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What takes precedence in 2018? Desktop, voice search, or mobile?

Last updated: 20/09/2018

For business owners, Google and its developments – of which you’ll know there are many – can seem a minefield. Just as soon as you get your head around one new update, another comes along.

You’ll have spotted articles here on The Evergreen Agency site before, in which we talk at length about the many updates the platform rolls out – all of them keeping brands like ours very much on our toes. But what is taking precedence in 2018? Is it desktop, voice search, or mobile?

We’ll start with Google’s ‘mobile-first indexing development’…

What is mobile-first indexing?

It was announced earlier this year that Google would be going mobile-first in terms of its indexing system, but what exactly does that mean? In short, the search engine will now be crawling the mobile version of your web, before it crawls its desktop counterpart.

The reason for this is simple: more of us now browse online via our mobiles, so why wouldn’t Google introduce an indexing system which favours the way we surf the net?! So, what that means for us business owners is simply that we need to up our game in terms of the way our site looks – and more importantly, how it performs – on a mobile.

In the online announcement, Google said: “…our crawling, indexing, and ranking systems have typically used the desktop version of a page’s content, which may cause issues for mobile searchers when that version is vastly different from the mobile version.”

Want to know if your website is mobile-friendly?

If you’ve heard the word ‘responsive’, you may have wondered what it means. Basically, it means ‘mobile-friendly’ – and if your site’s mobile-friendly, viewers will be able to load it onto their mobile screen with no trouble. As well as being quick to load, it’ll also be easy to read – and navigate.

Often, themes or designs used to create the desktop version of your site don’t translate so well onto mobile, with text being lost, appearing bigger or even smaller, or pages failing to load correctly. But if your website isn’t mobile-friendly, it could mean people don’t stay on it very long; worse still, it might ultimately result in you losing business.

So, what can you do? Simply click this link and you’ll be taken to Google’s ‘mobile-friendly test page. From here you can add in the URL of your website and hit the ‘Run Test’ button. You’ll then be taken to a screen which offers analysis on your site and if it’s suitable to view easily on a mobile phone. All being well, you should see the below:

What about desktop?

Is desktop search no longer important, then? According to Moz.com’s recent ‘Whiteboard Friday’ video and blog instalment, we should still all be optimising on desktop – as some traffic will still come via PC or MAC. Why alienate that audience, even if it is smaller?!

In the video, Moz.com’s Dr Peter J Meyers suggests that we shouldn’t see our website traffic as ‘three distinct groups of people’, as by believing this, we can make ‘some very bad decisions’.

While some might initially grab their mobile to search for your products or services, they may later end up on your site via desktop, too. ‘Moving between devices’, audiences rarely choose one and only one method from which to obtain the information they’re looking for.

Dr Peter talks about a Google study called The Multiscreen World, which was undertaken around six years ago.

He says: They found six years ago that 65% of searchers started a search on their smartphones. Two-thirds of searchers started on smartphones six years ago. Sixty percent of those searches were continued on a desktop or laptop. Again, this has been six years, so we know the adoption rate of mobile has increased. So these are not people who only use desktop or who only use mobile. These are people on a journey of search that move between devices, and I think in the real world it looks more something like this right now.”

The key here then, according to Dr Peter, is to continue to put your time into optimising all three channels: desktop, mobile, and voice-activated search.

If, for example, you’re seeing great traffic across all three, don’t drop the ball. Likewise, if one of the three key audiences is failing to bring you as much traffic, work out how you can put in place some changes that’ll increase visitors to your site.

Let’s talk about voice-activated search, then…

Should you be optimising your site for voice-activated search queries? Absolutely! Take a look at this piece by Econsultancy, which touches upon the fact that mobile voice search was once the dominant type of voice search, but has ‘ceded some ground in the past couple of years to smart speaker voice search’.

This is, of course, down to the popularity of devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo, which people are increasingly using as a kind of digital, domestic ‘assistant’. Need to know a measurement conversion for a cake? No problem. Want to know how hot it’ll be in your upcoming holiday destination? Your device has the answer.

With new voice-search gadgets from Apple, Baidu, Facebook, Microsoft, and Samsung all due to launch their own versions, it’s clear that voice-activated search is fast on the rise. The Econsultancy piece suggests that, according to eMarketer.com, more than 18% of the population in the US (and 21.9% of internet users worldwide) will use a smart speaker once a month or more.

So, is it worth optimising for voice search, alongside desktop and mobile?

According to Econsultancy, “early research indicates smart speaker owners use voice on their devices much more frequently that smartphone owners”, going on to say: “…figures show that this is an audience who are engaged with their devices (using them multiple times per day), and is still growing.”

Adding questions into your website will be beneficial when people are searching for relevant answers. And with figures from Statista showing that sales for smart speakers will grow in 2019, now’s certainly the time to be utilising voice search SEO tactics just as much as you might with desktop and mobile searches.

 

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