Head of Natural Search
Mobile has proved to be a key talking point amongst marketers even in 2016, with the industry elite agreeing that it has finally earned its place at the heart of brands’ marketing strategies. And I couldn’t agree more. But there is one area of mobile where we are still seeing a huge amount of development and that’s in mobile SEO. In fact, we have seen more change here in the last few months than we have in previous years. The rate of activity has been unprecedented and this is having a significant impact on how brands should view the mobile landscape.
The long and short of it is that it is not enough just to have a marketing strategy that integrates mobile. It is clear from Google’s most recent activity that mobile is their focus for the years ahead. Google call it “mobile first”. And as a result, brands must now have a comprehensive mobile SEO strategy in place as well and invest significantly in optimising all their mobile and in-app content if they’re going to survive.
In February we saw the introduction of Advanced Mobile Pages (AMP), with Google clearly favouring sites using AMP technology. And while AMP was initially only live for news publishers, with 30 or so including the BBC and the Guardian having taken part in the pilot, the launch has been so successful that I believe it is set to revolutionise mobile SEO. There is no doubt that every other publisher will now have to implement AMP to compete in mobile search and I expect the same will happen for blog content as well. In fact, Google has already contacted some of our clients that have a content hub or a blog to set the wheels in motion.
Any brand with a content hub or blog should now implement AMP to keep its head above water in mobile SEO. I also expect that before too long Google will try to extend AMP to other types of content such as product landing pages and possibly e-commerce pages could follow too.
But it is not just Google jumping on the improved mobile content bandwagon. In April Facebook launched Instant Articles (IA), which allows mobile users to read articles in the Facebook app rather than having to click out to the publisher’s website. Content that fails to implement IA will see their visibility hit hard.
Mobile SEO now also goes beyond regular mobile site content. Google’s test to stream in-app content has the potential to be another monumental step change. We are expecting Google to grow it from a small test to a beta programme available across a wide range of apps for Android users. The in-app content from these apps would then rank in mobile search results, whether the user has the app installed or not.
For those brands whose apps are central to their business, this offers huge opportunities to draw new customers into the closed eco system of their app. It is therefore vital that brands plough as much care and attention into effectively optimising their in-app content as they do to their on and off site content.
The fact that Google has also closed the loop with a development to index and deep link content from installed iOS apps just goes to show how much they believe in this area of development. No doubt that once app-streaming is out of beta, they will take it beyond Android apps as well.
If brands get their in-app content and optimisation right this development will open up vital new revenue streams for them in a way that we have not seen for many years in mobile.
The world of mobile technologies is becoming increasingly complex with new solutions launching all the time. But it is clear that Google will inherently favour solutions that are open, broadly accessible, fast and that offer improved user experiences as with the likes of AMP and app streaming. These fit perfectly with Google’s mission to organise information and monetise access to it via their core AdWords product.
With mobile searches recently surpassing desktop searches, Google has got its eyes well and truly locked on mobile search. So now is the time to invest in a comprehensive mobile SEO strategy that puts the consumer and user journeys at the centre. The plan must navigate the complexity of mobile websites (responsive, dynamic or separate), AMP, app indexation and deep-linking and of course must future-proof for app streaming. Any brand that fails to do so will quickly start to feel the heat.
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