SMX East 2014 Speaker Series: What Matters Most in Mobile SEO with Cindy Krum

Earlier this year, the landscape of SEO and Internet marketing shifted in a significant way when mobile search traffic overtook desktop search traffic. Mobile traffic will only continue to rise, and brands and businesses simply cannot afford to miss out on mobile opportunities. If you have not yet incorporated mobile SEO and mobile social strategy, the time is now.

CindyKrum-MobileWakeupCallCindy Krum, CEO of MobileMoxie, travels the globe educating major businesses and brands on what matters most in mobile marketing, chiefly in the areas of SEO and social media. She’s also the author of “Mobile Marketing: Finding Your Customers No Matter Where They Are.” She’ll be sharing her insights onstage at this month’s Search Marketing Expo (SMX) East 2014 in “What SEOs Should Be Doing With Mobile” on Oct. 1 at 9 a.m.

Read on to discover key insights from this mobile maven in her interview on all things mobile.

BCI: How can businesses can best shift into a mobile SEO and social strategy? Where do they start?

CK: Business management needs to start with themselves, or as the marketer, you need to push them. If you were to tell the CEO of your company that they had to complete the following three tasks from their mobile phone in the next 30 minutes (obviously pick the top three relevant conversions for your company), what would they say? Would they be able to do it? Would they get irritated if they found out how difficult it was?

It is also a good idea to really understand the mobile use cases that your brand needs to address – it might be a good idea to make a list. If you are a local business, then the use cases could be something like this:

  • Someone is lost trying to find our store
  • Someone wants the address, phone number or a map
  • Someone wants to call ahead to place an order or check our inventory
  • Someone wants to check specifications on a product before they drive to get it

This exercise will return different results for different types of companies, but it should help you organize the mobile strategy, and determine where your efforts should focus.

What are the biggest mobile SEO mistakes that are the easiest to fix?

“Mobile” gives developers, marketers and SEO’s a whole new list of potential mix-ups that are easy to miss if you are not paying attention. I usually find the most problems when I look at a “site:” query in Google, if it is a mobile specific site, or looking at an iPhone crawl, if it is built in Responsive Design.

What are the biggest mobile social mistakes that are the easiest to fix?

I am always surprised to see really advanced development teams relying exclusively on emulators and simulators. This is not OK. My company offers mobile emulators and simulators, and I can tell you from experience that they are hard to maintain, and keep accurate. We do our best, but if you are putting budget towards a development project, you should also put budget towards actual testing devices. I generally include 4 devices – an iOS phone and tablet and an Android phone and tablet. Checking that websites work on all four is critical. Testing apps on their native OS, on a variety of devices is also very important.

Can you share some of your favorite examples of brands doing mobile well? Charmin’s SitOrSquat app or the Johnson & Johnson Baby BEDTIME app come to mind …

Brands are doing it well on mobile when their apps become a part of their users’ lives and solve a problem. I talk about good apps below, so let’s talk about good mobile websites here. When I am benchmarking good mobile design, I look at the ubiquitous brands like Facebook, Amazon, Google and to a lesser degree, eBay, Pinterest, Twitter. For a real branded example of a great mobile experience though, I would have to say Best Buy. Their mobile site is location aware, remembers who I am, and what I previously purchased. It lets me decide whether I want to ship an item or pay to have it pulled out at the store by my house, so I can just go over and pick it up in about an hour. This is stellar!

In thinking about the mobile websites that I use the most in my actual life … they are mostly utilities and shopping websites. My mobile behavior (and statistic show that I am not alone) is usually a multi-screen experience. I am generally either in front of a TV or computer, and sometimes, I am doing something on a phone, and something else on a tablet (It’s true – Yikes!). I use phones and tablets nearly interchangeably. I shop on Amazon while I watch TV (the apex of consumerism, I know), and I sometimes read industry news or watch short videos on my device, during commercials. (Honestly though, I don’t watch that much TV, so my multi-screen experiences are mostly while I work, using social networks, email and chat on my phone or tablet, and keeping work docs on my computer.

The websites I tend to search for the most on my phone are always informative, which indicates that the “Content is King” maxim still applies in mobile. One of my most common mobile searches actually illustrates many truths about mobile search and mobile web strategy: “Can dogs eat ______?” This is a query where I need information right away, because the dog is at my feet begging, and the food is in my hand or on my plate, continuing to entice the dog. If there is an app for this, it never ranks in my Google search results (which is a big deal for app marketing). I suppose I should see if there is an app, but there are lots of websites that do the trick just fine from the mobile search.

Do you need to be a big brand to succeed at mobile?

Quite the opposite! I think we are about to enter a time where having a mobile-friendly website will no longer be optional. In the same way most companies need a website, now, they need a website that works on a variety of different devices. Some companies can get away with having a limited mobile presence, but consumers are getting less forgiving when they reach for their phone and find that the website they want will not work, or is very difficult to use on their phones.

When does it make sense to create a mobile app?

I get this question a lot, and the answer is not what you would expect: I don’t love apps. Too many companies have built “branding” apps that are sub-par and offer no advantage over the mobile site. In my mind, there has to be a REALLY compelling reason to build an app for it to be worth the budget. (Remember, to reach your entire mobile audience, you really need to build two apps: one for Android and one for iOS). In general, if what you are doing in your app can 100 percent be done on a similar website, then there might not be a compelling reason to build an app. SitOrSquat and Baby BEDTIME are both great in terms of attempts to extend their brands into new aspects of people’s lives, but in efforts like this brands have to remember a couple things:

  • Frequency and engagement count. If you want to stay on someone’s phone, you have to really be useful in the long term. I don’t have kids, so I can’t speak to the utility of the Baby BEDTIME app, but if it could be great if there is not a lot of competition in this space. If there is competition, Johnson & Johnson will need to be the best at what they do, in the app space, as well as in their product line.
  • Thinking of an app as a brand extension is not enough. Apps must really be products that compete in their space in the app market; assets that the brand is really proud of, and that fill a compelling need. Just because it is for a phone doesn’t mean you can just “phone it in.”

When I see brands doing things really well, it is because they are linking the online and off-line world together in a seamless and useful way. The Amazon app lets me scan bar codes of products in a store, to see who has a better price, and/or what it will cost me if I want to have something NOW, versus waiting two or three days for Amazon Prime to get it to my door.  That is insanely useful and seamless!

I don’t generally eat pizza, so this is not a big  deal in my life, but I have heard that Pizza Hut has an app that lets me save my normal pizza order, address and nearest store, so placing my normal order takes less than 30 seconds and does not involve talking to anyone, standing in line, or waiting on hold. Brilliant!

It’s possible that I am not the norm, but I have looked at MANY people’s phones (snooping) and what people keep on their home screen is usually utilities and games. Even people who are very brand loyal are not compelled by bad or useless apps. When you are doing anything mobile, but especially an app, it is important to think about what problem you are solving, and how people are solving it now, without your app or mobile site. The solution you provide must be superior to the current solution, and must offer improvements above and beyond the addition of your company’s logo. “There are a billion weather apps out there, but this one is OURS” is actually not a compelling reason for someone to download your app.

What are your favorite do’s and don’ts when it comes to mobile?

There are plenty of WordPress templates built in Responsive Design, so look for those. Also, look for the plugins that will make your blog pages load quickly. Skip pagination on long posts, but consider infinite-scroll or progressive loading options. Make font big enough to read, and never have side-to-side scrolling. Eliminate popups (duh!) but also test screen take-over style messaging on lots of different devices, in different orientations (portrait and landscape) to make sure they can be closed. Test all video, animation and JavaScript on all of your devices. Test all sharing functionality on all of your mobile devices, too. Sharing buttons should share the desktop version of a page, even if the person is sharing from their mobile device. This is because the share will be visible on desktop and mobile devices, and user-agent detection and redirection from the desktop to the corresponding mobile page will help mobile visitors, but most sites don’t have redirection from mobile to corresponding desktop pages, so desktop users who clicked on the mobile link would just be stuck with the mobile page.

What type of smartphone do you have?

I have many phones I use for testing, but the one I am currently using for daily communication is a Nexus 5. In some ways, it was a big adjustment from the iPhone 5; android apps are still inferior, and buggy, but the ones I actually use work fine. I like the Nexus 5 because it has Google Now, which I think is important for understanding the future of mobile search and interactivity.

What are your favorite apps on your phone?

I just took a look at my two most recently used phones; other than the stock apps, here are the ones I use, in the order of frequency that I use them: Facebook, Audible, Netflix, Skype/AIM/G+, Amazon, bank and credit card apps. Like I said, I don’t love apps, so they need to be pretty awesome to last long on my phones.

What do brands need to have in place by 2015?

  1. A mobile-friendly site, and lots of mobile testing devices!
  2. Analytics set up to report on mobile and tablet  traffic
  3. Basic understanding of SEO and server issues related to your mobile traffic

The SMX East 2014 Speaker Series continues next week with Lisa Williams, followed by Joanna Lord and Bruce Clay himself. On Sept. 30, Virginia Nussey and I will commence liveblogging SMX East 2014. See our liveblog schedule here.

Kristi Kellogg is a journalist, news hound, professional copywriter, and social (media) butterfly. Currently, she is a senior SEO content writer for Conde Nast. Her articles appear in newspapers, magazines, across the Internet and in books such as "Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals" and "The Media Relations Guidebook." Formerly, she was the social media editor at Bruce Clay Inc.

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

Comments (4)
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4 Replies to “SMX East 2014 Speaker Series: What Matters Most in Mobile SEO with Cindy Krum”

Nice article….I think mobile friendly websites are great and most brands should have that.

Nice article, but personally I feel mobile apps are better. In my country there are slow web browsing speeds even on 3g networks (dont know why) its quite frustrating to use a mobile browser. On the other hand, I have found mobile apps more useful. They are less frustrating and connect to web only when required. But interesting read


Virginia Nussey

Hi, Lalit :) I’m agreed on the value an app can bring when there’s a specialized, defined need for it, and in my experience an app is often not interchangeable with a website.

This is great, she even talks about responsive WordPress templates. Thank you.


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