Last week, Google announced the launch of mobile-first search indexing for a “handful” of websites. Although Google’s search engine won’t be giving priority to responsive sites until later in 2018, it’s time to prepare. Bookmark this page and subscribe for all new developments as Mobile-First SEO goes mainstream. For now, let’s dive into everything you need to know to get ready.
It’s been said countless times, but mobile traffic matters. Every time mobile customers struggle to navigate your site, you’re losing money and market share. As recent studies estimate, over 55% of web traffic comes from mobile devices. Google affirms these numbers, saying “most people” are now searching from mobile.
Get Responsive, Fast
If your site isn’t responsive yet, it’s time to hop on the train. If the $2 billion racked up from mobile in Black Friday sales was any indication (especially considering the total for Black Friday online sales was $5B), your company better have a responsive site in development. The best way to ensure your SEO stays intact when the changeover occurs is to have your site completely mobile-ready in every way possible.
Mobile-First Ranking Difference
As Search Engine Land reports, “With desktop sites, Google said that content hidden in tabs, accordions, expandable boxes and other methods would not be weighted as high. But when it comes to mobile, Google’s Gary Illyes said content like this will be given full weight if done for user experience purposes. The idea is that expandable content makes sense on mobile and not so much on desktop.” While the leadership at Google expect mobile-first ranking to only have ‘minimal’ impact on changing current search results, sites who haven’t adapted properly may fall far from the first page.
As Tech Crunch reports, Google has publicly announced that, “Pages that already take advantage of responsive web design and implement dynamic serving don’t usually have to do anything to be ready.” However, while some sites have a mobile version, mobile sites occasionally hide content that’s found on the desktop version (think long product descriptions). If this is the case for your site, you’ll need to do some restructuring for a seamless transition. Your site doesn’t need to be completely identical across platforms, “but it should contain all the information users need to know about your business,” according to SEMrush. Providing as much content as possible, while keeping it fast and responsive seems to be the ultimate happy-medium.
How to Prep
So far, we already know that Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) will give your site an edge for ranking higher in mobile SERPs. Experts agree that while making big changes to SEO optimized mobile pages may be a daunting task (especially for eCommerce sites), they suggest implementing AMP to prep your Mobile-First SEO.
What We Don’t Know
How will Google index your “hamburger” navigation when it crawls your site? Will H1 and H2 tags be indexed the same on mobile and desktop so site UX can stay in-tact? Do certain photo-resizing methods give sites an upper-hand? How do mobile ads play into the new search rankings?
Flipping The Switch
It’s still unclear how exactly Google will initiate the switch-over. At the SMX West conference last spring, Google’s Garry Illyes said the new index will not come until search results are “quality neutral.” In a Google Hangout, Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller recently said Google might choose to switch-over batch-by-batch while others speculate there may be a day when Google decides to flip the switch for everyone. For now, however, it seems Google’s goal is to keep search results the as close as possible to how they appear today.
Feb. 22, 2018 — SERoundtable reported today that Google plans to phase-in the next batch of sites to the mobile first index in the next few weeks! Google’s Gary Illys made the announcement yesterday at PubCon. Again, the company said they will hold true to their promise not to move your site until you are ready… But you are getting ready, right? Let us know if you need any help getting your fully responsive store up and running!
Go Mobile Now
Redstage specializes in responsive eCommerce site development. Want to learn more about how we can help make your Magento site mobile-friendly? Shoot us a message today and let’s make your dreams a reality. View our responsive design work here.
If you’re reading this, you understand what’s coming. The Net Neutrality repeal holds the potential to be the biggest disruption to business in the past century, if not history. In a world where companies rely on digital advertising, agencies and eCommerce, the difference between life and death of brands may hinge on the whim of the world’s largest telecoms. Here’s why you need to worry.
Up to this point, a free and open internet devoid of “fast-lanes” and “slow-lanes” created a boom in business that revolutionized the way we live. In line with Moore’s law and Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns, this past century experienced exponential growth of technological development, due in no small part to the democratization of the web. Tim Berners-Lee’s creation of the “world-wide-web” in 1991 scarcely resembles the monolithic utility that is our modern Internet, only a mere 26 years later. In that same 26 years, we went from computers the size of microwaves to computers that fit in our hands.
Much has changed.
Companies who invested in the Dotcom boom flourished, bringing rise to unfathomable industrial power on a global scale; birthing magnates like Jobs, Bezos, Murdoch, Musk, and eventually, Zuckerberg. The latest Internet revolution, social media (starting with email), democratized global communication thanks to AOL, Facebook, Twitter and Yelp. These advancements further facilitated burgeoning startups like Uber, AirBnB and DropBox; companies who owe the sum of their successes to the Internet’s level playing-field.
Today, a single blogger has the same opportunity to get a million comments on a post as Walmart does. A mom and pop online store has the same chance of winning over customers as Amazon. Time, resources and budget notwithstanding, the Internet provides a fair medium for all business to compete, and we owe the state of our world to this universal marketplace of ideas.
Repeal Implications for Everyone
By repealing Net Neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reclassifies the internet as a public good rather than a utility, removing strong Net Neutrality rules and protections under title ii that bar service interference from companies like Verizon and Comcast. In doing so, the FCC now allows internet service providers (ISPs) to block, throttle or slow Internet speeds if they so choose. The implications are such that broadband providers and cable companies can now charge businesses and citizens considerable premiums for access. Want to watch Youtube? Netflix? CNN? Now you may have to pay. Want to visit the Library of Congress website or use Slack? Please pay. Want to serve ads on any of these channels? Better get a bigger budget because they might not load…
“Repealing net neutrality will definitely have winners and losers. The winners will obviously be the large telecom companies who will have more control over their networks and profitability. The biggest losers will be small businesses. We may end up in a scenario where the most popular content is dictated by the telecom companies and biggest players, similar to the way cable TV and cable content has been run for many years. We may very well end up being robbed of the diversity of the Internet, since only the large companies will be able to play this game.” — Adam Morris, Redstage CEO
Yes. The United States government just made this decision for the entire world. Since these telecom giants are global, these rules will impact companies of all sizes, both domestic and abroad, across the planet (should the common fears of the repeal be realized).
This kind of pay-to-play environment begs the question, “Will this be the end of the startup age?” If companies can’t afford to enter the market, they can’t make sales. With this massive barrier now placed on all businesses, can we expect investors to willingly throw money into new companies anymore? What happens when consumers can’t access their favorite sites for free?
What the Repeal Means for Advertising
Take a look at this picture. This is Times Square in New York city. If you’ve ever visited, you’ve probably been taken aback by the massive screens and billboards with flashing advertisements on every surface. In many ways, Times Square is like the Internet. It’s a place millions visit every day, that just about anyone is allowed to view. Companies pay to have their ads shown to masses who pass by. Businesses both big and small set up shop down different avenues nearby. All of them hoping to make sales from their chunk of the traffic.
If you look closer, however, you’ll notice several of the larger screens and billboards are blank. An uncommon occurrence for Times Square. However, with the title ii protections removed, it’s likely there will be fewer ads than ever before.
“On the most basic level, brands will end up paying more to have their content/ads published online. If Internet Service Providers like Comcast and Verizon begin to charge website “tolls” for being able to deliver the websites’ experience, those costs will ultimately be passed onto brands through increased cost-per-thousand (CPM). Brands with any type of content—from video to games, to microsites — could be required to provide payments to ISPs to enable the quick access to their content. With increased CPMs comes lower ROI, which leads to shrunken budgets, over time.” —MediaPost
It doesn’t stop there…
Companies wishing to display ads on certain channels may now be forced to enter deals with multiple ISPs depending on where they want their ads. As MediaPost notes, marketers may face increased costs where ISPs inhibit ad placement in a scenario “in which, say Verizon has a stake in news sites like CNN.com (but not Fox News).”
Moreover, the companies who serve branded ads like Google, Facebook and Twitter could face considerable damage, as these advertising companies may have to pay a premium to ensure the ads hosted on their channels actually load. Without this, ad companies won’t be able to gauge whether their ads were actually viewed or not, resulting in a lack of insight for the companies who pay them… You can see how the cycle breaks down… Businesses will suffer on all sides.
Say Goodbye to “Freemium” & Social Marketing
This goes without saying. You can’t offer a free-trial of a product online if someone has to pay for it. If the marketer has to pay, the company loses money. If the customer has to pay, it’s not a free-trial. Similarly, social media will no longer offer an advantage as a “free” avenue for marketers.
Millions of consumers aimlessly scroll through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram every day. As a staple of many e-tailers, especially smaller ones, unpaid social strategies allow brands to attract large swaths of customers across various demographics. This is especially true in the age of customer advocacy, when word-of-mouth customer recommendations are the leading drivers of online store sales. Once consumers and companies have to pay for access to social media sites, the benefits of unpaid social campaigns are removed. With many growing bored of Facebook and Instagram, users aren’t likely to stay… so what happens to the PPC channel these sites offer?
Let’s observe the following waterfall effect: With less social interaction from less users, less companies will invest in social. Brands that opt-out of social will lose their market share from social, resulting in less sales. This will leave only the CocaCola’s of the world to pick up social stragglers. If social media sites crumble as a result of all this, the PPC avenues brands use today will go with them. Since pay-per-click ads generally have a massive impact on business, what option will eCommerce companies have to advertise? And finally, how high will CPC get once hundreds of companies are competing for the same keyword on Google Adwords? Assuming Google can afford to continually index trillions of pages, as well as provide fast access for searches.
eCommerce Will Undoubtedly Suffer
If the dystopian vision of post-Net Neutrality plays out, there’s essentially two ways the eCommerce situation can unravel:
Scenario 1:Stores must pay ISPs to give all visitors speedy access to their site.
This means these stores will be paying ISPs to enhance customer experiences or face severe consequences for their bottom line. As SpeedCommerce describes it,
“…study after study shows that page load time is one of the most important factors in eCommerce conversion rates. If you’re a huge monolithic company like Amazon or Walmart, you’ll end up being forced to pay for the “fast lane” version of the internet to ensure that your customers have the uber-fast online shopping experience that they’re used to (and you want). However, smaller online retailers won’t be able to afford this premium, and thus their customers will be relegated to the “slow lane”: slower page load times, which could be enough to convince their customers to shop where the the experience is faster. —SpeedCommerce
What’s the alternative?
Scenario 2:The customer will have to buy a “Shopping Package” from an ISP in order to access your online store.
Imagine having to pay just to access Amazon.com. Shipping delays already give customers a headache. What happens when they have to pay just to get to your store? The answer is invariably a steep decline in traffic. To mitigate this, retailers from Walmart to small business will likely aim for higher ad budgets, but as discussed above, this is an uphill battle that leads to diminishing returns. What about social media? Wait, we covered that too in the previous section. Can we expect customers simply adjust to a painfully slow online experience? Will there be a reverse-migration from clicks to bricks?
What can retailers do? Adapt or die; and many will be forced out of the bull-pen to vanish in obscurity. John Zieger, General Counsel at Stripe foresaw the world without Net-Neutrality back in 2014: “An internet where certain retailers suffer throttled network connectivity is bad in the short term for consumer experience, and bad in the long term for consumer choice.”
For now, it seems the latter scenario might be the route things take, or worse, a combination of the two.
In October, California Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna shared this example of how ISPs manage the Internet in Portugal, a country without Net Neutrality regulations.
“…without net neutrality, big-name apps could theoretically even pay telecoms firms for preferential access, offering them money — and smaller companies just couldn’t compete with that. … Yonatan Zunger, a former Google employee, recently retweeted Khanna’s tweet, adding: “This isn’t even the worst part of ending net neutrality. The worst part happens when ISPs say ‘we don’t like this site’s politics,’ or ‘this site competes with us,’ and block or throttle it.”” —Futurism.com
A Dangerous Game
Now for the final note, and a haunting one at that. The ultimate nightmare scenario is that the incredible leverage ISPs can now weild over the market could allow them to gain a significant advantage… They now have the ability to use their new-found power to serve themselves at an unimaginable scale.
“For example, an ISP might invest in a service, then throttle competitors’ speeds. This would give their product a competitive advantage. A “double-dip” would subvert the market, empowering ISPs to choose which businesses succeed.” —chargebacks911.com.
This is the reason most people are freaking about about the vote. These companies can act with complete autonomy, and have a chance to control the free market. Now, while there are some* barriers to prevent this kind of activity, it’s still a major fear for many, and a real possibility. How can these companies objectively manage the Internet speed of their own properties without cornering the market as a side-effect? If products and services can only be effectively marketed and sold by a small group of companies, is this really the end of the free market? What will happen to the U.S. economy with hundreds of companies abandoning this ludicrously restrictive online environment for safer shores overseas (if there are any) or if major companies can’t afford to pay? And finally, how can free speech or laissez faire possibly exist in the online world?
Please leave a comment below.
Act Now While We Still Can.
While the major opinion backing the repeal is that this isn’t what ISPs will do (especially since they pinky-promise not to), but the fact that they have the option to dominate and control the market begs the question, “Why wouldn’t they?”
There’s still a short time period when Congress could reject the FCC’s rollbacks, so we all need to fight back:
Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress could issue a resolution of disapproval and overrule the FCC’s decision. But it’s not going to be easy—the CRA only provides Congress a 60 day window in which to act, and a resolution of disapproval needs either presidential support or backing from two-thirds of the House and Senate. —Gizmodo
Email Congress TODAY. Call your local Congressman or Congresswoman. There’s not much time. Here’s a link to what you can tell them from BattleForTheNet. We built our world on the web and ushered in a new age of progress. Let’s keep the web open. Let’s keep building, together.
Redstage Worldwide partner Shoppimon provides top online retailers with the ability to know about performance, technical, and content issues before their shoppers ever encounter them. By visiting eCommerce sites the same way real customers do, Shoppimon behaves like a 24/7 mystery shopper, identifying any problems that impact the shopping experience and a customer’s ability to complete a purchase. Shoppimon currently monitors over 2,000 online stores, and publishes the monthly Online Health & Usability Index bench-marking major eCommerce health and performance trends.
Creating the Ideal Customer Journey:
The ideal customer journey is fast, frictionless, and interruption-free. The best online retailers in the world have cut average site load times to tenths of a second, and have optimized the layout of each page to provide an intuitive shopping experience. Ideally, a website should also never suffer from major technical or content issues that interrupt a shopper. Unfortunately, this ideal is not possible today.
3 Things That Make or Break a Store’s UX
Every eCommerce manager should know what’s happening throughout their site, and be prepared to handle serious issues at a moment’s notice. It’s also important to be aware that no store is immune to these problems. Top retailers are prone to face these types of issues at rates similar to SMBs, with the average online retailer losing 13% of their annual revenues to them.
#1 Entry Points
Landing pages and other forms of content that push large quantities of traffic to your site, but are not functioning properly or don’t render visually as they should can make or break a marketing campaign and the sales targets you have for the month. So ensuring there are no snags in the functionality of these gateways to your site is crucial.
We speak to many retailers who check their online stores including the checkout process thoroughly in a development environment, but once it’s live, they stop testing. Due to how many moving parts there are in a checkout process, particularly custom built checkout workflows, it’s critical to continuously check that there is nothing getting the way of a customer who has already decided to buy. Shoppers must be able to effortlessly see what they’re buying, the associated costs, easily enter coupon codes, select payment methods and complete a purchase. Do not rely on customers to report problems here, because you stand to lose significant business before a determined shopper actually reaches out. We know that 4% of all eCommerce business is lost due to technical issues during checkout, but with proper attention you can identify problems before customers hit them, dramatically reducing that number.
In a recent post, Shahar Evron, Shoppimon CTO, discussed how to handle error messages with grace. He’s found that error messages are often left as an afterthought, rather than planned for during a site’s development. Something that is true of even the largest sites. Moreover, development teams regularly decide their content, leading to awkward, highly technical messages that scare customers away. Beyond having an immediate impact on sales, when messages are missing, this can also lead to error messages being exposed on a page. And this poses serious security risks. So make sure neither your site or your sales are at risk by planning for errors to occur in advance. Create simple messages that leave your shoppers with a smile on their face, and the opportunity to either continue down the conversion funnel or engage with you directly.
Site Monitoring: Top Challenges
It is surprisingly common that these things are forgotten about, or put aside, all together. Error messages are a great example where they’re often left as an afterthought. Whereas, for checkout many people know there’s a problem, but either do not, or are not able, to test reliably.
So many eCommerce managers are forced to try and identify issues manually, or wait for customers to complain. And of course by that time, significant sales have already been lost, since the vast majority of customers will simply abandon a purchase.
It’s worth noting that manual testing is highly problematic. Not only is it time consuming, but you will inevitably miss many intermittent issues. Additionally, it is very difficult to manually check multiple variations of a given workflow. For example, testing checkout with one product, vs. 3, or checkout with normal pricing vs. discounted pricing etc.
For scenarios like these, functional (automated) testing, such as Selenium scripting is ideal, but it is not used by many site operators, particularly on a production environment as it can be very complex to setup, maintain and use on an ongoing basis.
The biggest challenge with entry points and traffic gateways is that even online stores which dedicate substantial resources to monitoring their sites on an ongoing basis often overlook off-site sources traffic, such as landing pages. Many eCommerce managers assume that if its not part of the site, then it doesn’t need testing.
The Best Chance for Optimizing Your Overall CX
Awareness is #1: No matter how rigorously an eCommerce site is tested before it goes live, once it is in production it becomes a living breathing entity. Your website will change and be impacted by other integrated softwares, 3rd party services, and your customres. Issues will occur, and code will break. And it’s all par for course in managing and optimizing an online store.
Testing & Monitoring: Because issues happen, you need to keep finger constly on the pulse. Even if your development team has done an incredible job putting together a beautiful cutting-edge site, things can and will go wrong over time.
Therefore, automating testing of your store is an absolute must. Aim to use robust solutions that require less maintenance, and will provide you with clear insight into how customers experience issues, how those issues impact your business, and then help your development team quickly identify and fix their root cause.
And don’t forget to pay special attention to the campaigns and landing pages that bring traffic to your site in the first place.
With the holidays imminent, shopping is a must, and based on the crazy black Friday estimates, all the trending “cool” stuff is flying off the shelves. However, I must point out that we nerds are a misunderstood people, and where some nerdy gifts are held in high regard, others simply don’t make the cut. In an effort to right this wrong, I sent a mass email to the designers, developers and techno-forward geeks at Redstage asking for suggestions… They delivered. So from the bottom of our hearts, here’s 17 awesome & odd geek gifts for the nerd in your life.
No Christmas tree is complete without the paying homage to the doom wrought across the galaxy by the Death Star. Bring some light (side) into your nerd’s home this holiday with a warm reminder of the first blow to the Empire delivered by the Rebel Alliance. This warm, explody ornament will give your nerd a new hope and inspire many happy holidays to come.
Coffee isn’t exactly nerdy, but with great power comes great responsibility. Death Wish Coffee upholds its title as the world’s strongest coffee on the consumer market, and I personally attest to that statement. Need to write a 20 page project proposal in 1 hour? DONE. Need to network your butt off at an event and completely reverse the effects of jetlag? ALSO DONE! Need to crunch 30 hours of coding into 5 so you can enjoy the holidays? FA-La-La-La-Laaa—La-La-Laa–DONE. This stuff is powerful. Use it wisely.
Do not operate heavy machinery.
#13 Logitech Wireless Bluetooth Ultra-Portable Keyboard
The Five Minute Journal is a great way to start every day with optimism by making you focus on the positive things in your life. It comes highly recommended by well known author, entrepreneur and e-marketing wiz Tim Ferris.
Want a gift that’s both highly intrusive and also incredibly awesome? Say no more! The lab geeks at DNA11 make custom portraits that include a little piece of you or a nerd you love by using your actual DNA. Buying it for someone else? Secretly remove the cotton swab from the company’s special kit and place it into your loved one’s mouth when they’re sleeping. Next send off their DNA to a company you just heard about. What’s the worst that can happen? They might never trust you again, but these posters look really, REALLY awesome.
This little guy is sure to create a little bit of buzz this holiday. Here’s what GeekWrapped.com has to say about it: “This quadcopter is one of the smallest in the world and uses a ton of scientific and engineering marvels to fly. It’s incredibly fast, stable, and agile, offering hours and hours of high-speed fun and mid-air racing around the house.” Create the cutest non-lethal drone army ever by buying 500 of these puppies here.
Tired of putting those wireless earbuds in your ear? Wish there was some space-age technology to make your entire skull into a speaker instead? Well now there is with the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium headphones. This headset uses bone-conduction audio to boost your beats from INSIDE your head. Just don’t use them when your boss is calling…
What do you get when you combine strategic innovation, origami, and functional design? Bookniture is redefining furniture for the modern age. These amazingly engineered books unfold into tables, chairs and leg-rests that can hold up to 1000 pounds! Bring one to your next conference or throw a chair-in-a-book in your bag for a place to sit at the park.
Forget drones and the antiquated radio controlled cars of old, Sphero is here for a new generation of kids and nerds of all ages. This app-enabled robot lets you program and control the Sphero from your smartphone. You can make it change colors, teach it to roll, flip, spin and more! Definitely one of our top picks. We’re not excited to see these rolling around the office at the end of the month…
Never run out of phone battery ever again. Never be stranded in an unfamiliar city after a late client meeting or drinks after a tech conference. Here’s a handy dandy way to crank power into your phone from the genius geeks at AMPware.
Feeling like the Internet of Things hasn’t quite caught up with your lifestyle? Get ready for the next level of nerd-dom with a MYO Gesture Control Armband. Using a variety of gestures based on muscle movement, you can control everything from Netflix, YouTube and Spotify to drones and more!
Buy one or check out the full feature list at MYO.com
This insanely cool piece of geek tech lets you scan any color, anywhere and add it to your collection within the CUBE app. Great for designers and creatives of all kinds, with one click, the CUBE automatically captures color data in HEX, RGB, CMYK, LAB, LRV and more for later use.
A favorite of Star Wars geeks everywhere, you’ll find Gaderffii’s all over Redstage’s Jersey City office. Our developers and sales guys can be seen raising the staffs and yelling a threatening “Olololololol!” battle cry whenever they complete a project or score a goal in foosball. The Gaderffii or “gaffii stick” was the traditional weapon of the Tusken Raiders of Tatooine, adopted by the Rebels and Ewoks alike as a powerful tool and lethal melee weapon. The Gaderffii makes an excellent addition to your nerd’s collection, trophy case, or office cubicle. You can learn more about this weapon’s history on this Wookiepedia page.