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Google’s New Mobile Device Oriented SEO Element

Google has hardcoded new elements that are directly tied to mobile search into its most current search equation that could impact your SEO efforts.  Interestingly, these critical factors have less to do with content and code and more to do with user experience and increasing your chances of connecting with potential customers.  Both Google and your website visitors could make overlooking this key component a costly mistake, so consider this insight before continuing with your SEO efforts.

When Google overhauled their new search algorithm on September 27th with the release of “Hummingbird”, they not only transformed the way your website is ranked but how SEO is thought of along two dimensions.

Update Your SEO Mindset

Before “Hummingbird,” your website’s pages were search engine optimized on the micro-level based on separate keywords and specific page treatments made on and below the surface.  Prior to September 27th, Google’s algorithm wasn’t as sophisticated as it is today, so words were seen individually and not as well understood within a larger context.  But with the explosive growth and accelerated adoption of mobile search, all that changed. Google found that most people who search from their mobile devices use strings of words and short questions. 

When it comes to mobile search, people treat their phones like people, using concise questions or extended phrases to find what they’re looking for.  To keep pace with the way people search on all devices, Google’s search equations had to better understand the context and relationships between a string of words and phrases to deliver accurate results to verbal search requests. In other words, the search equation needs to be able to “understand”, not just “read” the goal expected by the mobile user. We refer to this as mobile optimization.

Click Satisfaction

Google is equally interested in satisfying people who click on your site from their search results page.  Why? If users on a mobile device continually land on websites that frustrate them, they won’t want to search while on their mobile device – and Google can’t grow their mobile pay-per-click business if users react negatively to their mobile experience.  This is why Google rewards companies that have mobile-friendly websites – so users continue to search on their mobile devices because they encounter positive experiences.  While many other factors are considered, mobile optimization does help increase a company’s online visibility.  

How does Google know when a website isn’t mobile-friendly?  If visitors leave the first page they land on, (not counting your contact page), it is assumed that they landed on it unintentionally, they expected something different, or they were dissatisfied with the result – all outcomes signaling a mismatch between expectations and result.

Why is Google so vested in promoting a positive mobile-friendly experience?  Well, Google’s actions are partially incentivized by their revenue growth expectations from the additional pay-per-click revenues they anticipate from mobile platforms.  

That said, the mobile market is growing and future revenues are hinged on it.  Cell phones are now being used by 91% of adults (1) and are the most quickly adopted consumer technology in the history of the world.  As of June 2012, 35.8% of American homes become cell only (2) – no landline phone – and this figure continues to increase. Based on these past trends and current trajectories, any company with a website should be motivated to make it as easy for all potential customers as possible to learn, connect, and do business with them.  At the very least, don’t make it difficult for this growing surge of mobile internet users to visit your website with their handheld device.

Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project 2013


Wireless Substitution: Early Release of Estimates From the National Health Interview Survey, January–June 2012 http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhis/earlyrelease/wireless201212.PDF