sites load faster on mobile devices.

For example, Google recommends reducing the number of server requests on mobile sites. Single large objects load faster than many small ones, Google says. So, rather than having a JavaScript file that loads other bits of code, for example, site operators should consolidate all page elements into a single file. It also suggests minimizing code, as the less code and the smaller the amount of data transferred, the faster a page will load. Other suggestions include using CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets, to design a page instead of images. CSS uses HTML-based templates that define where various objects, such as images or text boxes, appear on a web page. Using them can reduce data transfers and cut down on page load time, Google says.

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