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In Their Hands: How to Improve Your Mobile Search Ranking in 2016

By Brian Hughes, Last Modified
Apr 04, 2016
> Marketing

As mobile search continues to grow at an explosive rate, brands are discovering that the techniques they use to get pages to rank highly in desktop searches simply do not apply the same way to mobile. 

Mobile and desktop SEO are two different marketing channels that require two different search strategies.

Assuming your desktop best practices will carry over to mobile is a recipe for disaster.

Ranking placement is important for both mobile and desktop, but it’s even more critical for mobile search.

If you are not in the first or second position in the search results, your business won’t be immediately visible and your click-through-rates will plummet.

Related Article: Mobile Marketing: Growth Tactics from Google's Latest Announcement

Last spring, Google revamped their search algorithm to effectively punish non-mobile friendly sites.

But just because your website passes Google’s mobile-friendly design test doesn’t mean it’s poised to rank highly in search results.

Responsive design is great, but just a start. Here are three strategies to up your mobile game in 2016:

1. Optimize Content for User Experience

There’s more to mobile content optimization than simply cutting out flash and using responsive design.

Start by thinking about where your content is going to be consumed. On a mobile site, your user is far more likely to skim a blog post while in line at the grocery store, waiting for a morning coffee, or commuting home at night.

Time is limited and distractions are high. Even the most compelling content will struggle against text messages and Twitter feed updates.

Structure content design to make consumption easy: use bullets, lists and subheads for fast skimming.

Keep paragraphs to a maximum of two to three short sentences, or skip the paragraphs altogether and opt for lists underneath subheads.

According to Searchmetrics, 72 percent of the top 30 mobile pages have at least one unordered list.

Finally, keep interactive elements to a minimum and avoid annoying features, like a video that plays automatically when a page loads.

2. Optimize for Local Search Intent

Mobile searchers are different from desktop searchers. They’re poised and ready to take action. They need an immediate solution to a problem.

While keyword optimization is still important, keep in mind that mobile searchers are using different terms. Their keywords/keyword phrases are typically shorter, and the intent behind these phrases is different.

Keep in mind that the majority of Google searchers on smartphones have a local intent. Even if the searcher does not include a location reference in the search, Google may automatically add one.

Consequently, optimizing for mobile search also means optimizing for local search intent.

Mobile searchers are not looking to research 10 different solution providers before making a decision. B2C searchers want to know the closest coffee shop, auto repair place, or Tex-Mex restaurant to satisfy their queso cravings.

The same goes for B2B services: searchers need a fast answer to a question.

Related Article: Marketing to the Mobile Man and the Mobile Woman

Optimize for shorter phrases and deliver content that immediately reassures the searcher they’ve landed in the right place. Don’t make them hunt for the answer.

3. Get Serious About Reputation Management

From Yelp and Google reviews to on-site customer testimonials, reputation management is hugely important for local SEO.

This is especially true for service providers where the financial stakes are even higher. Rolling the dice on a coffee shop with average reviews is one thing.

Hiring the wrong plumber, car repairman or real estate agent is an entirely different financial and logistical nightmare.

You can’t force folks to write a review, but you can request satisfied customers to take a few minutes to review your business on Yelp or Google.

Additionally, if you get great feedback on customer reviews, ask permission to post these reviews directly to your website, just like the Park City-based Lange Real Estate Group and the Santa Cruz County Bank did with their sites.

Local customers say it best. Stumped on ways to get testimonials?

Check out Kissmetrics’ fantastic guide to customer testimonials from that covers everything from LinkedIn recommendations to YouTube video reviews.

Related Article: Mobilegeddon or Not, You Really Need a Mobile Website

Bottom Line

The world is at a mobile tipping point. For many of us, smartphones have become an extra appendage. 

Millennials are leading the way as “mobile first users”, individuals who primarily access the Internet via their smartphones, not a desktop browser.

The rise of ad blockers, including built-in ad blocking with iOS 9, is also raising questions about the future of mobile search advertising.

You can’t rely on mobile ads to bring customers to your website. The only way to guarantee more traffic is to get serious about improving your ranking in local mobile search results.

Brian Hughes
Brian Hughes
See Brian Hughes's Profile
Brian is a seasoned digital marketing expert who loves to write about subjects that help small businesses grow their brands and increase their rankings online. He accomplishes this through his agency Integrity Marketing & Consulting, which he founded in 2011. Brian cares about people and businesses, and tries to show it through his writing by producing both generous and accurate content. He stays abreast of industry trends and news, making it easy for him to stay relevant. When Brian’s not spending time helping clients conquer their niche online - you can find him hanging out with his wife and 3 kids. He also enjoys meeting new people and welcomes you to engage with him on social media.
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