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Is Mobile SEO on Your To-Do List? Here’s Why It Needs to Be

We all know what a big difference SEO makes in visibility, traffic and ultimately conversions. For many companies, SEO has become even more important than online advertising. But does your SEO strategy target users on mobile devices, or is it stuck in the desktop past?


Of course, not all users are on mobile, and those who are have many ways to find you besides just search. We’ve been hearing for years how mobile is the next big thing, but many businesses have told themselves it’s only a small portion of traffic or that mobile is all about apps, not search.

It looks like that has finally changed.

Mobile’s growing share of the internet is nothing new. What is new, however, is a revelation from a groundbreaking study by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB): search is the number one way that mobile users discover content. Number one.

It outpaces apps, social media, recommendations from friends and seeing a website promoted. In fact, good ol’ search accounts for more content discovery than all in-app links combined.


(Search Engine Land provides a great graph showing the breakdown.)

The study is based on a Harris survey of 2,000 US-based mobile users and accounts for a wide variety of content discovery methods, all the way down to bookmarks. The clear takeaway is that mobile users, despite spending a majority of their time in apps rather than browser space, still turn to the search bar as their first means of looking for something.

There are also some non-lessons here: it’s not that apps aren’t valuable; they still account for over a third of all content discovery. And it also doesn’t mean that non-mobile is dead. It’s true that more users than ever are doing more of their browsing on a handheld device, but desktop/laptop continues to account for a majority of most sites’ traffic (and sales). The question is, how many more sales are being missed?

The Wrong Focus

From these numbers, you might think that business owners would be scrambling to optimize their sites to grab mobile search traffic. If anything, the opposite is happening. A surprising number of sites don’t do any mobile SEO at all, and aren’t even mobile friendly. That isn’t just a missed opportunity, it amounts to negative SEO: a non-mobile website will drop in mobile rankings as its more mobile-savvy competitors outpace it. Google is aware of which sites are mobile optimized and which aren’t, and adjusts their position in the SERPs accordingly.

What have businesses been doing instead? Apparently, buying ads. One fascinating study that came out of the last quarter of 2014 shows that mobile now accounts for over 40 percent of search ad spend (and growing). That means pay-per-click has been a popular way for websites to appeal to the mobile market. That makes sense, since it seems a lot easier to buy some ads than to make extensive site changes.

But relying on ads to capture mobile users comes with a few problems:

  • Low success rate. In the IAB study, paid ads only accounted for 10 percent of all mobile content discovery; search on its own accounted for over 50 percent.
  • Conversion conundrums. If your site isn’t optimized for mobile users, PPC ads are going to perform poorly. The visitors they bring in will find it difficult or unappealing to continue through to a purchase.
  • SEO power. Ads and SEO should support each other, presenting two different streams of potential customers and bringing them back for multiple visits. There’s no reason to expect a mobile site to survive with just half that equation.

Do you need help with mobile SEO and mobile site design? EverSpark Interactive is here to help. We want to increase your mobile traffic and help you turn more of those users into leads and sales. Contact us for a free consultation today.