16 04, 2019

Drive Recruitment with Campus Virtual Tours

By | 2019-05-03T12:44:14+00:00 April 16th, 2019|Categories: Digital Marketing, Higher Education, Creative Design|Tags: , , |

Is there a better way to approach campus visits in the information age?

Campus tours are an excellent way to showcase your campus to prospective students. In fact, as you’re reading this, admissions offices across the country are in the midst of preparations for a very busy campus visit season.

From an admissions perspective, few things signal serious interest in your school louder than an investment of time and resources into a visit to your campus in-person.

But, today, students looking to make a decision on their academic future want as much information about your school at their fingertips as possible – and, not just about academic programs or meal plans. Your future students want to know how it feels to be on-campus, what student life is really like and whether they’ll easily be able to fit into the school culture. Oh, and, they want this information before actually committing to a campus visit.

It’s also important to remember that not every potential student has the ability to come check out your school in all it’s splendor.

More than ever and for a myriad of reasons, your website serves as a prerequisite – even a substitute – for a physical experience of your school. As such, a well-designed, high-quality virtual tour of your campus, featured prominently in high-traffic areas of your website, can be very helpful in meeting your academic recruitment goals.

What You Need to Create a Virtual Tour of Your Campus

It’s easy enough to cobble together a few short videos or images for a quick-and-easy version of a digital campus tour. However, with a too-simple approach, you’d be risking alienating your digitally native target audience, who quickly abandon and don’t easily forgive weak user experiences.

To keep the attention of your visitors, you’ll need a well-designed and skillfully executed digital strategy. That strategy should include professional-quality video/image production, a narrative tailored to the needs of your prospective students and their families, and technical skills to integrate the tour into your current higher ed website.

Your internal marketing team can handle the script writing and your site developers/webmasters can create the digital experience on the website. However, unless your school has a top-notch film program, you’ll need to procure the services of a qualified videographer to manage the video production of your virtual tour.

Virtual Tour Best Practices

Your school’s virtual tour does not have to be just like your rival school’s virtual tour. Every college and university has something that makes it unique and special, and your virtual tour should reflect the qualities that make your school stand out.

That said, to create a virtual tour with maximum potential for conversion, you should consider the following best practices:

Narration

The virtual tour should be a guided experience, just like an in-person campus tour. Recruit your current student tour leaders for the role of video campus tour guide, or find a few willing student participants. Having a real student provide the narration will help your prospective students better connect with the content of the tour.

Interactive campus map and controls

The best part of a digital tour is that you can skip to the parts you’re interested in the most. An interactive campus map and controls put your site visitors in charge – exactly how digital users prefer.

Panoramic, feature-rich images

Providing users with even more opportunity to explore on their own, panoramic images deliver breathtaking, encompassing views that can be further explored through exploratory clicks.

Mobile-friendly design

Keep in mind that your school’s virtual tour is almost as likely to be accessed from a mobile device as it is from a desktop. As such, it’s important to gear the experience for mobile use. This includes keeping video and image files as small as possible to keep load times low. Breaking up video into small chunks – a short clip at each location, as opposed to one, long, continuous video – will also help keep the experience lively.

Accessibility

It’s imperative that the development of the virtual tour digital experience take into account web accessibility guidelines. This will ensure that screen readers and other devices that help people access and navigate the internet will be able to do their jobs. Accessibility should be considered in layout and control design. And, don’t forget to include closed captioning for the narrated portions of your tour.

Tracking 

Tracking user interaction with your site can yield tons of information about your target audience. It’s something that you’re probably doing already with other parts of your site. Tracking how visitors navigate to the virtual tour and their subsequent user journeys can help you better understand your user needs and interests. That, in turn, can help you optimize your call-to-actions and provide valued information that drives users to begin the application process.

Beacon Knows Digital Marketing

Want to know how to maximize your investment in a virtual tour? Request a complimentary website audit, and let Beacon digital marketing experts show you how to get the most out of your higher ed website.

15 01, 2019

Could Your Higher Ed Website Stand to Lose Some Weight?

By | 2019-01-29T08:52:20+00:00 January 15th, 2019|Categories: Digital Marketing, Google Analytics, Higher Education, SEO|Tags: , , , |

Happy New Year, everyone! How are you doing with your resolutions?

Ok, ok… put down the pitchforks. This is a safe space.

Every year, as the calendar turns, Americans rush to empower themselves to do those things that we find difficult. One of the most popular resolutions, year after year, is the commitment to get in shape. Come January, gyms swell with new members, even if the new recruits only stick around through March.

January seems to be THE months to shed those extra pounds that have accumulated throughout the previous 11. But, as we’re all collectively and diligently keeping our minds on our waistlines, I thought I’d shift our focus just a tad… to overweight websites.

Did you know that your higher ed website is also prone to unhealthy weight gain? It’s true.

The digital “weight” is the content that your website hosts. Your site can’t function without content, just like a human body cannot survive without food. But, too much content, wrong content or old content can prove to be counterproductive to the goal of maintaining a vibrant, inviting and healthy website.

Thankfully, keeping your site in peak digital condition does not require a gym membership. What you will need, however, is a good model of what you want your site to be, an objective analysis of your current site as is, and a plan of action to get you to your goals.

Step One: Define Good Content

What is good content? That’s not a philosophical or a rhetorical question. It has a real answer. It’s just that that answer can be complicated and completely unique to your site.

When they choose to pay attention, people learn through personal experiences which foods work best for fueling their bodies. You may notice an extra energy in the mornings whenever you add fruit to your breakfast cereal. Or, you might feel more creative and productive in your afternoon meetings after you have a healthy smoothie for lunch, instead of the generic burger value meal.

But, what works for you, may not work for someone else.

Same with your website content. Content that performs well on another website may not deliver the same results on your site. You can’t replace those learning experiences that define what “good” is for you.

Define good content by identifying the goals that you are trying to accomplish. Is it to improve engagement? Are you trying to share knowledge? Increase conversion? Describe the ideal attributes of content for each goal.

Then, compile a short list of your top-performing content and analyze what makes those pieces work. What value does a particular page provide to your target audience? What needs are being met? Is anything relevant being left out?

At the end of this process, you’ll have a fairly good working concept of “good content” for your site.

Step Two: Audit Your Content

Once you decide what good content is, you can evaluate your site for what you’re missing, what you have too much of, and what is no longer needed. Dig in and become an expert on your website content.

Begin with a content inventory to identify all the pieces of content currently live on your site. This will help you break down your content into different categories.  At Beacon, we like Screaming Frog for these types of audits.

Once you have your list, you can segment your content any number of ways: content type (blog, landing page, toaster message), format (text, video, pic), user journey stages (awareness, consideration, conversion), etc. Include as much information and data – metadata (meta descriptions, title tags), content length, social shares, posting date, etc – as possible.

Next, add performance data for each piece of content. Google Analytics can help you identify the pages and content that attract the most visitors and drive engagement.

And finally, assess each piece of content by the goals you established. Focus your attention on content that does not accomplish any goals and leave the content that already meets your criteria alone. Once this is complete, you’ll need to decide what to do with each piece of content individually.

Step Three: Prune Your Content

This is where some of your content will meet its end.

After you’ve split out the good content from the bad, you’ll need to evaluate whether the sub-optimal content is worthy of efforts to update and improve it. Keep in mind that not all of your content can or should be salvaged.

That said, many pieces of content can be improved or re-purposed. Just because a page is not attracting a lot of visitors or driving goal completions doesn’t make it useless. A new angle, better keywords or a more sophisticated use of keywords, improved structure or a more optimized CTA can all rescue copy from the digital waste bin.

The resources and bandwidth that you have at your disposal will affect what can and should be salvaged. You may only have the ability to work on a limited number of pages. Make an action plan to improve the content with the most potential to meet your website goals.

The remaining pieces of content are the excess fat that should be trimmed.

Beacon Knows Content Strategy

Pruning your website content can be a big job. Beacon can help. Our content experts can provide valuable advice and help you come up with a strategic plan of action. Give us a call.

3 10, 2018

Higher Ed Branding & Digital Marketing Strategy

By | 2018-10-04T07:12:08+00:00 October 3rd, 2018|Categories: Digital Marketing, Higher Education|Tags: , , , |

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about competition between colleges and universities? For most people, the answer is college athletics — in the form of football and basketball games, or the other collegiate sports across the nation’s campuses.

But higher ed institutions don’t just compete on the gridiron and in hoops. The other, more important and intense competition is for students.

Big, public, state schools jostle for top billing among the best and brightest home-grown talents. Smaller, private universities go after their own, well-defined student profiles, crossing the proverbial swords with other, similar institutions. Community colleges compete with each other and all the four-year universities out there, while at the same time serving as feeder programs for these schools.

One thing is for certain – there are a lot of options in higher education. If you have a junior or senior in high school with decent grades, odds are good that your mailbox is a frequent depository for marketing collateral from a multitude of colleges and universities. Teens are also often flooded with information via emails, texts, social media ads and other targeted campaigns.

Where they end up going to school isn’t just the biggest, most exciting decision of their life. It’s also a decision-making process that thousands of higher ed professionals sink massive amounts of time and resources into.

How does your higher education institution assure success in the war for students?

Leveraging Your Brand: What’s your unique value proposition?

In a highly competitive environment, it is essential to differentiate yourself from your rivals. Higher ed institutions already know how to do this, almost instinctively — via mascots and nicknames.

The tradition of school mascots is rich. However, while Rameses the Ram, Sammy The Banana Slug and Artie the Fighting Artichoke may do a superb job of firing up your student fan base, they don’t necessarily excel at communicating your school’s value proposition – those things that make your institution exceptional and enticing to prospective students.

Identifying and supporting those unique elements is key to strong, memorable and effective marketing. Ideally, those elements should also reflect your institution’s values. Your brand is built upon and defined by these concepts. So, even if the other aspects of your brand change over time (and every brand needs a refresh and update eventually), the heart of your message remains.

Successful brands build their messaging around their core values, allowing themselves the flexibility to express those values in new and innovative ways. Consistency doesn’t have to be boring. There are countless, creative ways to communicate who you are. And the ability to do so well is exceedingly valuable in an industry where the customer profile is non-homogeneous and constantly changing.

Your Website: The centerpiece of higher ed marketing strategy

As you probably know, advertising campaigns have a higher chance of success if they are tightly targeted to specific demographics. So, as a marketer for your higher ed institution, you should be running all sorts of different campaigns to attract the next batch of diverse, motivated and talented students to your school. And all those direct mail brochures, emails, digital ads, Facebook and Instagram campaigns should lead your respective audiences to your website. That’s where all those separate audience streams coalesce into one – prospective students.

The job of your website is to close the deal – to convince students that your school is the one where they will attain their best future. To be effective, there has to be a smooth hand-off from your marketing campaigns to your website. When prospective students log on to your site, it must feel like a continuation of the same experience they started with the brochure, email, digital ad, or any other piece of collateral they saw.

Your website is the nexus of information about your school and the first place people go to find out what it’s like on campus. That means that your website has to do a credible job of accurately reflecting your school brand, with subsequent marketing efforts drawing on those brand elements. It also means that your website should be strategically recognized as the centerpiece of your overall marketing strategy. Whatever public marketing initiatives you undertake should start with the website, and emanate from there.

Beacon Knows Higher Ed Websites

If your current higher ed website is not leveraging your brand as effectively as you think it should, Beacon can help. Request a complementary audit from our expert team and let us help you shape your site into the marketing force it can be.

20 09, 2018

Testing for Accessibility

By | 2018-09-21T09:00:26+00:00 September 20th, 2018|Categories: Digital Marketing, Web Development|Tags: , , , |

Accessibility is a big deal in the world of internet marketing. After all, what good does a large investment in your most prominent digital marketing channel do if no one can see the information you want them to have or the products you want them to buy?

In today’s digital marketplace, it’s no longer good enough to cater your website just to your primary audience. All websites have to meet certain accessibility standards that guarantee that users across all walks of life, and with varying degrees of physical ability, are able to easily access and navigate your site’s web pages.

In a recent blog post, we discussed the importance of considering accessibility during the website design process. In this post, we’ll take the next step and discuss the best ways to test your design for accessibility concerns.

The Basics

The practice of accessibility testing helps website owners understand where their websites may be falling short on today’s accessibility standards and drive corrective action to optimize user experience. These are critical steps that should be completed prior to the launch of any re-designed site and continued throughout the site’s lifetime.

It is best to take a proactive approach to web accessibility testing, and the reasons why are compelling. A fully accessible website benefits users across the board, and is more likely to deliver the conversion rates and engagement you are seeking.

As with any business process, before you begin, define your goals and strategy for accessibility testing and remediation of found issues.

Site Scan Tools & Understanding Results

There are several tools that can help you tackle testing. At Beacon, some of the programs we employ for this purpose include SiteImprove, SortSite and Wave (WebAim).

Reports and analysis provided by these automated testing tools can help you identify any existing accessibility concerns, including quality of content, readability of text, link quality and other user experience problems. The programs can also be engaged to help you track the progress of your accessibility fixes.

How to Tackle Accessibility

Accessibility testing is not a one-and-done process. SiteImprove, SortSite and Wave can help us with initial analysis and are great for catching many accessibility problems. However, they are not enough for a comprehensive approach to testing. Not all design elements are scannable. As such, automated tests should be supplemented with a healthy dose of regular, manual testing.

Best practices call for consistent testing throughout the development process. This helps to track progress made on discovered issues and known concerns. It can also help you discover new issues throughout development and after launch.

Be sure to test your site in various browsers, devices and screen sizes and positions. It’s also a good idea to perform regression testing, to make sure that your site works with older versions of software.

Because your site is likely to change over time, accessibility testing should be done on a consistent basis even after your site launches – preferably, every quarter. This helps to ensure that the fixes you implement continue to achieve the intended results. It also helps to hold new content/pages to established standards.

Beacon Knows Accessibility Testing & Remediation

Could your site benefit from an accessibility audit? Give Beacon a call at 866.807.2838. We’re here to help.

6 09, 2018

Your Game Plan for Device & Browser Testing

By | 2018-09-06T12:47:41+00:00 September 6th, 2018|Categories: Digital Marketing, Higher Education, Web Development|Tags: , , |

We expect a newly designed or re-designed website to look good, be easy to use and deliver the information visitors expect. Baked into all those expectations are the assumption of basic functionality – that all the elements load and display quickly and properly, navigation menus and links actually take you where intended, and content is presented in an easily-digestible manner.

Today, we get impatient when it takes more than a few seconds for a web page to load. In the early days of the internet, however, users did not expect such a robust web experience. In the 90’s, people routinely sat in their computer chairs and listened for the chimey, electronic sing-song of their modems dialing up a connection, and waited patiently as browser homepages slowly filled their screens, one element at a time.

We’ve come a long way. Innovation constantly pushes and refines the web experience, and developers continue to press forward with new, ingenious designs and applications. There are now countless different device with varying screen sizes and operating capacities, hundreds of thousands of mobile applications and a host of popular web browsers.

A website today needs to be able to function and interact with all of these different environments. How can you guarantee that it will be able to do so?

In order to meet the expectations of your website users, prior to launch, your site must pass a rigorous battery of tests.

Understanding the Extent of Testing

The most functional websites incorporate testing throughout the design process. Testing puts the focus back on users by identifying issues that they are likely to stumble upon in their interactions with your site.

It’s impossible to know what devices and browsers your site visitors will be using. And, you don’t want to rule out an entire segment of your audience by not optimizing their experience on your site. So, it makes sense to have a responsive web design that can accommodate a multitude of available devices and browsers. This makes it necessary to test your design in all of these various environments.

Some of the things testing should cover include:

  • Functionality across all popular browsers – Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, etc.
  • A check of consistent function across multiple browser versions
  • Operations with various security settings
  • User interface rendering on various mobile screens, including screen rotation
  • Compatibility with mobile device services like location finding and dialing
  • Operations when mobile device is both in-network and out-of-network

It’s also helpful to put your site through a web load performance evaluation to know how the design responds under a heavy user load.

How to Tackle Testing

Best practices call for testing to begin while the re-design is still in the development phase. You want to catch any major glitches as early as possible. The cost of applying fixes is much higher in the later stages of the development process.

At Beacon, we plan early testing around identified functional requirements. During the strategy and design phases, various elements are selected for inclusion in the new site. Part of that process is a functional requirement assessment, which produces a description of how each element is supposed to work. When a group of elements is completed in the development phase, each element is tested for adherence to its functional requirements.

A significant amount of testing is also performed throughout the HTML and Cascade development phases, with a comprehensive assessment taking place before the site is ready for launch. These efforts are centered around various use cases and can be compared with data gathered through heat maps and session recordings to see how user experience has been improved from the older version of the website.

Beacon Knows Testing

Want to know if your website is reaching all of your intended audiences? Request a free website audit from our team of web experts, and see how you stack up.

20 03, 2018

SEO for Higher Ed: 3 Steps to Increase Enrollment

By | 2018-03-20T09:36:17+00:00 March 20th, 2018|Categories: SEO|Tags: , , |

Of all the ways to market to prospective students, the most cost efficient may be SEO. Optimizing for organic search doesn’t require the monthly cash outlay that PPC does (although you want to be doing that, too). And improving your ranking in search engines can improve brand recognition and produce actual recruiting leads.

If you focus on these three elements of SEO, you can increase enrollment and your website search rankings. It all starts with effectively targeting keywords that pay.

Step One: Organic Search Optimization

Perform a complete review of your title tags and meta descriptions to make sure you’re taking full advantage of target keywords. Google has recently increased the size of their search descriptions, meaning that you should do the same. Meta descriptions can be as long as 300 words so review yours to make sure you’ve taken advantage of this additional real estate.

Review your H1 and H2 headlines to make sure they’re keyword rich as well. Keywords should also be present within the body of your content. Finally, make sure your content links to other relevant pages within your site.

Step Two: Optimize forms and applications

Short attention spans require short forms. This is not an indictment of this generation of student. It’s simply an acknowledgement that we absorb information in smaller bites these days. Ask as little as you can to get the prospect to hit the submit button.

Consider a multi-step form process. Research indicates that when prospects are confronted by two short forms, they often feel less encumbered by the number of questions. Split test to tweak your message and maximize response. Form optimization is perhaps the most direct way you can influence conversions.

Step Three: Content Marketing – blog posts and social media

Creating meaningful content can be labor intensive. However, compelling content is perhaps the most sure-fire way of engaging the target audience and getting results – and not just soft stats.  We’re talking applications, here. Good content will give you a boost in the short and long term, so long as it is a consistent, ongoing exercise. Stop creating new content and you’ll fade into obscurity.

Whether this new content consists of testimonials, interviews with alumni or a campus survival guide from current students, make it timely and authentic, not salesy. This type of content is highly shareable. Develop a sound social media content strategy to maximize the visibility of this new content. It’s your chance to engage potential students who may have questions. Get back to them in real time. Be responsive.

Speaking of Responsive….

I’m assuming that by now your college or university website is responsive, enabling potential students to access your information on any device. If not, this supersedes everything above.

Still have questions?

Email me or speak with a member of our SEO team at 336-447-3379. Let’s discuss your website and enrollment goals. Together, let’s figure out how your website can help your recruiting efforts and meet your expectations.

 

13 03, 2018

Remarketing & Enrollment: Why it Works for Colleges & Universities

By | 2018-03-15T15:01:43+00:00 March 13th, 2018|Categories: Higher Education, PPC|Tags: , , , |

If you’re reading this article, you probably have at least a basic understanding of how remarketing works. For those who do not, remarketing ads identify those with a predisposition towards your product and nudge them to buy (or take some action).

Here’s the scenario: A user visits the admissions page for AGU (Amazingly Great University). Since AGU runs a remarketing campaign through Google, a cookie is placed that identifies the user after he or she leaves said website. The ad may be an enticement to request a course catalog, arrange for a campus visit or any number of desirable actions. As they visit other websites, your remarketing ads remind them of their initial interest and what they found compelling about your school.

Conversion rates tend to be greater with remarketing ads as the subject or target has already shown a familiarity with your school or interest in your product (an education). And the numbers say that the reminder, the subtle nudge often does the trick. Ultimately, they come back for more.

What makes Remarketing more effective for Higher Ed?

In the world of Higher Ed, the sales funnel is a protracted one. Leads must be nurtured over time as the selection of a college or university is a decision of great magnitude and has so many moving parts. It’s not something we typically do impetuously.

Remarketing campaigns appeal to a more deliberate decision making process. They can tactfully remind the potential student of the things they may have found attractive about your school or even entice a prospect to look elsewhere if your ad strategy is faulty.

Segmentation & Remarketing Strategy for Higher Ed

Segmenting your audience is the first step on the way to developing a sound remarketing strategy. Since Google enables you to target viewers based on a number of behaviors (users who visited your site or just a specific page, took a particular action, etc.), you can develop a tiered strategy based on these audiences. For example, your remarketing pitch may have a different message for those who visit your tuition and costs page as opposed to those who spend time perusing the course catalog for your school of business. Intent based segmentation can yield great results.

You’ll likely want to target your prospects by geography, too. Campus visits are easier to get if the prospect is within a reasonable travel radius, for example. Facebook offers remarketing that enables geographical targeting, too. So Facebook remarketing becomes an option for this group.

For all groups, set frequency limits for your remarketing ads. Hit them too hard and you may alienate them.

Test Your Ad Copy

Use A/B testing to determine your most effective ad copy. Try using different copy, CTA’s, and ad placements. Even after settling on a successful campaign method and copy, change the design from time to time as ads can become stale or fade into the background after a while.

What You Need to Know About Higher Ed Remarketing

Still got questions? Beacon is one of the premier digital marketing firms for Higher Ed and we’d love the opportunity to show you why. Feel free to contact me directly or give the DMS team at Beacon a call to discuss your institution and enrollment. I’d love to talk strategy with you and suggest a course of action tailored to your specific student audience(s).

 

13 02, 2018

The New Search Console: What You Need to Know

By | 2018-02-12T08:33:43+00:00 February 13th, 2018|Categories: SEO|Tags: , |

Google has released a beta version of a new Search Console experience to a limited number of users. Keeping up to date with new features is imperative for those who wish to adequately monitor indexing status and optimize the visibility of their websites.

The OLD Search Console

Google Search Console offers invaluable insight into how people are finding their websites. Search Console allows webmasters the opportunity to monitor and resolve technical website issues.

On average, Google changes its algorithm at least once a day. Granted, most of these updates are small and are geared towards weeding out spam and low quality content. However, recent updates have been more geared towards, featured snippets, job listings, chrome HTTPS warnings and more.

Due to the frequency of industry updates, Search Console needed a significant overhaul.

Get to Know the NEW Search Console

A short time ago, Google started a gradual roll out of the new version of Search Console. Scratch that. It isn’t just a new version. Search Console has been completely rebuilt from the ground up. This time ‘round, the report is purposefully focused on making it easier for users to identify and fix possible issues.

The most significant differences include Search Performance, Index Coverage, AMP Status, and (for those who post job listings on their site) a Job Posting report. Let’s briefly discuss each and the ways in which they can directly impact you and your website.

The New Search Console’s Index Coverage

The Index Coverage Report provides detailed information on who well Google is indexing the pages on your site.  Page status is reported in any of these four categories; “valid”, “error”, “warning”, and “informational/excluded”.  Here’s the best part. Google has done their best to present errors in a transparent way. Simply click on any URL listed with an error and you’ll be given links to the appropriate diagnostic tools to remedy the issue. And, the user can download or export the information should it require a deeper look.

Search Performance Report Gives You More

Similar to the previous Search Analytics report, the Search Performance report in the new Search Console shows you how often your site appears in search. But, now you get 16 months of data. Get info on clicks, click through rate, and average position.

New AMP Status report in Google Console

This too, is a report designed to help the webmaster identify and fix issues that relate to AMP pages. This report not only identifies URLs with issues, it’s a one-stop repair shop. It tells the user what’s wrong and lets you fix it.

BUT WAIT. THERE’S MORE! You can test it, too. One can only assume that Google will be placing more and more weight behind AMP pages. They’re actively encouraging website owners to address AMP issues by making it extremely easy to do so.

More Emphasis on Job Postings

In the summer of 2017, Google launched Google for Jobs as well as new mark-up specifically for job postings. It’s fair to say that they see gold in them there hills. The emphasis on job postings continues with the Job Postings report. Not only can one check to verify that job postings are indexed correctly, but data is available on your job listing results, too.

In Conclusion

Google has continued to work towards their goal of producing the best user experience – period. Thanks to Google’s updates to Search Console, webmasters can stay on top of these changes to align their online strategy with Google’s core values.

 

15 01, 2018

Mobile-First Indexing & the Rear View Mirror

By | 2018-01-18T12:26:17+00:00 January 15th, 2018|Categories: SEO|Tags: , , |

Google is all about improving the user experience.  Lately, that means adapting to the changing methods through which users consume online information. In other words, Google will be moving towards mobile-first indexing.

What does it mean for your online business? What do you need to do – if anything – to ensure that you’re out in front of this change? So that you don’t get caught in the competition’s rear view mirror, let’s discuss what’s meant by the term “mobile-first indexing” and the ways in which we can address it head on.

What is mobile-first indexing, exactly?

Up until now, Google had indexed pages with a nod toward desktop first. Going forward, your rankings will be based upon the mobile version of your site first and foremost. Don’t confuse this with a mobile-only index. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you’ll still rank. However, your rankings may be adversely affected by the change. Conversely, those who present a rich, improved mobile experience, will likely see better rankings for mobile as well as desktop versions of their website.

 How quickly will mobile-first indexing be implemented?

We’re told that Google will roll this change out very slowly. This stands to reason as no one wants to see a seismic shift of any kind in the online business landscape. And, if your customers’ mobile experience is similar to that of desktop (for example, you’re already responsive), you probably won’t have to do much  to ensure that you’re ready for the change.

However, things can move faster than originally anticipated. And, with every change comes opportunity. Even if you’ve got a responsive site and you’re ranking well for primary keywords, this is a great time to check the elements that will affect your rankings once Google shifts its focus more towards mobile.

If you’ve been maintaining two sites, one for mobile and one for desktop, you may wish to consider a website redesign – a move to a single, responsive website. If this is beyond your budgetary capabilities, all is not lost. Step one is to make sure that content is consistent on both desktop and mobile versions of the site. Verify that the mobile version is crawl-able and includes the required alt tags for images. Some of the more significant things you’ll want to check include:

  • XML sitemap.: Make sure sitemaps and robots.txt files have accessible links.
  • Structured data markup on mobile and desktop.: Make sure they’re the same.
  • Metadata: Check to see that both versions are roughly the same. They don’t have to be identical, however they shouldn’t deviate in meaning.

These are just a few of the items you’ll want to address. Your best bet is to contact your digital marketing people and let them know of your concerns. They’ll know what to do. If they’re unsure, call us. We can help.

It is believed that Google will roll out this new mobile-first indexing over a period of years, not weeks or months. No need to be alarmed. However, now is the time to plan for mobile-first indexing. After all, objects may be closer than they appear.

 

Load More Posts