How to optimise mobile websites for speed and traffic

Everybody knows that it is getting more and more important to optimise mobile websites. The question for a lot of people is how to do it and why?

Why is it important to optimise mobile websites?

Way back in the early days of the web something happened to music. There was a niche music style called Indie. It had a raw honest feel to it and it steadily grew in popularity until in the end, it wasn’t a niche market, it was the market. Bands like Oasis and Blur became the top selling artists of their time, with singles hitting number 1 on the day of release and albums that scooped the top awards all over the world. You could go into a pub called The Mixer in Camden and enjoy a friendly pint with the bands who were about to play Top of the Pops later in the week.

A very similar thing has happened to the internet audience. Once it was a niche but now anyone walking around can access it anywhere from their smartphone. Mobile now is the internet, and websites have to adjust to this to optimise the mobile experience. There are really two sides to this. The first is technical optimisation so that the site loads quickly, and the other is about usability to ensure that mobile users have an optimal mobile user experience.

Optimising mobile websites for speed

This is about looking at the code to ensure that the load time of a page across mobile connections is fast. We recently sat down with Google to discuss this and also what the points are to look for. This came down to three main issues.

  • Optimising scripts
  • Optimising images
  • Implementing best practice techniques to speed up page delivery

There are some interesting statistics that Google had from researching actual mobile usage of the web.

  • 60% of mobile users expect mobile websites to load within 3 seconds.
  • 75% of people will abandon a mobile website if it takes any longer than 5 seconds to load.
  • Over 80% of all websites take longer than 5 seconds to load on a mobile browser.

The last point is a sobering thought. It means that with a small amount of optimisation, websites could triple the number of user sessions on their site. Potentially this is huge levels of revenue that is vanishing before it has begun a session or completed delivery of the landing page. It is all well and good to watch your web page load onto your smartphone across a Wifi connection, but most mobile users are not connected to Wifi when they are browsing the web. They use 4G connections and in many areas outside of cities that could be 3G connection. That is the level that a web page should still achieve the 3 second target.

The myth about mobile users

Many companies that we talk to explain their user journey to us. Typically this begins with a mobile user who researches things online and then switches to a desktop device to purchase. This is great for users who have desktop and mobile devices but there is a much higher percentage who only use a mobile device. The truth is sites that do not offer an optimal mobile experience are missing out on revenue. Therefore providing a great experience to both desktop and mobile users makes perfect business sense.

This long held view that mobile users do not buy online is a myth. The issue is that mobile users do not have the best experience. They are not comfortable enough to purchase. This is what we as an industry have to address.

How we optimise websites for mobile devices

As part of our Google Partners Qualification we have received accreditation to optimise mobile websites. We do it by analysing the site. We test at 3G speeds and by applying best practice for the code of the site. That doesn’t make us unique but we are one of the few who have achieved every accreditation possible by Google and through that we have access to resources that many other agencies do not. It is our guarantee to our clients that we will deliver on our promise.

Google Partners Optimise Mobile Websites

What does Google recommend?

Currently Google are promoting two advanced techniques to speed up delivery of web pages to mobile devices. They are not right in all situations and for some a responsive website design is the optimal choice. For others there are two additional options.
These are:

  • Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
  • Progressive Web Apps (PWA)

Both of these optimise mobile websites and deliver faster pages that increase traffic. PWAs are in their infancy and are not supported on all mobile devices. Therefore their usage is limited. We are keeping a very careful eye on this situation and how it develops. AMPs create a second version of the page that loads very quickly. They are only delivered to mobile devices and a line of code in the main page tells Google to list the AMP page whenever a mobile device searches on their site. The impact of this is a fast and efficient mobile experience for users.

We are happy to advise on which techniques businesses should use in order to optimise mobile websites, so please get in touch if this subject is of interest to you.

Read more about our website development services

Website redesign. Why organic traffic falls

New SEO clients often ask us the same question.  Why does organic traffic fall after a website redesign.  It doesn’t happen immediately, but after a few months traffic levels fall quickly.  This is often balanced by an increase in Pay per Click activity.  The idea is to make up the losses on one channel by increasing another.  You have to feel sorry for people that make a subjective choice about new design, only to see effectiveness and performance drop off a cliff.

Website redesign organic traffic falls

So why does it happen?

It is largely because web design and development is carried out in a way that is divorced from the content.  Many designers think in terms of images and layout rather than in the user experience.  A user is often purely focused on the consumption of content.

If there is new content to be added, the website redesign goes ahead before or at the same time that the content is created.  Therefore the two are divorced from each other.  They may have very little in common.

These designs are presented to developers.  They are often under pressure to produce the page structure.  If the actual content isn’t available, then there is no alternative but to use dummy Latin text.  Sometimes not even the quantity or the shape of the content is known.  It is inevitable that problems occur.

Recent Google updates have placed content and its structure at the centre of search engine algorithms.  If the web design process doesn’t include this factor then trouble is likely.  The worst case is that the web designer discounts these points completely.

Organic search traffic will simply fall off very sharply.

We offer both design & build services, and traffic building services.  That isn’t unique.  What is unusual is our services are completely joined up.  This is the reason why we are in a better position than most to spot these things. We are also ideally placed to fix them.

Website redesign content issues

At its simplest level you need to work with both the old and the new architecture.  Look at how content will be arranged and make sure that search engines are directed correctly.  Developers who understand these techniques are worth their weight in gold.  When costs are an issue or where a pitch is trying to find the lowest price possible then it is all too tempting to leave it out.  We have been involved in pitches where our costs have included these things but have lost out to cheaper pricing.  There is little gratification that the projects were a disaster and I would rather win the business than shake my head at someone else’s mess. Clients need to understand the issues.  They also need to value the solution.

The next thing to look at is the structure of the existing content, and try to duplicate that with your new design.  HTML is a very structured format and we see keywords downgraded when clients come to us to sort out why traffic is falling.  What you should really do is try to improve on the previous structure, but unless content is available at this stage then that becomes very difficult.

We have seen several occasions where existing content has been dropped in favour of a more consolidated structure, but if that means the new content is less optimised then it is inevitable that traffic will fall for these terms.

Another problem we have seen is when content is not taken across at all.  The search engines usually spot missing content quite quickly and so any traffic it used to send is going to dry up within a few days.

Neither clients nor many agencies understand these issues.  This is particularly true of agencies that only offer design and build services, but a traditional silo based agency is also unlikely to pick these things up.  That is why agencies like us who have a joined up strategy for online marketing are able to offer the right advice.

We’re often contacted after a website redesign has launched and where everyone loves the design but cannot fathom what has gone wrong.  In these situations it takes a steady hand and a diplomatic approach to explain the issues and get everyone working together to solve the problem.  All too often it is the designer that is blamed, but if the content wasn’t available or they were unaware of this danger then it is unfair to point the finger in this way.

At Be Different we have seen all the scenarios and know what to look for, so if you are wondering what has happened to your organic search traffic following a website redesign then please do get in touch as we can certainly help.

 

Search Industry changes mean you have to be different

The Search industry changes announced by Google over the last few days are quite big. They will affect just about everyone. This isn’t just a matter of a change to an algorithm or new ad format, this is a wholesale change of strategy that has been tested and rolled out across all languages and countries.

What you used to see when you made a Google search for a keyword was a list of optimised results on the left hand side and a series of ads on the right hand side. Ads that gained higher quality and performance scores were then promoted to the top of the left hand side as a reward for being good ads. If you look at search results now everything has changed.

Search industry changes

Search industry changes on your results page

What you see now for each set of search results is a single column on the left and only occasional listings showing ads on the right hand side. One exception is specifically for branded products that are sold by multiple retailers and are shown as a listing. Here is an example for one of Tascam’s many sound recorders (click the link through to a review if you are interested):

tascam-review-results

Another instance is the Knowledge Panel, although this is a hotly contested piece of information with claims and counter claims that ads do and don’t appear. The official word from Google is that Ads do appear on the right hand side for Knowledge Panel.

We tested this out for a series of searches and found no evidence of text ads appearing on the right hand side for Knowledge panel. What we did see was Rich snippet product ads from Google Shopping. We also saw a reduced number of ads on the left above natural search listings. Maybe this is intended as a new ad offer or just something that is still being refined.

Baobab search results

Our job isn’t really to guess what Google is going to announce. Our job is to write, present and optimise content in the best way possible for our clients. This means picking the right online marketing technique for individual circumstances. Based on that, we already have a strategy to deal with it.

What do the search industry changes mean for Mobile

We, and many others, have looked at these search industry changes, and it is clear that Google are reacting to mobile devices. Not all websites see the shift from desktop and laptop to tablet and mobile, but a majority does. The small screen is now the dominant platform to experience the web. It maybe unfair to lump in a full sized iPad with a smaller screen iPhone but that is what has happened and the balance has moved towards iOS and Android rather than Windows desktop and OSX.

This strategic move takes that factor into account but also looks at the way people are using different devices for the web.

Mobile users continue to see 3 ads at the top of the search results. That much hasn’t changed.

People use their phone’s browser to research and find out information, but it does look as if the actual purchase decision is made either from a desktop or from a specific retailer mobile app. This may be to do with time and place, where people are uncomfortable putting in credit card details when they are not sat at a desk. There is also the idea of storing payment details with a supplier through an app rather than through the website and this would appear to be the trusted method of payment by users. Certainly mobile browsers do not look to be the trusted method of payment yet. This accounts for the changes and exceptions.

It is something to keep in mind when planning SEO and PPC strategies for all devices. It is also something we take an in depth look at with our clients.

What do the search industry changes mean for PPC

For standard browsing, mobiles and tablets are used more and more, and so the right hand side ads were not going to be seen anyway.

Google are making a preemptive strike against PPC ads not being as effective as they once were because fewer people were seeing them. It does mean that fewer ads are going to show on each page. Google have announced that in hotly contested searches that they are going to ad a fourth ad above the natural search results. We tried this and found it hard to find an example that didn’t have the fourth ad. In fact the only searches we could find that didn’t were the ones that included rich snippet ads from Google Shopping that presented the user with 5 picture snippet ads. We therefore think that certainly for now, 4 ads at the top of the search listings is the new norm.

What hasn’t changed is the selection of those ads with high quality scores and click through effectiveness being more important than high bidding.

By reducing the number of ads, Google has made it more difficult to place your ad prominently in front of prospects. There are now 4 at the top and 4 at the bottom but we all know that the ads at the bottom are going to get little or no attention. It is therefore more important than ever for your Pay Per Click Advertising to be run by professionals who know what they are doing. Fewer companies will be able to place effective advertising through Google, but those that do will see higher volumes. Google is therefore looking to make more money from fewer advertisers but to concentrate on quality from them. It is a bold move but will hopefully remove a lot of the PPC charlatans that are out there.

At Be Different we achieve high quality scores and very effective click through rates on the campaigns that we run. This is because we make sure that we are on top of all the changes that Google make, just like this one.

What do the search engine changes mean for SEO

With the number of ads appearing above natural search listings it does mean that those 4 ads will get more attention. It also means that more companies will find that SEO becomes much more important to them.

How many industries can you think of where there are only 4 major players? People talk about the big 6 energy companies. Once the top 4 ad positions are taken up, what happens to the other 2 who want to advertise?

On Google now, SEO has just become a lifeline that cannot be ignored, not if you want traffic to your site.

There are many organisations out there offering incomplete SEO services that promise much and deliver little. This is because they do not appreciate all the different facets that affect SEO. Our strategy has always been to start with the question of what is going to create the right traffic, and then to use our in depth research platform to create a plan that we can execute and achieve high rankings so that the right person sees the right result at the right time. When that happens click through goes through the roof.

We are very proud of our SEO performance and so are our clients. These changes make that success even more important.

If you would like to discuss this article or ask us about how the search industry changes affect you then please get in touch.

New Website coming soon

There is an old saying…

“It’s the cobbler’s children who go unshod.”

For those who aren’t familiar with the saying it means that the cobbler spends so much time making shoes for others that he has no time to make shoes for his own family! 

We’ve become a classic case of ‘cobblers children’ – we’ve had some fantastic busy years working with great clients and the business has grown beyond all imagining in a few short years. So much so that we have neglected our own website!

We’re very pleased to say that this is now being rectified.  Deborah joined us recently as part of the Account and New Business team and is full of ideas.  She has taken to the helm to bring our own web presence up to the same standard as our clients, and we are finally pushing our own project to the top of the pile.

As always, there is no shortage of new talent to be found in our studios.  With award winning designers and cutting edge technical programmers, you only have to look at our client work see how this translates.  

Fresh perspectives and new ideas can bring about some amazing things.  For a creative agency like ours we always benefit exponentially with every new hire we make, and for a prospective client, letting us loose on a creative brief could produce something really special. 

We are on our countdown and our new site is being readied for launch.  So don’t let our website fool you, we’ll be our shiny new selves before you know it!

Feel free to check back and see what we’ve come up with, or get in touch to chat to us about any project requirements you have.  We’re always happy to talk!

Marketing that delivers results

Get in touch with us!