Designing a mobile app used to be a fairly simple process. Before Ethan Marcotte pioneered Responsive Web Design in 2010, mobile sites were simple desktop sites crammed into a smaller screen.
However, as the medium has become more advanced through features such as touch technology, users are now demanding more. Today, mobile designers need to read the teachings of experts such as Josh Clark (author of Designing For Touch) and ensure the user’s experience is considered from a mobile perspective rather than a desktop perspective.
Just as users are now demanding more of mobile designers, Google is also taking a much tougher stance against mobile sites in an effort to streamline the “user experience”. Indeed, one of the first major changes, as noted by Greenlight Digital in September 2015, saw Google take a stand against app install interstitials.
Picking up on users discontent at having their browsing experience affected by ads that cover the entire page, Google has decided to act by classifying them as “no longer mobile-friendly” according to Greenlight. However, as the digital marketing agency also noted, “app install interstitials are not the only methods of advertising which interrupt mobile user browsing,” and Google appears to be tackling these issues too with a raft of recent changes designed to improve a user’s overall experience.
Indeed, Greenlight’s report was followed up by further “mobile-style” changes in the desktop world after Google announced the removal ads from the right side of its search page in early 2016.
Set to roll out across all languages, this change will, according to Jennifer Slegg at TheSEMPost, mean that online users will get a more mobile-orientated search page in the coming months.
The Three Tenets of Mobile Optimisation in 2016
Taking into account the recent comment by Slegg, there appears to be a clear attempt by Google to focus more on users’ experiences in a mobile setting (even if it’s online). In fact, other Google trends also seem to suggest that the way in which mobile users are targeted is starting to change.
As we’ve already stated, one of the biggest changes to affect mobile sites was Google’s recent move against mobile interstitials.
According to tech writer and Greenlight Digital consultant Matt Hawes, we now know that any mobile sites with interstitials will be marked as not mobile-friendly. What does that mean for webmasters? In a nutshell, you’ll have to find new, less intrusive, ways to display ads on your mobile site.
Instead of force-feeding users adverts that they may not necessarily want to see, you’ll have to reduce the impact of your ads and make them more relevant to the overall browsing experience.
Make it Personal
Another major change from Google HQ also came at the close of 2016 with the launch of Customer Match. Part of Google’s mission to make advertising less general and more tailored to each specific user, Google match now allows webmasters to upload their contact list to Customer Match and reach browsers in a new way (Marketing Land’s Jose Cerbrian sees this as particularly important for engaging inactive customers via Gmail).
Basically, Customer Match will display personalised ads across a variety of platforms, including YouTube, Gmail and Twitter each time the user (entered into Customer Match) signs into their Google account.
For mobile webmasters this goes back to the previous point: make things less intrusive and more personal. Instead of focusing on on-site banners, use your email contacts to promote yourself across Google’s network in a subtler way.
Content Not Ads
The other way to optimise your site in 2016 (as it was in 2015) is focus on better content. As outlined by MarketingPros, when it comes to SEO, high quality content is a must. Taking data from Ascend2, 72% of marketers said SEO provided an excellent return on investment (ROI).
If there’s one lesson you should take from this guide it is that Google wants us to improve the user’s experience. One of the simplest ways to do this is increase the quality of your input and focus less on your ads. As discussed by Robert Wulff of TributeMedia, studies by the likes of SEOmoz have shown that organic results (generated through SEO) are 8.5X more likely to be clicked than paid adverts.
Quality has always been king on the internet, but now it’s becoming even more important for webmasters. The negative view of interstitials is likely to be extended to other ad forms in the coming years and that will mean your content is even more exposed.
Instead of hoping you can lure users in with a few keywords and get them to click and ad, you’ll now have to ensure your content actually gives something of value to the user and that, above all else, is what all mobile site owners should be focusing on in 2016.