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SEO Trends: Micro-moments and Mobile-first Indexing

by: SilverTech

Two years ago Google introduced the micro-moment, a new mobile-first concept of consumer behavior. In 2017, as US adults spend more than 3 hours a day consuming digital media on their mobile devices the concept has become even more relevant. So, what is a micro-moment?

Micro-moments are moments of intent – purchase moments, research moments, and discovery moments – that happen on a mobile device. During the early days of smartphone usage and adoption, it was common for consumers to complete purchases on their desktop computers. The frustrations of having to pinch and zoom to read product descriptions and the difficulties of managing a shopping cart on a mobile device were not worth the hassle.

Over the past two years, several improvements to smartphone technology and the infrastructure of the Internet have made those frustrations obsolete. Screen size has increased, eCommerce sites are overwhelmingly responsive, and, we trust our smartphones enough to enter payment information.

According to Google, micro-moments are only multiplying, and “people can’t remember what it was like to not be able to learn, do, or buy things when the need struck by reaching for the device in their pocket.”

Increased Trust: “Best” and “Right Now” Searches

It is likely that the smartphone in your pocket or in your hand or somewhere in your immediate vicinity is not your first. Personally, I was a latecomer to smartphone adoption – the iPhone 5 was my first. However, I am already on to my third device on which I consume on average, 2 GB of data a month. I create several GB of photos and messages every month. And, I store my credit cards on my phone and routinely make purchases from my device. Five years ago, I didn’t even own a smartphone. Now, it is an extension of who I am. In recent research, Google cites several new “well-advised” consumer behaviors that signal this increased trust and lived-in behavior is pervasive among all smartphone users.

First, mobile searches for “best” have grown 80% in the past two years. For decisions big and small, we are increasingly turning to our mobile devices. For example, mobile searches for “best toothbrush” have grown more than 100% on mobile in the past two years. This increase, not only signals increased trust in our devices, it also signals that it has become much easier to do such research on your mobile device. Certainly, two years ago, consumers wanted the “best toothbrush” they just weren’t asking their mobile devices for help with such a decision.

The second shifting consumer behavior is the increase in “right now” searches. Compared to just a year ago, smartphone users are 50% more likely to expect to purchase something immediately while using their smartphone. The in-between moments of life – the waiting room at the garage or the doctor’s office, standing in line at the movie theater, or waiting for soccer practice to end – are now potential purchase moments. Consumers are not waiting to get home to their desktop computers to make important purchases. They are researching and completing purchasing decisions at the moment of intent and using the device that is on their person at that moment.

How to Respond to the Micro-moment

What does this mean for your organization? You’ve likely anticipated the shift to mobile and your organization already has a responsive website (in a forthcoming post, we’ll talk more about mobile-first design and the primacy of a responsive site versus a separate mobile site). However, is all of your content available on a mobile device? Do you have forms on your website? If so, can a visitor fill them out without having to pinch and zoom? After the form is submitted does the experience continue to be mobile-friendly? Is your gated-content accessible on a mobile device or do your visitors have to wait until they are seated at their desktop? If the answer is yes, your visitors have to wait, it is unlikely that they will.

It’s not just for accessibility reasons that every aspect of your customer’s journey needs to be mobile-friendly. There are serious ramifications for your search listing too. It is Google, the world’s pre-eminent search engine, that is conducting this mobile-first research. It follows that they are shifting their practices and priorities based on this research. Sure enough, in November of 2016, Google announced experiments to make their index mobile-first.

Though search behavior is shifting increasingly toward mobile, Google’s algorithms still look at the “desktop version of a page’s content to evaluate its relevance to the user.” Mobile-first indexing will mean that Google will scrape the mobile version of your website before the desktop version. Think back to the questions I posed above. Is all of your content available on a mobile device? Oftentimes, to make our websites adapt to mobile devices we hide content. Perhaps a paragraph of text that appears on your homepage disappears because there’s no room on a smaller screen. But, if that text does not show up on your mobile site, it may be overlooked completely when Google shifts to mobile-first indexing.

The new reality for marketers as we race toward 2018 is that the mobile device is not just one of many devices that will be used to access our content, it is the device. UX designers are shifting their thinking. Oftentimes now, the redesign of a website starts on the mobile device and the desktop experience is the secondary consideration. As we optimize our content, marketers need to make the very same shift – give primacy to the mobile experience as it is increasingly the only experience new consumers will have of our brands and our content.