Nothing is more pervasive in the digital age than searching the web. But new research finds that the way we search may be evolving—and the implications are particularly significant for web designers and content marketers.

New data from enterprise SEO and content performance marketing firm BrightEdge reveal that mobile website traffic is outpacing traditional desktop traffic, with mobile searches on Google now representing 57 percent of all search traffic. In addition, the research also indicates a significant shift to a new mobile-first index.

In October 2016, Google announced that it was running experiments to make rankings dependent on website mobile optimization, as well as show mobile site previews in search results. BrightEdge research data confirms that two distinctly different content experiences are already being presented to mobile and desktop users. Going forward, BrightEdge will continue to report on mobile and desktop disparity monthly.

Mobile traffic outpaces desktop as mobile revenues accelerate

According to the research, mobile search represents 57 percent of all search traffic on Google. With Facebook recently reporting that mobile advertising drove 87 percent of ad revenue, mobile alters the traditional digital advertising landscape and presents challenges to marketers to deliver a consistent customer experience across devices and channels.

“Mobile traffic is huge for us and our industry—above the 57 percent BrightEdge is reporting,” said Carlos Spallarossa, director of SEO at L’Oréal, in a news release. “We are developing content with a mobile- first perspective to connect with our users with info, use advice, and reviews—especially when they are near a store where they can easily purchase.”

The gap between mobile and desktop search widens

Google’s mobile-first index is becoming more prominent 

The data tracked Google’s experimentation with the mobile-first index since the index was initially announced in 2016. In June, 79 percent of all searches were different across mobile and desktop. This indicates that marketers must optimize for both mobile and desktop to deliver the best customer experience.

The gap between mobile and desktop search widens

Optimizing for mobile and desktop is mission-critical

The new research confirmed that emergence of two separate search indices––one for desktop and one for mobile––with 47 percent of keywords in positions 1-20 rank differently on search on mobile and desktop SERPs.

The nuances and implications of a mobile-first index are significant. For example, brands will find that their rank changes across mobile and desktop, driving changes in conversions and revenue.

Different types of content will appear for the same search term based on if the user is using a mobile device or traditional desktop computer.

Winning with micro-moments requires a fresh look at content strategy

Not only does Google rank differently across mobile and desktop, it is also surfacing different content across mobile and desktop 23 percent of the time.

The range across verticals is 14-35 percent, a trend that is likely driven by the following factors:

  • Google is optimizing the customer experience––which is different across mobile and desktop.
  • Brands thinking about micro-moments must identify customer intent, and through these findings drive content creation to win those specific micro-moments.
  • Even though marketers are moving toward responsive sites, it is important to recognize how devices are driving and influencing the search intent and providing insights into customer needs.

In June, BrightEdge analyzed the content shown for particular queries and found that the top-ranking page was different between mobile and desktop for an average 23 percent of the time among the top 20 ranking keywords.

  • This means that while a brand may appear on the first page for a desktop query, 23 percent of the time it will also return a different top-ranking page on the mobile SERP.
  • Brands that don’t track mobile carefully will have traffic arriving on pages that are almost certainly different than they expect.

BrightEdge advisory: Making the most of the mobile opportunity

BrightEdge has found that not all mobile content is created equally; what works and reads well on one device type may not work on another (for example, mobile vs. tablet). Mobile content success is based on understanding the customer experience and serving content for the customer in key moments along their purchasing journey.

To take advantage of this opportunity, BrightEdge advises that marketers:

  • Design and optimize their websites for speed and mobile friendliness
  • Identify and differentiate mobile vs. desktop demand
  • Understand different online consumer intent signals
  • Produce separate mobile and desktop content that resonates on multiple device types
  • Focus on optimizing mobile content and mobile pages to improve conversions
  • Track, measure, and compare mobile and desktop results continuously

Download the report here.

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Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders.

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