Latest on Mobile: Essential Takeaways for Marketers from SMX East & Pubcon

It’s becoming clear that mobile friendliness is more than a responsive website that gets a passing grade on the Mobile-Friendly Test.

The concept of mobile friendliness covers increasingly advanced digital media territory:

  • Mobile apps: Do you have a mobile app? Is it indexable by Google? Are you taking advantage of Google’s stated ways of getting ranking boosts for your app?
  • Mobile conversions and personas: Is mobile traffic failing to convert? That’s to be expected if mobile personas, mobile-specific conversions and calls to action haven’t been identified. Mobile visitors are not the same as desktop visitors, after all.
  • Mobile advertising: Are you utilizing mobile search PPC features like call extensions and call-only campaigns?

At the two biggest search-industry conferences this fall, SMX East in New York and Pubcon Las Vegas, search engine reps and renowned speakers covered the full range of Internet marketing topics, especially mobile issues — everything from Google’s mobile-focused features to app indexing to mobile ads. We published 46 sessions and keynotes from these conferences on the BCI blog. Here I’ve distilled most important news and advice that was shared related to mobile.

App Indexing Is Essential

App indexing illustration
Indexing an app helps new users find it in mobile searches (image credit: Google)

App usage is growing, and Google is serving app content in search results. In the SMX session “Beyond the Web: Why App Deep Linking Is the Next Big Thing,” Webmaster Trends Analyst Mariya Moeva explained that Google currently supports deep app links for signed in and signed out users on Android. In other words, when people do a search on an Android smartphone or iPhone, they can see an install button for an app in the results. Read the developer documentation for Android app deep link indexing and the just-released developer details for indexing iOS app deep links.

Developers should implement app deep linking and get their apps indexed so they’ll show up in Google-powered searches. Session co-speaker Emily Grossman called app deep linking “the next big thing” and gave a list of in-depth recommendations and resource links to help people go from an app store model to a search engine model. See the liveblog for details.

Some tips for implementing app deep linking:

  • Use http instead of a custom scheme.
  • Associate your website with your app (in Google Search or Developer Console).
  • Publish your deep links with the app-indexing API and get a ranking boost.
  • Fetch as Google for Apps lets you test changes to your app before you push it live to Google Play.

Note for SEOs: In a recent Google Office-Hours Hangout focused on app indexing, Google reps Mariya Moeva and John Mueller clarified that there’s no concern over duplicate content if you have an app or a mobile site delivering similar content as your website; the search engine can tell the difference.

Mobile Personas

Advertisers need a mobile strategy. In “Social and Mobile PR Secrets” at Pubcon, Lisa Buyer said that social advertising is predicted to grow to $35.98 billion by 2017. While the audience is there, you’re not alone if you’re finding conversions are much lower from mobile traffic. If that’s the case, the problem is likely you, not the users.

Mobile visitors have their own unique needs and motivations. To capture their attention, it’s crucial to understand the mobile audience and do mobile persona research.

Mobile customers fall into four basic categories, according to Aaron Levy in the SMX session “Winning at Mobile PPC”:

  • Bored: Mostly professionals, either commuting or not wanting to talk to people. Tend to be impulsive.
  • Research: Often parents, these are busy people filling a few minutes of time. Tend to be thoughtful before buying and usually convert on other devices, not on their phone.
  • Need: People with only a phone to access the Internet, often low income. Tend to respond to promises of convenience.
  • Desperate: These people forgot something and need it right away. Tend to be rich enough to buy the first thing they find.

For each type of audience, Levy recommended ways to tailor mobile ads. Also in this session, co-presenter Amy Bishop explained how to effectively target local searchers by their location, and John Busby showed how to use Google’s PPC ad formats that support phone calls, enhanced campaigns and call-only campaigns.

Mobile Advertising

Along with Google’s mobile-friendly advertising options described above, some paid search-focused sessions looked at the unique challenges of mobile advertising, including the trouble with social media referrer data.

In the Pubcon session “Social Media in a Mobile World,” social media managers Cynthia Johnson and Kendall Bird presented many tips for social media marketers. Though ROI from social media is difficult to assess, social media efforts can be tracked using a combination of Google Analytics (such as the Social report under Acquisition) and the data that each network natively provides. Build a dashboard that monitors whatever KPIs are important to your business, which differ between social media platforms, and you’ll have a way to showcase economic value to stakeholders.

Be aware, however, of dark social media, which refers to the sizable chunk of direct traffic that you can’t track in analytics (for example, users clicking a link from Instagram). Speakers Johnson and Bird recommended URL building as the best way to recapture those hidden (dark) metrics.

Google AdSense came into the spotlight when two Googlers (Richard Zippel and John Brown) hosted a Q&A style Pubcon keynote. Takeaways for advertisers were:

  • Ad blockers are a big concern for Google. They’re looking into what they can do to help advertisers.
  • Faster is better with mobile, but ads can slow down a page’s loading. Google’s brand-new Accelerated Mobile Pages tool can help publishers speed up a website. Use this and avoid bogging down pages with too many ads.
  • Mobile is necessary, so figure out your best mix of products (Google has products for videos, AdX, etc.) and platforms (iOS, Android, wearables, etc.).

Think Mobile First — Google Does

Gary Illyes speaking
Google’s Gary Illyes speaking at SMX East (and Barry Schwartz, moderator)

If you do nothing else, forget about mobile being a subset of the Internet. With mobile searches exceeding desktop searches, Google now focuses exclusively on mobile — that’s what Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes reported in the “Getting Mobile Friendly to Survive the Next Mobilegeddon” session at SMX East.

Here are three ways Illyes advised webmasters to stay mobile-friendly (watch video):

  • Make content legible and usable on mobile devices. Illyes said Googlebot looks at “5 or so” properties of a page to see whether they appear correctly.
  • Don’t disallow resources (such as CSS, JavaScript or image files). You don’t want to block Google from seeing the site as mobile-friendly — a misunderstanding that would hurt your search rankings.
  • Focus on giving the user a great experience on your website and “everything else will follow.”

SEOs and webmasters should follow suit by making mobile their primary framework for thinking of online visitors.

Paula Allen started at Bruce Clay Inc. in 2008 as a senior technical writer and now manages the company's content and documentation. An English lover at heart, Paula enjoys working in a team where grammar is frequently discussed and in an industry where there's always more to learn.

See Paula's author page for links to connect on social media.

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3 Replies to “Latest on Mobile: Essential Takeaways for Marketers from SMX East & Pubcon”

thanks paula , tons of great info

Completely agree with you. The need of mobile phones is increasing and so are the mobile phone apps. If we are planning to expand your business, you have to develop mobile applications to increase sales of your products.


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