In today’s blog, Artemis SEO Manager Kerry Jones examines website user experience (UX) and takes a closer look at why it matters so much on mobile.
Your website may be responsive, but is it truly mobile-friendly?
With Google’s switch over to mobile first indexing, user experience on mobile devices has become one of the most important factors to consider when optimising a website.
“The limited screen size on mobiles has required a complete rethink as to how content is displayed on websites. Google is adapting its search results based on how mobile pages are set up. As Google’s understanding of how users interact with mobile pages improves, an increased focus on mobile usability is absolutely fundamental for search success going forward. With the Chrome browser, Google has usability data across all pages of a website. Mobile usability is a key factor in 2019.” Justin Aldridge, Technical Director at Artemis
Mobile vs. desktop
With an increasing number of searches performed on mobile vs desktop over recent years, now is definitely the time to take action on mobile to improve it as much as possible.
You might be thinking “how does this apply to me when 80% of my traffic comes from desktop?” Well Google will still index the mobile version of your website first, meaning that desktop rankings are deciphered from mobile and if your website doesn’t provide a good mobile user experience, then your desktop rankings are likely to suffer.
How does Google know if a website provides a poor user experience?
Google has access to website usage and engagement statistics, including the average time users spend on page/site, page interactions and bounce rates. If these statistics aren’t as good as your competitors, then Google may favour those better performing websites.
Things to consider on mobile:
Does the website load quickly in Wi-Fi as well as 3G and 4G?
Is the header condensed for mobile? Or does it take up the whole device landing screen forcing users to scroll down to see content/images?
Is the menu visible on all pages? Are all key pages accessible from it?
Is content readable or too small?
Are contact and sign up forms optimised for mobile?
Is the search functionality visible and does it use typing suggestions?
Does the website make sure of read more tabs where necessary to prevent endless paragraphs of text?
There are various ways you can review your mobile usability:
Firstly, perform some tasks on your mobile that you would expect your customers to do, for example, adding a product to cart and going through the checkout process, or filling out a contact form to see if there are any obvious issues.
Check for any mobile usability issues reported in Google Search Console. This section will point out instances whereby clickable elements are too close together, where the content has fallen off the screen, plus much more. You can also run the website through the Google Mobile-Friendly
Run a Google Lighthouse report on the website. This will provide speed improvement recommendations as well as accessibility, best practice and SEO considerations.
Set up Hotjar heatmaps to monitor mobile user behaviour and see what people are clicking on and how far they are scrolling down the page. Record users to find any common pitfalls or annoyances. Take a look at our blog post on how to turn visitors into customers on Hotjar here.
Review Google Analytics for high exit pages on mobile devices, then go and check these on mobile to find out why users are leaving the site.
Google’s Playbooks for retail or lead gen websites are great resources to refer to whilst reviewing the UX of a website.
If you’re interested in ensuring your website has a UX that is optimised for mobile, Artemis offers a mobile first audit.
Your website might have an amazing design, be well optimised for conversions and get good levels of traffic but there is one issue that could make all your hard work go to waste: your site speed is too slow.
The time it takes for your website to load is now one of the most important factors that affects how well it converts. With the industry focus having shifted firmly onto mobile search by users who have little patience and demand near instant search results, a load time of 5 seconds can result in up to 25% of your search traffic bouncing and going to one of your competitors instead.
And we don’t want that, do we?
The good news is that there are some pretty straightforward things you can do to speed up your website. However, before you start tinkering, it’s a good idea to benchmark your current load time first. There are many tools available to help you do this – we recommend using GTmetrix, Pingdom Tools or Google’s own tool PageSpeed Insights.
Once you have established your benchmark, take a look at these 4 simple ways of making the necessary improvements to your site. In our advice, we’ve focused mainly on WordPress websites but you should be able to implement these solutions on most websites.
1 – Get the right web hosting service
Let’s start with the basics. If your web hosting is poor, then frankly none of the tips mentioned below are going to make any difference. This is a key area to get right from day one – but what is ‘right’? There are so many different types of web hosting – shared hosting, reseller hosting, VPS hosting, dedicated hosting – with some services costing as little as 99p while others will set you back over £100 a month. Which to choose?
When it comes to hosting, the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ couldn’t be more appropriate. Cheap 99p-type deals will most likely be on second-hand servers with thousands of other websites hosted alongside. While this may be sufficient for, say, a small blog that gets a handful of visits per month, higher traffic levels won’t be able to cope and your website will crash.
As an absolute minimum, a website that is used to advertise a service should be hosted on a VPS (virtual private server) to give you more control over the hosting. With ecommerce websites, it’s important that they’re hosted on a dedicated service designed to deal with large volumes of traffic and that is secure enough to handle payment transactions.
2 – Optimise your images for web
When a website is built, it is best practice to upload any images in the required size, i.e. the size that will actually be displayed on the site. However, this doesn’t always happen. Often, the developer will upload images in whatever size they’ve been supplied, perhaps scaling them to fit using CSS. This is far from ideal since large image files (1MB+) can seriously slow down your page load speed.
WordPress does a pretty good job at resizing, and of course there’s always Photoshop. In addition, there are a number of free online tools you can use to compress images, such as tinyjpg which allows you to upload up to 20 images at a time and gives you the optimised images as a download, ready to use on your site.
Also available are plug-ins such as wp-smushit but these won’t give you as much control as resizing manually, and if you’re not happy with the image quality you’ll have to restore a back-up and re-upload from scratch, which is neither user friendly nor time efficient.
3 – Implement browser caching
Caching is a way of telling your browser to store certain elements of the website, such as image and CSS files, so they don’t have to be loaded every time. Implementing this is probably one of the quickest ways to improve your site load time.
Some servers offer settings such as gZip and other caching plug-ins, but these vary depending on the server type, operating system and web host. It is certainly worth contacting your host to ask about any additional settings they may be able to activate for you.
4 – Maintain your WordPress plug-ins
It should go without saying that any WordPress plug-ins that you use should be kept up to date at all times. No doubt you are aware that any failure to do so puts your website at risk of being hacked. But did you also know that old plug-ins using outdated scripts can lead to your site slowing down?
What’s more, unused plug-ins in WordPress will sometimes still load, and may use the database, even if they’ve been disabled. A by-product of this is that your site will take longer to load. Make sure that any plug-ins that you don’t use are completely deleted from the website.
At Artemis, we’ve been helping businesses to get the most out of their websites since 2004. From local campaigns for small companies through to global ecommerce sites for international brands, our capable SEO team is fully focused on achieving tangible, measurable results for each client. Why not get in touch to see what we can do for your website?
We live in an increasingly “right here, right now” world.
Much of this is due to the fact that the majority of us these days have a smartphone to hand at all times. This means we have in our pocket the modern-day equivalent of an encyclopaedia, a phone directory, a town guide and numerous other reference sources.
It also means that whereas even just a couple of years ago we would have specific periods of the day when we went online, nowadays we are spontaneous.
We are online for short bursts frequently. It’s as if we’ve gone from online marathons to online sprints. Instead of one or two starts, we’re off dozens of times a day, every day.
They are instances when we want to know, buy and do things or go places. We want to know there and then. We expect to do so.
These are called “micro-moments.” For both buyers and brands, they’re a significant shift in the way of doing and thinking about all things online.
Google termed the phrase in 2015 to describe the instant when people automatically use a device to satisfy a query, want or need – those split-seconds when we need help in making up our minds.
It is a phrase to describe a phenomenon that we all do and are part of creating, even though we never knew it. We have all for some years been naturally looking up an array of things on a device – increasingly a smartphone.
We have a micro-moment moment when we get online to learn, watch, buy, see, discover or do. These are instances packed with intention during which our minds are influenced or made up.
Think mobile. Think speed.
Those potent little computers we have to hand mostly 24/7 mean that now we expect businesses and brands to give us precisely what we want without any hassle of searching around.
We assume with growing confidence that through the might of our little screens we can get straight to the point rather than looking for a needle in the haystack.
It’s a foundational change in the manner we live our online lives. It’s the next stage and the future.
For advertisers and marketers, it’s absolutely massive.
It means online users will often research something from several trusted sources, and then make their choice. There are no longer just a few sporadic “a-ha!” moments of truth; now there are countless moments that matter. So, for instance, you might look up where to eat at the weekend on your smartphone while you’re having a coffee after the gym. Then you reach work. At lunchtime, you book the restaurant that grabbed you over that morning coffee.
As a business, perhaps more so a small business, it means you need to pull people in at that first instant. People are searching across multiple devices, for multiple reasons….and as a brand, you only really get one chance now.
You likely won’t get a second chance. There’s a huge choice out there. You have to be the best.
Even in 2015, Google discovered that 69 per cent of online consumers acknowledged that the point in time, calibre, or how appropriate a brand’s delivery is swayed their interpretation of the company.
So the brands that will be successful in the future are the ones that put effort into these aspects. They need to reach potential customers in the right way and at the right time with the right approach. They need to connect.
The changing face of search
Micro-moments are multiplying. Not many of us can even recall what life was like before we could go, do, learn or buy by using our devices, and this is increasingly our mobile phones.
Everyone now knows they’ll get the details they desire with fewer search words. It’s expecting more for less. And getting it.
And it helps marketers realise which moments most matter most. It is the future. Particularly for small businesses.
This “in the moment” mentality also plays a big part in the rise of video. Particularly with today’s younger audience.
We want answers now. Increasingly a video is a quicker way to find the answer regarding certain queries such as how to increase page margins on a Word document, how to fix the oven or how to change a bulb on the car.
Insatiable desire for information and speed
On a daily basis there’s an incessant desire for instant information – and that needs to be super-fast and accessible on various devices. Or people will go elsewhere, within seconds.
But if you get it right… Google recently discovered that 70 per cent of smartphone owners who bought an item in a shop had looked on their device for applicable info before parting with their cash. It also found when people searched on their mobile, 92 per cent made an associated purchase.
In fact, the same Google research revealed that it’s not just about buying things there and then. It found that 68 per cent of people searched to assist their decision-making about something for the future (with 97 per cent of these on mobile phones).
What helps people in micro-moments?
When a query or a want or need turns up, most of us trust our phones to come up with the right answers. In fact Google found that 96 per cent of smartphone users turn to their mobiles when they need to find out something.
Furthermore, in 2016 Google monitored 1,000 smartphone users on what their search usage was. It discovered that when it comes to searching:
• 40 per cent of users had their queries answers by a search engine (87 per cent turn to search first).
• 19 per cent visited a retailer’s app or website.
• 19 per cent went to another app or website.
• 15 per cent visited a store or other location.
• 12 per cent used a map.
• 10 per cent looked at images/photos on a site or app.
• 8 per cent asked someone online or via a call or text.
• 6 per cent watched an online video.
• 6 per cent used social media.
• 6 per cent connected with a business.
Yes, and the time of searches in the day can be just as vital to customer relationships and sales as to what season of the year it is.
Google did a bit more looking into this and discovered that, not surprisingly, computer and tablet searches most often happen – and overtake mobile searches – during office hours (8am to 6pm). This includes lunchtime. But not all businesses follow these patterns.
Google’s VP of Marketing Lisa Gevelber says:
“Mobile empowers people to be nimble. They can organise themselves as much (or as little) as they like because they know their smartphone is there for them. And, they expect brands to respond by understanding their needs and addressing them right now.
“Consider baby products. In that category, mobile searches reign supreme throughout the day, but show a pronounced peak around 9pm. This behaviour reflects the broader context and mindset of the people behind those queries. After the baby is asleep and parents have some time for themselves, it’s a more fitting time to do some (mobile) research on infant swings and cribs.
“Different queries or subtopics might peak at different times. By digging deeper into various types of intent within your category, you can see interesting patterns during a typical day.”
Its key then to assess these rhythms so websites can be there offering the right thing at the right time. Everything is about helping people as much as possible, and in as personal a way as possible. It’s as if your website or app’s users are your friends.
Why location matters more?
As far back as September 2015 Google’s Lisa Gevelber stated that “near me” or “nearby” Google searches doubled in 2014.
But now she reports that has moved forward – since then searches without the words “nearby” or “near me” have increased by 150 per cent. The reason is that people now expect a search finding to deliver local findings.
Increasingly, we assume that what we are given after a search is relevant to us in terms of place and personality.
“The trends are clear, and we as marketers need to take notice,” Lisa says. “People may be sharing less, but they still expect relevant, accurate information. In fact, people increasingly assume they’ll receive relevant information with fewer explicit inputs.
“They expect a simple word or phrase to deliver the results they’re after when they search. In essence, people are saying ‘don’t make me exert extra effort when you should already know exactly what I want’.”
Companies prepared to go above and beyond will see the best results. For instance, around two-thirds of people searching on their smartphones are much more likely to buy from a brand that has an app or site that is adapted to be relevant to where they are. This is not just desired now – it’s demanded and expected.
So, what’s next in micro-moments?
According to Google’s Senior Vice President of Ads & Commerce, Sridhar Ramaswamy, we are going to keep expecting even more useful details that are even more tailored to us – and to get them even more swiftly.
“I like to think of mobile as the force that’s accelerating a train we’re all now aboard,” he says. “We’re heading toward an age of assistance where, for marketers, friction will mean failure, and mass messages will increasingly mean ‘move on’.
“Successful marketers will have a much deeper understanding of their customers at every encounter. They’ll focus on acquiring a detailed, data-driven view to really know them and help them along their individual journeys.”
He thinks it’s “critical” to get it right – because shrewd changes made today lay the preparations for the future.
“This future is what we at Google have been building toward for the last 18 years with Search.”
In 2016, a study found that the number of people browsing the internet on their mobile overtook desktop for the first time ever. Another article from Search Engine Land found that nearly 60% of search queries were made from mobile devices. The message is clear: mobile matters, and speed is key.
Think about how often you use your mobile to search for information. Now think about how many potential customers might be looking for your business. Ranking highly in Google will help put the spotlight on your website – but poor performance on mobile will turn perspective clients away.
For example, imagine you’re out and about and you want to find out more about where you’re going. Or maybe you’re looking for a café near you or the nearest hardware shop. You pull out your phone, load up Google and click on the first result – but it’s loading too slowly. Think about the last time you were in this situation, how long did you wait before leaving the site and trying another link? Most of us don’t wait very long.
We’ve grown to expect information on our phones at a moment’s notice, and having to wait just simply won’t do. 53% of people will leave a mobile site if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds. If your website doesn’t load quickly on mobile, this will also impact how many people will try and come back.
A study from Google last year showed that 79% of visitors who are unsatisfied with site performance are less likely to buy from the same site again. Whether you’re running a large e-commerce site or a website for your local business, this attitude from mobile users will have a major impact on visits and returns to your site.
Mobile performance is continuing to become more and more important to businesses and SEO. With Google’s mobile-first index continuing to loom on the horizon, it’s now more critical than ever to make sure your site loads quickly on mobile.
At Artemis, we are constantly preparing for Google’s mobile-first index and focusing on mobile speed, design and user friendliness. If you would like to discuss this subject or any SEO concerns, get in touch with us today. Visit our blog often for more updates from our SEO Team.