The Changing Face of the SERP
It’s long been predicted that 2015 will deliver the day when mobile searches tip the scales – outranking searches conducted on desktop computers and consuming the largest portion of marketing budgets. So how is Google adapting to and preempting problems from this swelling mobile search volume? How has Google prepared for the mobile age, and what is the search giant doing to keep mobile users Googling?
Google is a business; its endgame is always to provide the best experience possible for the user (who clicks on paid advertisements and makes Google money). As such, the ease and quality of search results that mobile users experience is Google’s top priority. So in addition to engineering their own smartphones (shoutout ‘Droid comrads!), churning out countless algorithmic updates to favor mobile sites, and installing city-wide free Wifi in major metropolises, Google has made major renovations to their search engine results pages (SERPs) to provide better quality results on mobile platforms.
The SERP Makeover: then and now
- Google pulls information onto the SERP
Whereas in 2010 you might have searched for “Thai food in Phoenix” on your Galaxy and been shown a list of Thai restaurants’ websites, today Google does the legwork of finding the right restaurant for you. Google knows that I’m on my phone and it’s inconvenient for me for bounce back and forth between search engines and websites. So they want to offer me as much information as possible on the SERP, increasing the amount of time I spend interacting with their search product (but reducing click-through-rates for websites). Whether I’m looking for the best, cheapest, or closest Thai restaurant, Google will help me find it. I don’t even have to go to their website to find Sa Bai Modern Thai’s address – Google’s got it handy for me.
Action items: make sure your Google My Business listing is accurate, robust and full of positive reviews.
Encourage your customers to review you on Google.
- Company websites are MIA
Beneath the Thai restaurants’ info boxes are the actual organic search results. To get to these organic listings, though, I’ll have to scroll. (Point Google, but strike one for your website’s accessibility – searchers have to work for it.) In your personal browsing you may have noticed these results appear slightly different. Repeating what we’ve seen in Bing for years, Google is more likely to first list review aggregator and social media sites on mobile devices than websites for companies themselves. Scrolling lower on my search for “Thai food in Phoenix,” I’m greeted with a local news site’s review of the 10 best restaurants, and then Yelp.
Not pictured in this screenshot, in order of their listings: Urban Spoon, Yellow Pages, Yahoo Local, and Trip Advisor.
Action items: good old fashioned PR: do you have any newsworthy event happening that could be featured by a local digital paper?
Alternately, do you have an extra marketing budget that could go to Yelp ads?
- New kids on the block
As we mentioned above, Google’s top priority is to accommodate its searchers. As such, Google’s algorithmic updates have been designed to favor responsively-designed websites over non-mobile friendly sites. Fair warning: the biggest mobile update *ever* will be released April 21. This new algorithm will label your site as mobile friendly or unfriendly, significantly impacting the majority of mobile searches.
“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”
Action items: conduct Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, make sure your site is optimized for mobile. If you encounter issues, consult Webmaster Tools for a Mobile Usability Report and find out exactly what you can optimize. You have until April 21.
Next to ponder: how will SERPs adapt for Google watches?