On April 21st we can expect a new Google update. This time the update will have quite an impact on websites and online stores that are not mobile-friendly yet. This update is a follow-up on the Pigeon update from 2014, in which Google decided to give higher priority to local search results. That's why experts expect that the update on the 21st of April will both affect mobile and local search. In this article I will discuss the opportunities this brings to online merchants.
The importance of having a mobile-friendly online store
It's certain now. As of April 21st Google will give a higher priority to mobile-friendly websites. This means that people searching on a hand held devices (such as smartphones and tablets) will first see mobile-friendly websites and online stores in their search results, before seeing any other results. By optimising your online store for mobile devices, people will be better able to find your store! SEOshop e-commerce software offers you solutions already by providing you with responsive designs and a mobile version of your store.
The reason for this update
The reason for this update is the increase in the number of people using smartphones. Google expects that in 2015 more people will search using their smartphones than desktops, computers or laptops."As more people use mobile devices to access the internet, our algorithms have to adapt to these usage patterns," Google claims on its website. Whether desktop devices will also give more priority to mobile-friendly search results remains to be seen, but due to the increase of mobile traffic for websites and online stores the question itself is not really relevant. As more people will try to find your online store by using their smartphone, in any case your online store needs to be mobile-friendly to provide users with the best user experience. After all, that's what really counts when you're trying to sell a product.
Responsive themes and apps
Google will not just give more priority to websites using responsive designs. Native apps will also be awarded better rankings. At least, that's what Google communicates on itsWebmaster Central Blog. In other words, Google will allow you to choose between a mobile version of your store and responsive designs. We, however, advice you to choose a responsive design - free or paid - as this works better for all devices; desktop, smartphone and tablet.
What if you do nothing?
If, before April 21st, you have not activated a mobile version of your online store, this will certainly have a negative impact on your positions in the search results. We strongly advice you to take action immediately. If you're looking for an indication of the mobile-friendliness of your current design, then you can usethis Google tool. Be aware though, this will only provide you with an indication of the mobile-friendliness of your website or store.
Optimisation of texts
To fully benefit from this update, and to increase your findability, it is also very important to double-check your texts and navigation. Make sure your texts are clear and concise, and provide users with a simple to use navigation on both desktops and smartphones.
The importance of local search for your online store
The increase of mobile search traffic has also led to Google's update in July 2014, when it introduced the Pigeon Update. Google's plan was to give more priority to local search results, which means that a search query somewhere in London would provide you with different results than in Birmingham. Moreover, a mobile search query in Sutton will give different results than the same mobile search query in Richmond. Especially for restaurants this update is particularly interesting, but even for offline stores this can result in some major benefits. When you optimise your online store for local search queries, you can even defeat big ecommerce players!
What is the Pigeon update all about?
The Pigeon update gives more priority to local search results, which is particularly interesting for mobile search queries. One of the most important changes that Google has implemented is the connection between Google Search and Google Maps, which enables Google to know where you are, so the search engine can show results in your neighbourhood. To benefit from this, I would advice you to sign up for Google Business Listing.
Google also values local directories more. A link on one of those pages will be very relevant for your region and will surely bring good results.
Aside from the content in your online store and links on local websites, you can also think of optimising your social media account with local information.
Google will focus on mobile in 2015, and as a result of this, on local search. As of April 21st websites and online stores that are not yet mobile-friendly will be shown less prominently in the search results. If you don't want to lose your high rankings, you will need to choose a responsive design or create a native mobile app of your online store.
For online stores Google’s choice to reward mobile and local players will actually bring some major benefits. After all, big ecommerce players prefer to focus on the masses, which means you as a local player can benefit from local search queries. This means that your investment in mobile and local will bring in more sales!
About the author
Bertram Welink is a marketing manager at SEOshop. In the past he has worked in Dublin for Google and Yahoo!, but has been living in the Netherlands for quite some time now. Bertram enjoys writing about entrepreneurship, e-commerce, online marketing and organises monthly webinars in liaison with SEOshop partners. He's also head of the international marketing team.