Google’s Upcoming Change Highlights the Importance of Mobile Strategy

Algorithm update. Maybe those aren’t two words that usually grab your attention. But when they are coming from Google, they should.

As of April 21, 2015, the all-powerful search engine will be making the mobile-friendliness of your website an even more important factor in its ranking for mobile searches. To put it simply: if you don’t have a mobile website, Google doesn’t want it coming up high in search results.

This announcement shouldn’t come as a surprise. Mobile is no longer complementary to desktop surfing — it is now the dominant platform for online activity. As of 2014, 60% of digital media time in the U.S. was spent on smartphones and tablets. If you have an online presence, chances are that a significant amount of your customers are accessing it from a mobile device.

It goes without saying that if you don’t already have a mobile-friendly website, now’s the time. But beyond that, Google’s announcement highlights the fact that having a mobile strategy should be a must-do for all businesses, along with their strategic plan and marketing strategies. Companies who had a mobile strategy in 2014 are not the ones playing catch-up in these weeks before Google’s update.

Ultimately, however, our population’s shift to mobile doesn’t only influence how customers access your website, but also how they go about their daily lives and interact with your products and company. Remembering the importance of mobile as you plan out your short-term and long-term business goals will not only ensure you don’t miss out on website traffic, but also that you engage with your target audience is a way that is relevant to them, and competitive for you.

Don’t have a mobile strategy yet? Here’s a beginner’s three-step process to help get you started.

Step 1. Responsive website

Even if you go no further than this, ensuring your site is responsive to different screen sizes should not even be a choice to consider. And, really, Google’s announcement shouldn’t even be the main reason.

Even if you still came up high on mobile search results, do you really want potential customers’ first impression of you to be negative? We’ve all been to websites that weren’t mobile-friendly. All that zooming in and out, the scrolling back and forth or up and down, the squinting to see tiny text. It’s a bad experience. You just want to leave as soon as possible — and that’s not the experience you want for any potential customer, at any point.

Step 2. Mobile Marketing and Engagement

Here’s where you get to have more fun and start to consider mobile as an element of your overall business and marketing planning.

Think about how your customers currently engage with you and your products. Chances are there are ways you can use mobile to attract more of your target audience, or make current interactions better. Is your target audience often playing mobile games on their commute home? Maybe you should consider putting some of your marketing budget into mobile or app-focused advertising platforms such as Apple’s iAd. (Bonus being, of course, is that these ads can be incredibly focused and targeted to specific demographics). Or perhaps SMS marketing is the best approach, providing an easy-to-measure call-to-action on your existing ads around town. At the very least, a strong presence on social media networks — where a majority of mobile time is spent — ensures you stay front-of-mind.

Sending text reminders in advance of appointments or when a table being free at a busy restaurant are two simple examples of using mobile to make your customers’ life easier. Perhaps having tablets available on-site for check-ins, way-finding support or as a research aide is also worthwhile in creating a positive experience for visitors.

Step 3. Mobile App

Finally, you can’t think about mobile without considering the importance of apps. 86% of time spent on smartphones is within apps. For many businesses an app is an important tool to really leverage the mobile advantages, particularly if you have loyal or regular customers. An app allows for a richer and smoother experience on mobile — whether you’re tapping into the phone’s GPS or camera, connecting with beacons or want to create a fully interactive and personalized relationship with customers. And it makes good business sense too — a recent study found that 82% of respondents believed “custom mobile apps have helped their business generate additional revenue,” while internal business apps help employees save on average 7.5 hours a week.

Furthermore, a less-reported but still noteworthy part of Google’s April 21 changes is that they have also introduced an App Indexing tool. If implemented into your app, your app content can then also be featured more prominently in your users’ mobile searches. This is great news for brands who want to stay front-of-mind when users are searching online.

No matter what approach you take, spending some time on mobile strategy not only ensures you stay relevant, but can also give you a considerable edge over your competitors. Forbes recently highlighted a study that found mobile technologies are now emerging as an important growth engine for small and medium enterprises (SME), with “the top 25% of adopters seeing two times revenue growth and up to eight times the number of jobs created.”

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