Google: mobile-averse online print providers are going to be penalized


eCommerce is digital, digital is mobile and mobile is fast – that by no means applies to every online print provider’s mobile website. But it should do, because Google is rolling out an update in July that factors load times of mobile sites into the rankings!

Speed has been a relevant desktop ranking factor since 2010 – it will apply to mobile search results from July 2018 onwards as well. If user behavior shifts further in the direction of mobile, then that could create new circumstances in the online print sector too. That’s because more and more customers are enjoying a user experience courtesy of their smartphones. So speed matters – if you as a store operator don’t want to annoy your customers right at the start, i.e. when they access your website, then you need to keep an eye on load times and on mobile end devices too. And that is exactly what Google will be paying more attention to from the summer of this year onwards – and giving load time performance a higher weighting in mobile page impression terms. That’s not good news for many eCommerce providers. And for online print providers? That depends – some started tackling the mobile display issue a few years ago, while others are still dragging their feet. But what exactly is going to change? Here is the background…

Google calls it the “Speed Update” and, as previously mentioned, is therefore focusing more on speed as a ranking factor. Who is affected? Basically every store operator that takes an interest in their website’s search engine ranking and UX. Performance will therefore be included, irrespective of how the website is structured. Content of course remains highly relevant. But I am only aware of a small handful of online print provider websites that deliver both products and really essential content, which enables them to achieve good rankings despite having longer load times. It’s worth thinking about that. – this is what good to very good mobile performance looks like; source: PageSpeed Insights

Operators of B2B print stores should incidentally not sit back and hope that mCommerce –here I am factoring in both mobile searches and purchases, as it were – only applies to B2C business. All customers – and by that I mean B2B customers too – are interacting more and more with their smartphones. Here you can assume that smartphone searches, which “originally” did not occur on these mobile companions, are undergoing a process of consumerization. Anyhow mobile purchases are set to increase by up to 35% by the end of this year; search requests via mobile end devices exceeded the 50 % mark long ago.

Many users now realize that online print orders are only seldom placed via cellphone, but the more convenient that cloud applications get, the simpler it will be to order direct via cellphone. For this purpose I conducted a couple of tests, the results of which I shall be posting in a few weeks’ time.

For this reason I have once again reviewed my familiar list and added several more online print providers.

Of the websites listed here, well over 20 % are currently not mobile-compatible, according to Google‘s website enhancement for mobile devices test. Is that satisfactory? In comparison to my last review in October 2016: yes – in absolute terms: no. Of course you can extend this list almost at will, but that does not improve the proportion of mobile-compatible websites operated by online print providers in the D/A/CH region.

“Higher bounce rates and lower conversion rates – slow websites actually only have disadvantages. For some D/A/CH online print providers that means rectifying whatever still causes your websites to lag behind and therefore pre-empting whatever Google throws at you.” – Bernd Zipper

And if you’re now asking why I have not just restricted myself to speed in the light of the “speed update”, you need to take a closer look at the issue of user experience. Obviously ranking, which is directly affected by the upcoming update, and indexing are not the same. But slow websites, which are indexed and listed by Google, nevertheless end up further down the rankings. If a website is not mobile-compatible, then its UX is not fit for purpose – and if the UX is not right, then that particular store rarely gets a second chance. You should not underestimate the so-called bounce rate. According to research findings by Roasta Research, based on Google data, the bounce rate increases faster the slower the website is. If the website takes up to three seconds, the bounce probability increases by around 30 %, while at up to five seconds the bounce probability increases by 90 %! But that can be topped – longer than 5 seconds up to ten seconds and the bounce probability increases by 123 %. As I said before, second chances are rare, because users are unforgiving in this respect and there are enough alternatives out there.

As far as the update is concerned, Google is not just taking action to deliver “better” results to users, but in its own interests as well to maintain the appeal of the search engine. This step is not surprising if you consider that there are now around twice as many product searches on Amazon as there are on Google. Some print providers may think that this search engine power struggle does not affect them, but that is wide of the mark, because it does and in fact more so than they realize. That’s why I will keep my eye on how this pans out…  But let’s return to the update. How can I check my performance and what can I do as a print provider to improve on the mobile front? To start with you need to determine whether your website is mobile-compatible or not. The above-mentioned Google tool is free of charge and provides suggested enhancements straight after the test. Just don’t expect to achieve the desired results in just a few clicks – mobile SEO needs to be performed just as carefully as desktop SEO. For that you need specialists that actually have the required know-how, because the mobile search experience needs to be just as good as its desktop equivalent. Are you primarily interested in speed? In that case PageSpeed Insights can provide you with a more or less detailed analysis of both mobile and desktop views of your website. So give some thought to the overall performance of your website on smartphones et al – and not just to speed. That’s because semantic search will in future gain in importance, in other words a website’s content will increasingly determine its relevance. So you need to create appropriate content, which keeps your customers interested, in addition to “just” your products.

Oh yes, one key point that I have not yet considered is voice search. But this issue is at least worth a dedicated article, given the mobile-centric direction in which Google is heading and the trend in voice-activated searches and purchases at Amazon.

My take: potential customers are not interested in the reasons why a website is slow to load. They only see the results (or maybe not) – and then head for the exit. Does that have something to do with your website’s load time? Congratulations, because you unfortunately then run the risk of being noticed less in future. I can hear them already, even before I have completed this text – the comments made by some print providers along the lines of “search via smartphone? That’s completely irrelevant as far as print products are concerned”. All I can say is that I too am aware – at least as things stand right now – that few complex print products can be configured or even designed by smartphone. But mobile technology is evolving in both hardware and software terms and user behavior along with it.  Grab a quick look at a website via smartphone while you’re on the move, test it out thoroughly later and place an order via your laptop. This procedure will be followed more and more frequently in future, even with more complex print products. One more thing – if you haven’t already done so, you need to switch your address to “https” ASAP. Unfortunately there are still a couple of online print providers in the D/A/CH region that have some catching up to do. So guys, start doing your homework!

Google: mobile-averse online print providers are going to be penalized
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Google: mobile-averse online print providers are going to be penalized
eCommerce is digital, digital is mobile and mobile is fast – that by no means applies to every online print provider’s mobile website. But it should do, because Google is rolling out an update in July that factors load times of mobile sites into the rankings!
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Founder and CEO of zipcon consulting GmbH, one of the leading consulting companies for the print and media industry in Central Europe. The technology and strategy consultant and his team actively support practical implementation in a wide variety of customer projects. His work involves developing visions, concepts and strategies for the players active in the print production process across a wide range of industries. His areas of expertise include online print, mass customization, strategy and technological assessment for print, and the development of new strategies in the print and media environment. Bernd Zipper is the creator and chairman of Initiative Online Print e.V. and, in addition to his consulting activities, is an author, lecturer and sought-after speaker, orator and moderator. His visionary lectures are regarded worldwide as trend-setting management recommendations for the print and media industry. (Profiles also in Xing, LinkedIn).

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