Google announced that mobile friendliness will be a ranking factor in Google SERPS starting on April 21st. On today’s episode, we discuss Google’s Mobile Friendly and Slow Load labeling, and how that will affect SEO.
Today I invited Jon Henshaw on Search & Deploy as my very first guest, and it’s great timing. Google is making some drastic changes to incorporate mobile UX, mobile speed, app content and load time into a mobile only form of Google.
With mobile site usage skyrocketing to 60% in some industries, Google is trying to keep up with the changes, and what the pages they serve mean to the smartphone user.
In this 46-minute episode, Jon Henshaw of Raven Tools and I discuss:
- Google’s Labeling of SERPS
- Slow Load Time
- Taking a Mobile First approach to design
- Mobile User Experience
- Google’s Mobile SERPS
- Responsive Design
- Google Conspiracy Theories
- Google Play and App Store ASO (App Store Optimization)
- How to Deploy Actionable Mobile & UX Tactics into your SEO Strategy
Listen to Search and Social below ...
Google Is Going Mobile First with Mobile Results & Load Speed
Loren Baker: Hi, this is Loren Baker, and welcome to the inaugural episode of my first podcast ever, Search & Deploy.
Basically the format is that there’s a lot of search news going on in the world and there’s a lot of blogs writing about Search, but I want to talk about how to actually utilize what’s being written and what’s being set out there in the market and deploy it into your marketing strategies.
So with each episode, we’re going to start off with the monologue done by yours truly, and then I’m going to bring in a special guest. So that’s it for the monologue today, and my first guest ever to Search & Deploy is none other than , the founder of Raven Tools. So, Jon, welcome to Search & Deploy.
Jon Henshaw: Thank you. Just because I’m from Nashville doesn’t mean you have to say it so slowly.
Loren Baker: Well, it’s supposed to be a radio show, right?
Jon Henshaw: I feel like in your monologue that you should’ve then said Loren Baker.
Loren Baker: Oh, being that you’re from Kentucky. I was trying to do my Johnny Cash thing there.
Jon Henshaw: No, not Tennessee. It’s all the same to you.
Loren Baker: So welcome to the show, Jon. It’s great to have you.
Jon Henshaw: Yeah, thanks for having me.
Loren Baker: When I’ve been getting ready for the show, I was going to listen to a bunch of other business podcasts, but I thought to myself, “Hey, when I started Search Engine Journal back in the day, I didn’t go look at a bunch of other search blogs because they just didn’t exist.” And it worked, right? So I didn’t listen to any business podcasts getting ready for this. What I did was watch a bunch of old episodes of Letterman and Carson and stuff like that because I think that format is just what people use anyway. And if it worked for them, it should work for us, right?
Jon Henshaw: Yeah, I think you have the exact same approach I have towards everything. The same way I approached Raven and everything else. I’m the type of person where somebody comes up and goes, “Have you read this book and that book and that book on how to do such as such”? And I’m like, “No,” and they say, “Man, really, it’s helped me with my business.” And then they’re like, “What do you do?” And I say, “I just make a lot of mistakes”
Loren Baker: Exactly, right? And then one day write a book about that, or maybe we can together.
Jon Henshaw: Fail quickly. And then eventually, you’re going to get something right I swear.
Loren Baker: When I was done with college, I swore that I was never going to read a non-fiction book again just because I’d loaded up on them. And what I typically find is that most of the good stuff from the business books is published on Inc. and Forbes and stuff like that anyway as an attempt to market the books. I just digest things. My attention span is so short, mostly because of watching funny clips on YouTube all day.
Jon Henshaw: Of course, well it’s funny, too, because I would say that the two of us probably read the equivalent of many, many books a year, simply from all things that we read online because really where I’m getting the most inspiration, where I’m learning things that are really fairly new and things that people want to talk about, come from people I know and people I follow. So the amount of things I read every day on blogs and in different places, the people I really respect — like AJ Kohn, those type of people.
Loren Baker:. Yep.
Jon Henshaw: Those kind of replace the need for what people are doing that’s working.
Loren Baker: Yep. Also, by the time a book is published, usually a lot of that information isn’t as relevant as it could be. And a lot of the folks that I do read online that have published very good books in their own right, typically utilize their blog and social media to kind of test that content before publishing it anyway, so I already feel like I’ve read it. Let’s get right into it.
Jon Henshaw: I was going to say one other thing which is, neither of us can read. We’re talking about blogs that mostly are made of pictures. So Tumblr basically makes up my entire daily reading.
Loren Baker: That’s why we’re doing a podcast.
Jon Henshaw: Exactly. Because we can’t read.
Loren Baker: I can’t write either. I’ve gotten to the point where I just don’t want to write anymore, like two emails a day is my limit.
Jon Henshaw: It hurts my hand.
Loren Baker: God bless Siri.
Jon Henshaw: You were saying about starting the podcast, what was that?
Loren Baker: I’m off track now.
Jon Henshaw: I’ve done my job.
Who is Jon Henshaw?
Loren Baker: I’ll let you introduce yourself.
Jon Henshaw: Okay.
Loren Baker: Tell the audience of Search & Deploy — which is a Rainmaker.FM production – a little bit more about yourself.
Jon Henshaw: Okay. Well like you said, my name is Jon Henshaw.
Loren Baker: I just speak slow, Jon. Forgive me.
Jon Henshaw: I know. It’s okay. I have been doing web design, Internet marketing stuff for many, many years. I guess I got started around ’96 or something like that. I am most well-known, if anybody does know me, from being one of the co-founders of Raven, which is an Internet marketing platform that’s mainly used by agencies and in-house marketing departments for their reporting.
So we have a really great reporting engine. That’s the main thrust, and the second biggest reason people use us is because of our automated site auditor, which we made a couple of years ago — we’re actually doing a whole lot of work right now and improving that. And then we have a bunch of other tools. We originally got started as just an SEO tool set, which was basically just an app for link builders, and we had one of the first automated web-based rank trackers, a whole link management system. But we pretty much have kind of diversified over several years, and now we’re really just focused on being and continuing to become the best reporting platform.
Loren Baker: Yeah. One thing I do like about your reporting set is that it’s browser based and mobile friendly, which I liked a lot when you rolled that out, which kind of bring us into a lot of what we’re going to talk about later. It seems that you guys have really been focusing not only on your feature set, but also on the user experience at the end of the day.
Jon Henshaw: Yeah. Actually this is probably the first time I’ve said this publicly anywhere. Starting in this past January, we made a dramatic shift in how we were going to approach the product, develop the product, and interact with our customers. We have shifted over to something called The Lean Startup.
Lean Startup is a pretty amazing approach to how you do product development, and there’s basically two direct phases that a company can be in. They can be a company that truly is just starting up and then the phase that we’re in, where we actually have our product with a lot of real customers and paying customers with a proven product. So there’s a methodology to how you improve upon that. And a lot of that has to do with UX. In fact, I would say that the core part of that and the part that we’re growing internally is our UX department and being in contact with our customers — and even non-customers — and finding out what works best for them, what they use, and what they don’t use.
And what that means is that, over time, you end up trimming out the things that people really don’t need and don’t use and enhancing the things that they really do like and use so that it becomes the best product, and it’s not as overwhelming. One of the things that a lot of new users who come to the Raven today experience things like, “Wow there’s so many things to do, I feel little overwhelmed.”
The idea of what the product should become with this approach is that a year from now or maybe a little longer, Raven’s going to look a lot different. It’s going to be more refined. It’s going to be a lot simpler to use. It’s actually going to help people do the things they need to do. And it will most likely have less choices. It will have less things that people don’t need, and the things they do need will just be better. So that’s kind of where we’re taking it right now.
Loren Baker: Very cool. That’s fairly relevant to well, first of all, a couple of things … I’m not a very productive or organized person by any means.
Jon Henshaw: We’re like brothers, man. Brothers from another mother.
Loren Baker: Yeah. But I have been totally checking out stuff like productivity hacking and growth hacking recently. And the one common denominator — whatever you want to call it – is that it’s very easy to take a project that you’re passionate about and try to be everything for everyone, when at the end of the day, you’re really doing too much for a small component of your market base and not really addressing the need on a grand scale.
Jon Henshaw: We’ve been here for eight years plus, and when we started, our main customers were advanced SEO agency types. That’s who they were, and over the years, we’ve done a huge shift too — so has the industry itself.
There’s been a huge shift towards marketing agencies in general now doing the things that they never did as far as SEO and social and so on. You have less experts who are in need of these particular resources. And so we’ve had to make, and we’re still in the process of making, a big shift toward providing more help and making things easier to do because the majority of our customers and potential customers are non-experts.
Loren Baker: Yeah.
Jon Henshaw: They have been given this task — and they’re intelligent people — and they’re learning from reading books and going to conferences and through practice. Today the big shift has been that they need tools that are going to give them insights. They need tools that are going to hold their hands just a little bit and do things that are inefficient for them.
Loren Baker: Right.
Jon Henshaw: And basically help them do their job, help them do the job better, and that’s the big shift that I’ve seen. And then you had mentioned that you try to do all these things — that’s the other part where we’re counting on the Lean Startup approach to get us out of that hole we put ourselves into where we’re trying to be all things.
Loren Baker: Yeah.
John Henshaw We’re kind of pulling back from that and not being all things to everybody and instead approaching the things that people use the most, the real reasons why most of our customers pay us money, and making those things better and work better.
Loren Baker: And an analogy I used, well not really an analogy, but a comparison that I use a lot of the times, too. It used to be the SEO person who was sitting in the cubicle at the end of the office in the dark, doing their own magic stuff and running affiliate programs on the side or whatever– the person no one in marketing really talked to and no one in IT really had much respect for. But now that hidden cubicle person is becoming more of a center in the overall digital marketing fold.
Jon Henshaw: That person’s becoming a director.
Loren Baker: Yeah, exactly.
Jon Henshaw: If you have somebody who, like what you were saying, is a growth hacker type of person and actually has done all the things, they may not be the best in all the things, but they know how to do all the things. They know what works.
Loren Baker: Yep.
Jon Henshaw: They’re on top of it. That ends up being somebody who ends up directing a team today.
Loren Baker: Exactly.
Jon Henshaw: As opposed to sitting in the dark running their affiliate sites.
Loren Baker: Yeah, exactly. The way a lot of things have worked too over the past couple of years, especially with the opportunities that social and everything else brings, is that’s important to SEO, and SEO’s important to social, and content supports everything. So it kind of brings it all together. Kudos for putting together a suite to be able to not only monitor all that but report efficiently on it.
Jon Henshaw Thanks.
Google’s Labeling of SERPS
Loren Baker: So let’s get into the news. One of the biggest trends, or some of the biggest signals that we’ve been seeing coming from camp Google really over the past couple of years is that mobile and things like mobile friendliness, site speed, and other obvious components of the user experience are really becoming more important in Search.
Jon Henshaw: SSL.
Loren Baker: Yeah. And then today, the Google Webmaster Tools team announced that the mobile friendliness will officially become a ranking factor on April 21st, which I’m going to coin Doomsday right now. Luckily this podcast will be published before then — but I work on some accounts right now where mobile traffic, it’s not only the majority of the traffic on some sites, but it’s an overwhelming majority. Like especially in the EDU space.
We’re working on an EDU site right now. We’re talking about 65-67% of all traffic to the property is mobile, and we’re seeing that same number with search referrals. You know Google has finally come out and said, “Hey, this is going to be a component.” It’s not just forecasting. It’s not just us doing SEO soothsaying, that they are going to adjust the algorithm to address mobile friendliness.
And then yesterday in the same fashion that Google introduced mobile-friendly labeling in the SERPS, they started testing the labeling of slow serving sites or sites with different page speed issues, which we’ve all known has been a component of rankings. But my theory there is that it’s just going to become a bigger component, and it’s such an underlying component to overall mobile friendliness in the long run. So what are your thoughts on that? Have you really noticed anything previously before this announcement?
Jon Henshaw: You know what’s fascinating is that certainly there is the obvious trend of traffic going to mobile. It just is. It’s a thing unrelated to anything else. More people are using mobile devices to access their data.
Loren Baker: Right.
Jon Henshaw: The thing that interests me the most is the influence that Google has on webmasters, and that’s why I threw in SSL when you were rattling off that list because basically Google has this sword or wand, or whatever you want to call it, that they can wave around at any moment and basically everybody has to jump to some extent.
So it’s one of the things where even though you knew it was coming, and if you were smart about it, you would already be doing a responsive design with your site and that type of thing. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true, that when they actually say it has to be this thing, they move an entire industry.
Loren Baker: Ah, that’s amazing.
Slow Load Time
Jon Henshaw: If they’re going to start doing the mobile label and they’re going to start the slow label, the amount of power they wield, for good or bad, is incredible. So it’s kind of weird for us because we play two roles in regards to how we use the Internet. We are both developers and marketers, but also users. Typically, if we were to take off our career hat and we were just a user, we’d be like, “Man, this is good.”
Loren Baker: Right.
Jon Henshaw: This is a great thing for users because they’re trying to improve the user experience, but then there’s, of course, an immense amount of grumbling when it comes to looking at it from the marketer or webmaster side.
Loren Baker: Yeah. Well, also like a Chicken Little type scenario too because you have a couple of things going on. Like one, when they announced that https was a ranking signal, they didn’t really say how much of a ranking signal, and it seems like it’s only really a ranking signal a,
“Hey, does your site really need to be secure?” type scenario. If you have forms all over your site, if you have places to put an email to sign up for a list, things like that, it naturally should be secure anyway, and the last thing from the front-facing Google scenario is that they should not be serving sites where the user can be giving their secure information and publishing their secure information out there where people can grab ahold of it because it would just be irresponsible on Google’s side.
What happened was that same day, not only did you see Twitter and forums and blogs just lighting up with the announcement and how everyone has to secure their site, but you had people prematurely doing it without thinking it through. And you have companies that are utilizing that as a sales tool to get new business as soon as that goes out. It kind of leads to a scrambling effect, especially like right now where there’s not necessarily one centralized Google spokesman to settle down that panic.
Jon Henshaw: Right. I talked about how for the typical user, this all seems great, but then the webmaster and the marketer are sitting there going, “Okay, so I have to jump. I have to do this particular thing,” but to muddy the waters even more, we have to consider what Google’s up to in general. You know right now we’re talking about this idea, it looks very benign, where they want to focus on mobile, that’s an opportunity for us. I can make my site faster. I can make it mobile, and I’ll do better in the SERPS.
Mobile User Experience
Jon Henshaw: But at the exact same time, this dichotomy exists with what Google’s also up to, which is Google trying to keep you on Google. And Google is now becoming the ultimate scraper, and if I do pull up a search for something on my phone, I’m not even going to see any organic results. I’m going to see some sort of knowledge, a little snippet article. I’m going to see some ads, and is it for naught?
In other words, how much do we need to optimize and add schema or RDFa and make our sites super-fast so that they can actually scrape it faster, so they can then take that content. I think it was something on one of your sites or some other site that had reported about 25% now of searches have some sort of knowledge graph that shows up on top.
Loren Baker: Yes, some kind of component, and when I really first started noticing this the most was in terms of bypassing the site, but the end users are still getting what they’re looking for. Whether it’s scraped content or whether it’s on the mobile, the call to actions are right there. You can call the site. You can make a reservation by clicking over the open table. You can get directions, and a lot of times the sites kind of suck from mobile anyway. Even if they are responsive, it’s a ‘set it and forget it’ type of scenario for responsive. It’s like, “Oh our template, our WordPress theme is responsive. Therefore, it’s going to work.” Well the fact is that if your homepage has loads of content — by the way we’re not allowed to cuss on this podcast just to let you know. I don’t think you know that.
But if your homepage and your internal pages are full of a lot of content where the user is not really finding anything in mobile, then that’s a very poor responsive design strategy. And with responsive, you have the ability to pick and choose what’s being shown on the mobile device and what’s most important.
So when I first notice the whole bypassing thing really becoming more and more of a problem is when I had a client where their rankings were improving across the board, but they weren’t seeing that traffic-wise. And what happened was when you typed in their brand name in Google, you see that little local knowledge graph box that comes up on the iPhone where that tells you the information about the company and then gives you the ability to call directly to go there. And then the last, the very final CTA is to visit the website for more information. If it’s 25% that’s only growing, then we’ll see what happens now.
Google’s Mobile SERPS
Jon Henshaw: It seems that more and more opportunities are being lost if you are remotely close to a competitive field, and they’re starting to do stuff with health-related things where again, they take up the top part of that page to send you some sort of aggregated and approved health information on some disease as opposed to promoting the site. Google is trying to answer that for you. And so far the changing landscape I’ve seen has been, if I’m going to try to optimize for Google, there are 2 different approaches.
One is I’m either going to do less competitive more long tailish type of sites and content because those are still working for me on my own personal sites. Or for the ones that are more competitive or might be local, like you said, there are calls to action right there. I have to play within their ecosystem. So I’m either optimizing, which is more old school, or have to play within their ecosystem and know that my site may not even get any traffic. But at least I’ve put the right components out there, so they can know my store hours, my menu, how to contact me, that type of thing.
Loren Baker: And that’s still good search engine marketing at the end of the day. That’s what you want the user to find, and honestly a lot of that information is pretty difficult to find in sites that haven’t really addressed that, where a lot of that information is either hidden in an image, or it’s in a PDF file or you have to click and click and click to find it. From a business perspective in terms of driving users to a restaurant or driving someone to your store front, they are kind of addressing that opportunity to help the business.
Jon Henshaw: They are. Particularly on local, I think it’s extremely helpful. The thing it brings to mind to me is that, again, if you haven’t already made the shift or aren’t making the shift towards expanding beyond Google, then you’re probably in trouble. And I guess what I’m thinking of is, you know Aaron Wall called the alarm years and years ago, and everybody thought he was just kind of crazy because I just wanted to live on Google, and I should be able to get my traffic. And he was like, “Do not have a majority of everything invested into Google.”
Jon Henshaw: So the example that I’d give of that would be, I have a blog that I’m doing that’s health related, and I’ve had incredible success just going the Facebook route and using the advertising and learning from the response of different types of content and making the call to action be the email. Because still today, as you know, email is one of the number one things that you should be doing in regards to just marketing, repeat traffic, and selling them other things. So it’s one of those things where I feel like there’s only so much you can do on the SEO end that should definitely be a continuous thing, as in get your site set up correctly.
Obviously, be doing the content marketing well if you are more on the local side or the competitive side where you can you have the calls to action in their ecosystem do that. But then the rest of your time should be spent focused where people actually are and where they’re having conversations, and yes it’s going to cost you money. As much as it hurts me as a pure SEO who likes SEO because he hates spending money on ads, that’s kind of the whole point — to get the free traffic.
If you are savvy about how you do your advertising, particularly on Facebook, you can get a crap-ton of qualified targeted emails. I know it’s a bit of a tangent from the mobile discussion, but I guess what I’m trying to express is that it really has become something where you can’t just be doing this one thing and that’s your only thing. And as you already know, Google changes, it seems like every week.
Loren Baker: Well you can’t be doing the one thing anywhere because even audience building, there’s so many different ways to pick up an audience. And whether your goal is to bring that audience into your newsletter or build up your social followings or whatever it may be, you have to try different things. And then like you were saying earlier with the whole Lean Startup scenario, it’s really about optimizing and focusing on what works.
Jon Henshaw: What works and what doesn’t, right.
Loren Baker: Yeah. And you know, hopefully it never happens, but Google is never going to go away as a company, but your site may drop in their results — then having a plan B that’s associated somehow with, if you’re in-house, you roll with the company, and if you’re in an agency, what you’re being contracted to do. First of all, you’re not going to get dropped along with the site, and secondly, you do have hopefully not as much of an issue with drop off of traffic/revenue. That’s based upon what your teams’ goals are.
Jon Henshaw: So let’s go back to speculating about the new mobile and slow labels. You’re original question.
Loren Baker: No, no, I love this.
Jon Henshaw: What do you think they’re up to? What do these labels mean? Where is it coming from? What a weird thing to put “slow” on the result and it be a top result.
Loren Baker: Android’s sales are not up there with iPhone, but they’re still pretty strong. And Google has made a pretty large effort to get Google Now out there amongst iPhone users and Chrome amongst iPhone users. So at the end of the day, this is really a data processing thing on their side. It’s Panda to the Nth degree. Like with Panda, it’s a question of them having to index the web and then serve it, but now you’re talking about trying to do that on multiple devices and also devices where the application that’s serving is also owned by the same company that’s indexing and serving the results. And in some cases, almost half of the cases, the device that the person is using is owned by that company as well.
If Panda was a question of addressing efficiency from an indexing and serving in the SERPS perspective, we’re really talking about a scenario where this is Panda in terms of the Internet of things where Google is in a device market. Android-powered phones and phones made by Google and soon-to-be possibly cars made by Google and other Chromebooks and everything else made by Google, do have to run efficiently for them to be able to make money and generate income. And now they’re also getting more into the utility space because they’ve been in the utility space for a long time with solar power and things like that.
Google Conspiracy Theories
Loren Baker: But with Google actually talking about launching a mobile data provider to go up against Verizon and AT&T, especially with today’s news of net neutrality passing through the FCC, that really opens up the door for Google to expand their data serving and make sure that they’re not wasting money serving things that they don’t need to, because also with the net neutrality thing, Google’s probably the only company that would be in that provider market that does have a say of what kind of data gets served and what the size of that data is.
Jon Henshaw: So you’ve brought up efficiency several times and Google Now. And efficiency is really about one answer. Efficiency is about it telling you or you asking and having “the” answer. Again, what does that mean to the existing search? So what does that mean about having multiple results and labeling things as slow? What does that mean?
I mean it’s funny because it’s sort of like, if I am on my phone and I do a search and I still get the more inefficient results, which is multiple results, and I see a label that says slow, they’re setting up that result to fail. I don’t even understand the experiment. I mean it’s basically, “We’re ranking you really high because of all the other factors.”
Loren Baker: Well, they’re setting that up with mobile friendly as well. If you’re on your phone and you’re searching, and you see that, say for example, I’m searching in the EDU space or for car insurance, or I’m searching for payday loans or something that’s very mobile oriented. And they’re labeling what is mobile friendly. They’re basically telling me what I’m going to enjoy looking at, what I should be looking at and what I should not be.
Jon Henshaw: They’re adding bias to it. They’re influencing what you’re going to click, on that click. So why would you show it? So why would you not show all mobile, and why would you ever show a slow site?
Loren Baker: But at least there is a warning, though, right? At least they’re putting out the information beforehand with the labeling.
Jon Henshaw: Who wants to visit a slow site?
Loren Baker: I do. I do it all the time.
Jon Henshaw: You’re like, “I got time.”
Loren Baker: I got time. I used to do that all the time.
Jon Henshaw: I love it. It lets me talk to other human beings during that minute.
Loren Baker: Right. You know, every time I’m on a flight that’s supposed to have Wi-Fi, that’s my experience right there. Trying to load something, and it’s extremely slow. But yeah, I hear you. So it’s more clicks. It’s influencing click-through, and then it’s going to be, “Hey click-through is a ranking factor,” because more people are clicking on sites that are labeled fast or mobile friendly than slow and not mobile friendly.
Jon Henshaw: The only thing that I can think of is that they would consider that if people continued to or clicked on even more so than the other links, that’s when they click on something that says slow, and they’re like, “Well even though it’s slow, this is the right answer.”
Loren Baker: What if it’s slower and it’s a huge brand? What if it’s Hilton Hotels? Hilton Hotels for the mobile – their experiences is not great. But Trip Advisor has a great experience for the mobile. I’m looking for a hotel in Nashville, come see you, stop by Jack White Studio.
Jon Henshaw: Is this happening? Is this happening right now?
Loren Baker: I’d love to. So I’m looking for hotels, and I see that Trip Advisor’s fast and Hilton’ slow, but I also know that with Hilton, I can just put in my information right there and just book it. So that would be one scenario where there is consumer loyalty being part of it. It’s slow, but I’ll put up with it.
Jon Henshaw: And my guess, though, with that is then that would tell Google to keep that highly ranked. Even though it’s slow, in this particular case, it’s still the best results and so relevant to that user. But I would imagine then that assuming there are better alternatives, like maybe Trip Advisor or Expedia or something. It’s a better alternative that’s faster and it lets you book the same way. Then if that were the case, then they’re absolutely going to fall off.
Loren Baker: Read this. “Starting today, we will begin to use information from index apps as a factor in ranking for signed-in users who have the app installed.”
Jon Henshaw: So more personalization?
Loren Baker: Yeah, so if I have Bleacher Report Team Stream installed on my phone, will Bleacher Report rank higher in the results for me from a personalization standpoint on my phone? And there’s also the big trend in Apple. I’m not an Android user by any means, but I’m sure across people’s devices you do have apps that are multi-device that you can access all over the board. It probably means that I’m going to start to see more Candy Crush type things in the SERPS.
Jon Henshaw: I always read the Candy Crush blog.
Loren Baker: Yeah. candycrush.com/carinsurance leads to candycrush.com/whatever. But that’s kind of interesting.
Google Play and App Store ASO (App Store Optimization)
Jon Henshaw: That’s very interesting because I’ve always poo-pooed on the idea that mobile apps would ever take over anything in regards to nobody’s using the web anymore, at least the web the way we know it. I talked about earlier that you really have to diversify, which you already know about, into Facebook and everything else. What that basically says is, I need to make — as part of my strategy for my site and my content, my brand — I need to start pushing an app on them that provides some value-add.
Loren Baker: To Google Play. That costs money.
Jon Henshaw: And iOS.
Loren Baker: Or it could be monetized.
Jon Henshaw: I’d would want to make an Android app and an iOS app. I’m not even sure I would even need to monetize it. I just need to give them a good reason to install it.
Loren Baker: It is monetization at the end of the day, right? If more people are coming to the site based on the content from the app.
Jon Henshaw: Get their email, yeah. But I’m saying that you’re going to get the most people installing that app if there is some sort of value that they don’t get from the website itself and if it’s free, at least upfront. That’s how you’re going to get it. Because you want to get it on as many devices as possible. And then only after that, then you would try to monetize from that, whether it be in app ads and/or some sort of conversion.
Loren Baker: Well, I’d probably say about 20-30% of the transactional websites that I go to right now on my phone, the first call to action before even seeing what I’m looking for from a story perspective is the call to action to download the app and that interstitial.
Jon Henshaw: Yeah. Because that’s consistent with what they’re saying right there, of what you need to be doing. We just now in this podcast added one more thing we have to do.
Loren Baker: Oh my God, we have to play everything. Another thing too, I’m currently working on a redesign for a client. And this is a client in the EDU space, and they do get the bulk of their traffic from mobile. So what we’ve done with the redesign is taken a mobile-first direction because if only 30-35% of the people that are searching for them are finding their site are doing it via the desktop, then why even build a site for the desktop?
Let’s build it for mobile first, and then let’s expand it to the desktop. And the responsive experience when you’re on the mobile is kind of similar, but it’s not 100% similar. So there’s little things you can do when designing — like the call to action to actually call the tracking number is at the very top. Forms at the very top. Because you want to get leads at the end of the day.
Now, I’m thinking from a sales perspective or even from a client management perspective, if having an app for their lead base, if they’re putting out content, they’re putting out things for their students or whatever is going to help them from an SEO perspective, then that’s the next thing I want to look at. And I also want to make sure that they’re not pulling any boneheaded decisions and putting out apps that just don’t make sense.
Jon Henshaw: You know, here’s is one of the greatest things to come from a mobile-first approach, and that is a good user experience. Because you are limited in space, and at the end of the day, it’s generally content or product you’re trying to show and sell or get somebody to read — meaning to pull them in. It has ushered in a much better experience for that person to even consume that content, and what I mean by that is — I can’t say what the site is. It’s a very big site, but it’s somebody I know personally. And she was in charge of a major overhaul of this very large site. She did a ton of architectural things, layout, backend, that type of thing. One of the things that she did, though, was made it a mobile-first approach to the overall design.
And part of that was that one call experience. That top down, how you consume data instead of just being distracted all over the place, and people bouncing out and that type of thing. When that change went live, within the first two weeks, the traffic actually just skyrocketed. It’s actually only been two weeks since they launched it, and it skyrocketed. But their rankings also jumped — from terms that were like seven and now two — across the board. It’s insane, but all of those things are directly related to what we even started this conversation off about, which was secure, mobile, and fast. And then because of the mobile, it is an unavoidable user experience improvement.
Loren Baker: Adapt or die. It really is. Even if people are finding your site and if it’s marked fast and mobile friendly or if Google didn’t have that and they’re finding it, they’re going to drop off anyway. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in at least one or two scrolls with a thumb, then it’s back button immediately. You know Google rolled out the more carousel experiments in the mobile last week as well, which is kind of interesting because they’re getting the user to not just swipe up and down anymore, but to get used to swiping left and right. Unless you’re an avid Tinder user, you’re not necessarily used to swiping left and right as much.
Jon Henshaw: My joke about that is that I used Tinder once until I found my wife. I said, “Oh God, at least we like each other.” I’m just kidding. I’ve never actually used it.
Loren Baker: There’s a an app called Get Lettuce where it’s Tinder for meals and restaurants, so you just swipe left if you don’t like it, right if you do. They are kind of addressing that in a mobile experience as well. I’m wondering if that’s something that sites will have to look into when they’re building out, to not only optimize your user experience for the folks that are used to making those quick decisions from maybe even a navigational perspective. I’m totally off on a tangent here, but that’s the whole monetization model of Answers.com now, which has turned into a total trash site. It’s all listicles of stuff like the worst celebrity beach bodies ever. But after each of those little images that you see of Jack Nicholson on the beach and his mankini, where they’re supposed to be an arrow to swipe to look at the next part of the gallery, there’s typically an AdWords ad with the big arrow.
Jon Henshaw: Let’s go on that tangent because that does immediately piss me off.
Loren Baker: So misleading.
Jon Henshaw: I know exactly what you’re talking about, and it looks like the arrow you’re supposed to push. And what I don’t understand is, that’s completely against AdSense policies.
Loren Baker: Against everything that they put out there.
Jon Henshaw: They kick people off of their accounts permanently because of misleading like that.
Loren Baker: I used to do that all the time.
Jon Henshaw: But now they’re enabling to do that. What is that all about?
Loren Baker: I know, they’re enabling themselves, right?
Jon Henshaw: It’s because they need money. At the end of the day, they need money.
Loren Baker: It’s almost like YouTube’s breakeven. And apparently, I think they’re earnings came out, or something came out today, where they said at the end of the day, YouTube is breakeven. And this announcement is about five days after YouTube has banned influencers from running their own pre-rolls or running sponsored HTML overlays on their videos and bypassing Google.
Jon Henshaw: Yeah, which again, as a user, I’m fine with because I think it’s crap.
Loren Baker: Well you don’t want to see two pre-rolls before the video starts. But it does remind me of the issues that they traditionally had with guest and sponsored blogging online, for example. So it is kind of funny how they do break their own rules a lot of the time.
Jon Henshaw: Well they used to be so hardcore on some things. In fact, I had a little experience with that with scraping.
Loren Baker: Let’s get that on another podcast.
Jon Henshaw: Yeah, I know.
How to Deploy Actionable Mobile & UX Tactics into Your SEO Strategy
Loren Baker: Being that this is called Search & Deploy, from a format perspective and this being our inaugural show, I’ll probably massage this format a little bit afterward. But what are some tips that you would give to SEOs and site owners to deploy tactics to address some of these changes?
Jon Henshaw: Well, as it relates to mobile, one of the things that we already talked about a little bit, but approach it as mobile first. And that means that you should really consider using some sort of foundation, some sort of existing structure to help you get started. I said foundation because it reminded me of…
Loren Baker: Foundation Digital?
Jon Henshaw: Yeah, that’s a good one. It reminded me of Zerb Foundation, which is a framework. That’s actually the word I was going for, find a framework. Zerb Foundation is a mobile-first framework, kind of like Boot Strap 3 has become. And that’s where I’s actually begin. You know it’s kind of hard to just go, “Okay, I’m going to write mobile first and tweak everything from scratch to begin with.” You’re going to waste a lot of time. Instead, use a really good framework, like Zurb’s, which is free. And I’ve had a lot of success building out sites and then converting them into a WordPress theme and that type of thing.
Loren Baker: What I’m also getting from this too is that, especially with apps becoming a component, the app experience and app personalization is that you can’t just continue to add layer upon layer of user experience on something that’s not fixed. And that’s always been the answer up to this time with a lot of sites and projects. It’s like, “Hey we need mobile. Okay let’s do an m. app,” right? And make that part of the user experience. “Hey we need an app. Okay, let’s hire this ad company. Oh, looks kind of different, has different content than we have on the site.” That’s okay because that’s the app experience.
Jon Henshaw: Right. I definitely think it’s the cart before the horse to be doing an app before a site.
Loren Baker: Definitely.
Jon Henshaw: Obviously, it always comes back to what is your business case, what is it that you’re trying to do? But in our case, we’re mainly talking about sites that are e-commerce or they’re publishers of content. So, in that case, you need to take care of the core things first, which is having that mobile-first approach, making sure that you’re doing all of the core things right.
So to me, all of the core things are having a good CDN, Content Delivery Network, making sure that you’re not on a crappy hosting provider, making sure that you’re using structured data where it makes sense to with your particular strategy. Get all the things that need to work well right first.
So that to me is speed and mobile. And then from there is, “What else do we need to fulfill in the overall strategy?” Beyond a content strategy and beyond even link building, I would do all those other things before I would even think about doing an app for Android or an app for iOS even though we kind of brought that up. Yeah, that should be part of your long-term strategy, but do the fundamentals first. And the only big difference here, particularly that has do this conversation, is that things now also need to be fast, although you can make an argument they always need to be fast. And things now need to be mobile friendly, and if you just address those things, you’re probably in pretty good shape.
Loren Baker: Right. Yeah, it’s the foundation, or it’s the core. If you build on top of the foundation and the foundation is not solid and sound, you’re going to have a weak structure. If your core, and I think of these things as the nucleus and then all the little whatever’s orbiting around that — protons orbiting around that, so your apps are basically something that’s orbiting around the nucleus. It brings people in.
Jon Henshaw: Yes.
Loren Baker: Whatever you’re doing that’s outside of your nucleus is almost like a satellite, and then it brings people in. It brings in your audience. It brings in your visitors. It brings in whatever, and you own it, whether it’s your social profiles that are out there orbiting around or whether it’s the app. It’s whatever way you connect with that user. And then the question is, if your core is rotten, you’re not going to have any success at the end of it.
Jon Henshaw: Yeah. Your site is the core for most people. You know for the type of sites that we work on and the type of clients you work with, your site is the core. And that’s your primary focus, and everything else becomes that secondary thing around it, which usually can be many more things than that core. And then I would even throw out that, depending on your strategy, then the app is tertiary. It’s like, “And now that we have the time and the resources and we have an audience and that type of thing, let’s create an app that is free to download, that has some sort of value-add that they can’t get from the site itself,” which is why they would want to install it to begin with. And that just adds to the overall visibility strategy for your site.
Loren Baker: Absolutely. Well on that note, thanks a lot, Jon, for making the first podcast.
Jon Henshaw: Yeah, thanks for having me.
Loren Baker: You’re first on Search & Deploy. It’s been great talking to you and going through everything. So that’s Jon Henshaw from Raven Tools.