Welcome to the latest issue of our monthly newsletter, featuring news, tips and advice on effective website marketing, with a particular focus on search marketing techniques and trends.
In our first article this month, we take a look at the core principles of mobile site design. This is becoming increasingly important for all businesses, as the rate at which the use of mobiles to access the Internet has risen rapidly over the past few years and, central to this growth, is the issue of usability and speed so that users expect to be able to complete a transaction smoothly.
Our second article examines how the on-going testing by Google of its Home Services procurement in California has resulted in that becoming more humanised, with the Google Concierge service. Our final article this month explains how the PageRank score will no longer be made publicly available by Google – something which should be of interest to all SEO practitioners, as it was an indicator that was erroneously relied upon by many in the industry.
You can read more below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter by month. You can also follow us on Twitter for the latest developments during the month, or follow our Facebook page or Google+ page for updates.
On to this month’s edition…
Principles of Mobile Site Design
In a quest to establish mobile site design best practices, Google recently partnered with AnswerLab in the U.S. to research how a range of users interacted with a diverse group of mobile sites. Consumers increasingly rely on the mobile web to research and make purchases, which makes it more important than ever for companies to have an effective mobile presence. So this article should be of interest to any business that realises the increasing importance of having a good ‘mobile-friendly’ website.
From this new research, Google has established 25 principles of mobile site design to help companies build mobile sites that meet customers’ requirements and drive conversions. For this article we’ve selected a few of the best practices, but we can also email the full list on request – please contact us for a PDF copy of the report.
For each site that was included in the research, AnswerLab asked the participants to complete a conversion-focused task, like making a purchase, booking a reservation or researching plans/prices. The participants then rated their experience with each site and also the researchers provided ratings based on site experience and task success and logged errors/site issues by severity.
The key findings were:
- Mobile users tend to be very goal-oriented – they expect to be able to get what they need from a mobile site easily, immediately, and on their own terms. So, to ensure success, design the site with their context and needs in mind, without sacrificing richness of content.
- Place prominent calls-to-action – it can be easy for mobile users to miss menu items, so always put your key calls-to-action where you know users will see them. Study participants had the easiest time completing tasks on sites that clearly displayed primary calls-to-action in the main body of the site.
- Keep menus short and sweet – mobile users don’t have the patience to scroll through a long list of options to try and find what they want. So create a shorter menu with distinct categories.
- Make navigation clear and simple – easier navigation encourages users to explore the site and ultimately convert. Also use the business logo as a navigation button to return to the homepage, as mobile users expect that.
- Include a site search box – being able to search a site is vital for helping mobile users find what they’re looking for, quickly. Place your site search near the top of your homepage via an open text field.
- Use click-to-call buttons – mobile users expect this nowadays. Offering a prominent click-to-call button can help to prevent them from leaving the site without purchasing if they feel the business isn’t easy to contact. It also provides the option to buy over the phone rather than online.
- Encourage conversions – allow users to navigate the site without first having to register and also, to purchase as a guest.
- Streamline form entry – most users, whether mobile or not don’t like filling in forms. So whether it’s for making a purchase, getting a quote or joining an email or newsletter list, the user’s conversion experience should be as seamless as possible. This can be achieved through design that produces efficient, clear and concise forms.
- Optimise the entire site for mobile – unsurprisingly, participants had a much easier time navigating mobile-optimised sites than trying to navigate desktop sites on mobile devices. Sites that included a mix of desktop and mobile-optimised pages were actually harder to use than all-desktop sites.
Of course, great design is only part of a mobile site’s success and it’s just as important to get the technical side right as well. Remember to test the site in multiple browsers and devices, to ensure maximum performance. Following these well researched guidelines can help to improve the mobile conversion rate for any business that realises how increasingly important it has become to have a user-friendly mobile site.
If you would like to receive the full PDF report on this research, or to discuss any of the above recommendations, please contact us now.
Google Concierge Humanises Home Services
In a recent development to its Home Services ads (introduced last July and only in California to provide searchers with details of local services), Google has been testing a more ‘human’ version of the service, that’s colloquially named ‘Google Concierge’. This may be a sign of things to come in the UK and should be of interest to the type of businesses – such as plumbers or electricians – that would use a third-party directory to offer their services.
The new ‘Concierge’ service appears to simply emulate the process followed in the Google Home Services ads, but now reduces the consumer steps to simply calling and having Google complete the process, rather than clicking on the few options to complete the process via Google themselves. Clearly Google is looking to enter the Home Services procurement space even if it means engaging a human to complete the query, as opposed to a search result. Even if it’s only an experiment, it’s quite a change for Google, which has always relied on programmatic rather than human solutions.
When you click on the ad, you are taken to this page that encourages a call, or text to directly discuss your project “with a home services expert from Google”. They will then have appropriate plumbers call you to quote and book an appointment.
With this new enhancement of their Home Service Ads product, which allows consumers to call Google directly when searching for a plumber, rather than searching for one and completing the transaction via the Home Services interface, it shows how hard Google is trying to make these sorts of efforts a success. It also implies that the current Home Services ad implementation that has been limited to California has not been that successful – or that refinements are needed before rolling it out to the rest of the country, or globally.
We’ll be keeping track of these developments and whether the service is expanded to more regions and countries. If you’d like more details about this, please get in touch.
Google’s PageRank Score is Discontinued
Google’s numeric rating of how important it considers pages to be will soon no longer be accessible to the public. Website marketers and SEO practitioners should be interested in this decision, as PageRank was an indicator that was erroneously heavily relied upon by most of the industry.
When Google first started, PageRank was something it talked about as part of its research papers, press releases and technology pages to promote itself as a smarter search engine than well-established and bigger rivals at the time, (such as AltaVista and Lycos). The PR score essentially represented a measure of how Google viewed the importance of a web page, based on inbound and outbound links. However, the function of PageRank was diverted in 2000 when Google released the first version of its Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer, which gave those who enabled the PageRank meter the ability to see the PageRank score out of 10 for any page that was viewed.
For most SEO practitioners, the toolbar was an amazing present, a numeric rating of how important Google considered any of their pages to be. It was also a terrible trap for them and a disaster for the web as a whole. PageRank always was and remains only one part of the Google search algorithm, the system that determines how to rank pages. There are many other ranking factors that are also considered and so a high PageRank score did NOT mean that a page would necessarily rank well for any topic. Pages with lower scores could beat pages with higher scores if they had other factors in their favour.
Those practitioners that fell into the trap and wanted a better PageRank then also wanted links back to the site being optimised. So the link-selling economy and ‘link-farms’ emerged. Google wasn’t happy with the Pandora’s Box it had opened and so it began to fight back and ended up in court to defend its actions against companies that provided such links. That didn’t stop link selling and the quest for boosting PageRank scores quickly, rather than earning them naturally, continued for many.
As link spam became prevalent, people were chasing higher PageRank scores by putting links wherever they could, including into blog posts and forums. Eventually, it became such an issue that demands were raised that Google itself should do something about it. It did, in 2005, by releasing the ‘nofollow’ tag, which was a way to prevent links from passing along PageRank credit, but that certainly didn’t end link spam. Google then took 10 months in 2013 to finally update the PageRank scores it was feeding into the toolbar for IE users. It’s likely that it never updated the scores after that and PageRank was finally removed from the Google Toolbar, officially. That made the quest to improve the score futile, as the public could no longer find ways to see those scores.
So Google eventually alleviated the pressure put on the importance of having numerous back-links, but gave the game away that they depend upon them to some extent in their complex ranking algorithm (although no-one but Google knows exactly how much). As such, PageRank – Google’s original ‘secret formula’ – has gone back to being secret. Only Google will know the scores, which it will continue to use, mixed in with the many other factors that make up its ranking algorithm.
If you would like to know more about how we can help your business website improve its rankings through Search Engine Optimisation, contact us now.
We hope you’ve found this month’s newsletter useful. As usual, if you have any questions or need help with any of these items, please contact us if you need any more information on the items covered, or our advice on any aspect of your website’s performance.