For followers of all things digital and social, Google’s announcement in April that it was expanding its use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal was big news. You can check your site at www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/ and hopefully it will be ranked “awesome”.
The effects of these changes have yet to be fully analysed by the search engine optimisation community but they do not currently affect desktop searches, so websites without a mobile version may only be excluded from mobile search results. It is worth noting, however, that click-through rates and site popularity factor into search results and if your firm loses the ability to capture mobile traffic, over time it will affect your ranking in desktop search too.
The recent changes have focused the debate on what website users are looking for, which is the more interesting and relevant piece of the puzzle when compared with the technical aspects.
Financial advisers may still argue that, because most of their business comes through referrals, their online presence is not vital. But two things are changing rapidly:
- How clients, prospects and professional connections check you out
- What device they check you out on
A decade or so ago colleagues were still checking out potential clients in Who’s Who, as few people had broadband access, particularly outside of the office. Now over 75 per cent of UK adults have broadband and research shows the majority of people will check you out online before coming to see you (see graph). Indeed, McKinsey & Company has long talked about the old fashioned sales funnel now being more of a circular customer decision journey of initial consideration, active evaluation, closure and post-purchase client experience – in all of which digital plays an increasingly important role.
Today, not only will people be checking you out online but they will be checking you out on a mobile device. According to Ofcom, two thirds of UK adults now own a smartphone. Furthermore, 51 per cent of UK adults use one to go online outside of the home. While this does vary markedly by age and is tilted away from the over 65s, usage in the 35-55 age group is high and growing quickly. That demographic is your professional connections and next generation clients who, if your website is not properly mobile enabled, are standing outside in the rain unable to find your phone number or your office’s location on their phone.
Ofcom also found that 54 per cent of UK households now own a tablet but when searching for information, browsers still dominate over apps. Apps also do not work well for SEO so there is really no good fix other than to have a website that is responsively-designed and adapts naturally to all devices including smartphones, tablets, PCs or even conference display screens.
Content is king
In May, Google’s Webmaster Tools were renamed Google Search Console, as part of its efforts to focus businesses on creating “fresh and relevant content” that “your target audience finds useful and interesting” rather than treating search as a technical box-ticking exercise. In recognising that “for most businesses, the website is now the primary channel for connecting with customers and stakeholders” it suggests website management cannot be left wholly with technical departments or developers. Key to long-term search success will be maintaining an engaging, consistently updated website, very similar to the ingredients of social media success, which (particularly in the case of LinkedIn) is also vital to presenting the right picture when someone Googles you and your firm.
Emily Morris is director of Acanthus Consulting
Three things to do this summer
1. SEO admin: Register your website with Google My Business, Bing Places for Business and Yahoo! Local, and tidy up your title tags, website meta description and website page URLs.
2. Client experience: Make sure visitors can click on your contact number to automatically dial from their phone and click through on your address to Google Maps.
3. Engagement: Talk to clients/introducers about what they want and need, and build user personas to inform further developments and a content plan to keep your site fresh and your audience engaged.