Google gets serious about mobile user experience and so should you

Date: 23rd December 2014
Author: Deri Jones

It’s time to get mobile right

It’s been just over a week since Google’s mobile-friendly text label went International only weeks after it was officially launched. The label has been introduced to help mobile users know which sites are mobile-friendly before clicking. Google states the introduction of this label is to avoid the frustration experienced by mobile searchers. This kind of optimisation is increasingly important as mobile commerce has reached a critical point.

According to the latest IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark the recent Black Friday recorded mobile sales up by 35.5% and on Cyber Monday it was up an incredibly healthy 29.3% – compared to the same days the year before. Nearly 60% of all online traffic was from mobile devices over the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend; smartphones accounting for nearly 40% and tablets the other 20%. The report stated that sales via mobile devices accounted for an impressive 47.3% on Friday and 42.9% on Monday of the total value of transactions. The figures above may relate to a special promotional weekend, but they are impressive none-the-less. The figures do though underline the general move to mobile devices and anyone selling online has to take them into consideration, so how are Google helping mobile users?

Google’s ‘Mobile-friendly’ text labels may affect click through but as yet do not affect page rankings.

google's mobile friendly label on smartphoneSince 2013, sites providing mobile users with a bad experience such as errors and redirection to irrelevant pages get less visibility in Google’s smartphone results. Now, as well as penalising poor mobile performance, the company is testing a way to reward those providing good mobile experience.

To earn the new label, Google states that pages must only use software that is compatible with mobile devices, so no more Flash, pages must be readable without zooming, content must be resized to the viewport and links must be positioned so easy to tap.

A Google contradiction – what about mobile performance?

Page speed remains a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm for both desktop and mobile sites.It is well known that page delivery times are generally longer for responsive pages than for (mobile specific) pages. So there is a contradiction when it comes to Google’s dishing out of mobile-friendly labels to responsive sites.

Google themselves recommend ‘Above the Fold’ content delivery and rendering time of less than 1 second for mobile devices, to allow users to begin interacting with the page as soon as possible.

Google also provides a tool ‘Page Speed Insights’ (recently updated with mobile recommendations) to analyse pages to check they meet this speed recommendation.

Fast delivery times: a good user experience

We all know that delivery times are important to mobile user experience but exactly what is the impact of deliver time on user behaviour?

  • More than half of all time spent on retail sites takes place on a mobile device.
  • Just a one-second delay in mobile load times can hurt conversions and cart size by up to 3.5%.
  • Slow pages drive mobile shoppers to the competition, with 30% of dissatisfied shoppers saying they will never return.
  • 65% of consumers say that a poor online experience has a direct impact on their opinion of a brand

Source: Radware 2014 State of the Union: Mobile Page Speed and Web Performance

Bad mobile experience: consequences for sales and brand

Recent research illustrates just how critical it is for marketers and brands to get mobile right or risk lost sales and damage to their brand.

A recent survey by web analytics firm Netbiscuits showed that:

  • Abandonment rates were high for a range of frustrations, from slow sites to having difficulty entering info and completing tasks. Abandonment was especially high in younger age categories.
  • 91 percent of users had turned to a competitor’s mobile site to complete a task said after experiencing problems.
  • Conversely good mobile experiences were almost equally likely to lead to positive recommendations and word of mouth with 80% of respondents stating they have recommended a brand based on mobile performance.

The wheels are in motion and if the internet drivers, such as Google, are addressing the mobile issue then it’s sure time you did too. Mobile is changing fast but two things remain constant. Firstly it’s critical for business success to ensure your websites are optimised for mobile users. Secondly it’s essential to monitor mobile performance to be sure your users are getting the user experience that you think they are.