Why Mobile Optimization is Important: What You Need to Know in 2020

Ron Dodby Ron Dod

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According to Statista’s forecast of smartphone users in the U.S., as of 2019, nearly 266 million people were using such a device. For reference, there are roughly 327 million folks in the entire country.

However, it isn’t just the ubiquity of the device that is remarkable, but the amount of time people are spending on their phones as well. As ZDNet reports on how much time Americans spend on their smartphones:

“The average American spends 5.4 hours a day on their phone. Millennials spend slightly more time on their phones (5.7 hours) compared to baby boomers (5 hours) on average. However, 13 percent of millennials and 5 percent of boomers say that they spend over 12 hours every day on their phones.”

While this information is highly relevant to all sorts of online business, eCommerce merchants, in particular, are profoundly impacted by the shift toward mobile. Looking to Statista once more, the platform reports that by 2021, mobile will account for nearly 54 percent of all eCommerce sales.

If for no other reason, this sobering statistic is why mobile optimization is important for online retailers.

Mobile optimization is how a site appears and functions for small screen visitors. Given how prevalent smartphone ownership and usage has become, this is one of the most essential eCommerce marketing strategies for 2020 and beyond.

Naturally, for brands to increase their conversion rates on mobile devices, user experience is of prime importance.

In this article, we will go over why mobile optimization is so important, how to determine a site’s level of mobile optimization, as well as some of the most valuable mobile optimization techniques to implement in 2020.

Outside of the facts already discussed, let’s start with why mobile optimization is important.

Why Mobile Optimization is Important

Why Mobile Optimization is Important

Clearly, smartphones are coming to dominate the digital space. This transition is distinctly reflected in Google’s push for mobile-first everything.

In fact, Google is one of the linchpins in why mobile optimization is important.

Google processes billions of searches per day. Given that the company now operates under the mobile-first index, ensuring proper optimization is key to success. This is particularly true since:

Mobile Search is Surging

Mobile search has dominated its desktop counterpart for some time now. However, the degree to which mobile reigns supreme keeps increasing. This trend shows no signs of letting up any time soon. Even when it comes to paid advertising, mobile is leading the pack.

As Statista reports on mobile search trends:

“Mobile devices accounted for over half of all organic search engine visits in the United States. Although desktop accounted for a large share of search advertising spending, mobile devices are quickly gaining space in this market. In 2018, about 63 percent of paid Google search clicks in the United States originated from mobile, with mobile phones accounting for nearly 56 percent of total clicks.”

Therefore, merchants must ensure that their site’s mobile landing pages are optimized, alongside other essential elements tied to SEO outcomes such as content.

Mobile Content Correlates to SERP Visibility

With Google under the mobile-first paradigm, the company is utilizing a site’s mobile content to determine rankings.

While it is important for sellers to craft content that drives revenue, it is even more critical to ensure that those pieces are optimized for mobile search; otherwise, the content is likely to receive spares amounts of traffic. More on this later.

Mobile Search Motivates Sales

Google’s research on mobile search buying behavior shows that over a two-year period:

  • Searches for product reviews have increased by 35 percent
  • Videos with the word “review” in the title gained over 50,000 years of watch time on mobile
  • Searches using the word “best” have skyrocketed by 80 percent

Couple these stats with 2018 research from Google, which highlights that “over 40 percent of people say they prefer to complete their entire shopping journey on mobile—from research to purchase,” and the implications become clear.

Mobile is the Main Driver of Voice Search

Voice search has become a massively influential factor in SEO. Moreover, voice search has transcended smartphones, now existing on desktops, tablets, home assistants and other types of devices.

Way back in 2016, Google confirmed that 20 percent of all searches were voice-activated. That figure has undoubtedly increased.

Therefore, voice search for eCommerce has become an increasingly vital element to a brand’s marketing strategy.

Brands that are not optimizing for voice search will be left behind in the years to come. Again, we will revisit this topic shortly.

Now that it has been made clear why mobile optimization is important, it is time to understand how retailers can bring their sites up to snuff for small screen users.

However, the first step in optimizing a site is first to make sure that it is friendly.

How to Determine Mobile-Friendliness

To be clear, optimization and friendliness are two different things.

google console mobile friendly

To be mobile-friendly is the barrier to entry. Mobile optimization is pushing the limits of the user experience in a positive manner, ultimately aiming at redefining the mobile experience.

Fortunately, Google makes determining if a site is mobile-friendly or not a synch.

Through the Mobile-Friendly Test tool, retailers can simply enter their site’s URL to see if the site is amicable to mobile devices. Moreover, if there are any issues, Google will alert site owners to these problems.

If any issues are shown, retailers should resolve these immediately before moving on to any optimization techniques.

Additionally, it is wise for merchants to see if Google is capable of successfully crawling the site. If the engine is unable to crawl a site due to technical issues that might hamper the site’s crawl budget, URL errors, server misconfigurations or similar issues, the merchant’s content can’t appear in the SERPs.

Crawl Errors

To see how successful Google is at crawling a site, log in to Search Console and navigate to Crawl > Crawl Errors and click on “Smartphone.” Here, merchants will find a graph and table denoting any potential errors.

Once a site is officially mobile-friendly, sellers can move on to implementing mobile optimization tactics that will help them generate more SERP visibility, clicks and conversions.

Strategies for eCommerce Mobile Optimization

Much like off-page SEO strategies for driving traffic, there are a multitude of different ways that merchants can optimize their sites for mobile performance.

Some of the most notable and effective tactics include:

Ensure the Site is Responsive

Employing a responsive design is a baseline tactic for mobile optimization, and most website creation platforms feature responsive design templates.

For those that are unaware, a responsive site is merely one where the design elements resize according to the device a user is on, thereby providing an optimal visual and browsing experience.

Make Speed a Priority

Website speed is a critical optimization factor, no matter if one is discussing desktop or mobile. However, with mobile, speed is an even more vital element to optimize as 53 percent of site visitors will abandon mobile pages that take more than three seconds to load, as per Google mobile page speed research.

This is a particularly important optimization point for merchants to consider as Google’s research points out that:

“Pages from the automotive, retail, and technology sectors, on average, take the longest to load. And they also have some of the most bloated pages on the web… For 70 percent of the mobile landing pages we analyzed, it took more than five seconds for the visual content above the fold to display on the screen, and it took more than seven seconds to fully load all visual content above and below the fold.”

An excellent place to start in improving eCommerce site speeds is to employ a speed test tool to see any issues the site might be facing.

Through tools like Google’s mobile speed test, retailers can ascertain where their site is falling short in the speed department and gain actionable insights into how to remedy the situation.

Some common suggestions that retailers encounter include:

  • Compressing images
  • Minifying code to reduce page requests
  • Employing a content delivery network
  • Using caching to serve pages quicker

Keep CTAs in the Thumb Zone

User experience expert Steven Hoober published a study way back in 2013 on how users hold mobile devices. The study found that there were three primary ways in which people held their phones, with the one-handed method accounting for the majority of user preferences.

As a result of how people hold their phones, the vast majority of interactions are driven by a user’s thumbs.

Therefore, to ensure that a site is optimized for mobile interactions, merchants must ensure that their CTAs and other core features fall within the middle of the “thumb zone” area to ensure maximum engagement.

If a CTA is not immediately reachable by a user’s thumb, they will be less likely to click-through and convert.

Employ Mobile-Friendly Popups

Most eCommerce websites like to alert users to different offers, promotions or email lists. While this practice is all well and good, the manner in which retailers employ it can make or break a site’s user experience.

In fact, this is the exact reason why Google began punishing sites that used annoying popups, often called interstitials.

Therefore, employing services that deploy mobile-optimized popups (such as Hello Bar or WisePops) is a necessity.

After all, popups can be an effective means of collecting email addresses or increasing the revenue of ongoing sales. Getting rid of them entirely isn’t in a site’s best interest.

Streamline the Checkout Process

gerber checkout cart review

Abandoned shopping carts are one of the greatest struggles for eCommerce retailers. Industry-wide, the abandoned cart rate hovers at about 70 percent.

Therefore, it is critical for retailers to ensure that their checkout process is as streamlined as possible. While this is a vital task for desktop interactions, mobile users are far more likely to ditch a potential purchase if they encounter a clunky, inconvenient or extraneous checkout.

Streamline the Checkout Process

There are a variety of ways that merchants can optimize their checkout flow for increased conversions, such as:

  • Minimizing the number of form fields
  • Offering guest checkout
  • Limiting the number of pages
  • Providing various payment options

The point is to make the process as smooth, convenient and quick as possible so that users can get what they came for expediently.

Optimize Mobile Content

Content is one of Google’s top rankings factors. Since the company has implemented its mobile-first index, it stands to reason that retailers should optimize the content for small screen devices.

Fortunately for those that already possess an effective eCommerce content marketing strategy, many of the optimization tactics for mobile carry over directly.

For instance, retailers will want to ensure that their content is optimized for mobile by:

  • Optimizing for keyword intent
  • Making content easily scrollable and scannable
  • Keeping paragraphs short and snappy
  • Creating informative, appealing headlines
  • Employing images and whitespace
  • Crafting top-notch, long-form articles
  • Generating inbound links

Ensure Technical Optimization

There are a variety of technical components that must be optimized for SEO to produce prosperous rankings.

Firstly, the importance of sitemaps cannot be overstated as these will help Google to understand a site’s structure and crawl it effectively. There are a plethora of tools merchants can utilize to generate a sitemap for their stores, such as XML Sitemaps.

Next, ensuring the site’s security through HTTPS protocol is a necessity these days. Not only is this element a ranking factor for Google, but retailers that do not have a secure site will be flagged in the SERPs, thereby receiving far less traffic.

As far as the technical components of content are concerned, sellers should utilize headers (h1, h2, h3, etc.) to denote content hierarchy, informing Google about the most important elements on a page.

Additionally, merchants should employ schema markup on their pages to inform Google about the kind of content that is featured on-site and to enhance their SERP listings. The use of schema markup can positively impact SEO, often resulting in higher click-through rates.

Finally, since eCommerce sites are notorious for struggling with duplicate content issues, it is crucial that retailers utilize canonical tags to indicate to Google which version of a page is the authoritative variant.

These are just some of the many technical elements that merchants must consider for optimizing mobile sites.

Prepare for Voice Search

voice search icon

While it hasn’t risen to supremacy yet, trends indicate that voice search is poised to have a tremendous impact on SEO. While its effects are already being felt, the implications of this technology have yet to be fully realized.

Therefore, preparing eCommerce sites for voice search is an optimization essential.

While some of the ways that retailers can serve this end have already been touched upon in schema markup and optimizing for intent, there are other strategies that merchants can employ to brace themselves for the voice search revolution.

For instance, sellers can optimize their content to capture Google’s answer box and featured snippets by creating long-form content that contains complete, concise answers to specific questions.

This assertion is backed up by a Backlinko study on voice search SEO, which reveals that:

  • The average length of a voice search result page is 2,312 words
  • Most voice search result snippets are 29 words in length
  • Content that ranks well on desktop is “very likely” to display as a voice search answer

Therefore, it is clear that injecting succinct statements in comprehensive content is ideal for getting in front of voice searchers.

Moreover, sellers can increase their chances of surfacing in these destinations by:

  • Utilizing questions as subheadings
  • Integrating lists and tables into articles
  • Ensuring the accuracy of answers

Given that voice search continues to surge in usage year-over-year, this mobile optimization tactic should be a priority for all online retailers.

In a nutshell, why mobile optimization is important boils down to one simple fact: Because mobile devices are dominating the digital age. Small screen technology continues to grow in sophistication and proliferation with each passing year. Those who fail to put mobile at the center of their eCommerce marketing strategy are doomed to be left behind.

That said, implementing all of these tactics (in addition to many others that are sure to improve rankings and user experiences) can be an overwhelming task for brands that are already busy competing with fierce eCommerce rivals on social media, Amazon and other critical online destinations.

If your company could use a hand in crafting a superior mobile site to cater to increasingly smartphone-oriented shoppers, reach out to Visiture’s user experience experts. We can help develop a visually appealing, technically optimized mobile UX that successfully guides consumers from the homepage to the checkout, and beyond.

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