2017: The Year Of The Mobile

Finally, eventually, is Mobile more important than Desktop?

“This year is the year of the Mobile.” Said everyone everywhere for the past couple of years. But…

I believe that this year – yes, this year – is the year we can finally stop saying it and just accept that Mobile is now more important than desktop.
 
Is Mobile important?
 
Oh yes. It's hard to put in context how transformative the last ten years have been but the following diagram does a pretty good job*.

Diagram showing mobile phone, smart phone and PC usage
 
Essentially, while PC use is going down, smart phone use is soaring. We've noticed that the blend of clients' traffic is becoming more Mobile and less Desktop. At the same time tablet use has plateaued, if not fallen off. To put this in context, some of our B2C clients have 70% Mobile traffic, while most have parity. 

At the same time conversion rates, which have been lower on Mobile, seem to be going up. Whether this is because phones are faster, the experience is better (in that the UX has matured) or it's simply that customers are more comfortable buying on mobile than they were (rather than researching on Mobile and switching to Desktop to purchase) is up for debate. What isn't debatable, in the vast majority of cases, is that Mobile now needs to be considered first. 

What are Google doing?
 
Google are making some big Mobile changes this year**. Search results will continue to use the same index but ranking signals which have mainly been taken from the Desktop version will now start to evaluate the Mobile version of the site. This is partly down to Google now having more searches per day made on Mobile devices than Desktop.
 
They've also been pushing the Google AMP project***. AMP seeks to fix some of the problems with Mobile websites. Mainly, that the experience was too slow (we wrote a blog post recently on how to improve mobile page speed with AMP). AMP pages aren't a direct ranking factor but as they improve things which *are* don't be surprised if you see AMP pages ranking well. 

At the same time (anecdotally) AMP pages don't convert as well as regular Mobile pages, so this isn't something to just implement: the Wordpress plugin, for example, works in Google’s favour. So, either build a blazingly fast, mobile optimised site in the first place or have a bespoke AMP implementation. I'd even go as far as to test sections of your site to see how it works.
 
What do I need to do?
 
From an on-page perspective, the description length on Mobile is shorter so it's meant that we've needed to re-optimise descriptions on our clients sites, as the existing Desktop optimising was getting truncated:
 
Screenshot showing truncated text
 
Optimising Mobile first is something we do and was partly a result of a test we ran to see whether Google would use different descriptions for Mobile and Desktop if it was given them; it doesn't. Google uses one description for both. On most sites this is Desktop optimised, not Mobile, so isn't optimised at the time when people see it first. We'll be running that test again later in the year.
 
Another good check to run is to change the user agent to Mobile (in Chrome you can right click and then 'Inspect', then switch to Mobile and (more importantly) throttle the connection to 3G to see how the site works from a mobile perspective). Of course, you can also do this by going to a local coffee shop and using your phone to browse the site. Remember: it's research.

Sources

*https://www.slideshare.net/a16z/mobile-is-eating-the-world-20162017/4-4The_mobile_SCurve_is_passing
 
**https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2016/11/mobile-first-indexing.html

***https://www.ampproject.org/

Post by

Gareth Beck