Poll Results: Did the Mobile-first Index Affect Local Businesses?

The mobile-first index should have come as no surprise to local businesses. Google announced its plans for mobile way back in 2016, and its slow rollout has given businesses plenty of time to adhere to the new expectations.

In July, many local businesses received notifications that mobile-first indexing was now enabled for their sites. And with Google’s John Mueller confirming once and for all that you cannot opt out of mobile-first rankings, it’s absolutely vital that websites are optimized for every device.

Now that everyone’s had time to get used to the new ranking parameters, we wanted to find out what this change has meant for local businesses.

We asked our user base of local business owners and local SEO professionals to share their experiences and opinions on the mobile rollout, exploring:

  • If local sites are optimized for mobile
  • How local rankings have changed
  • What’s held businesses back

A huge thank you to the 400 people who answered our poll.

Are the sites you manage optimized for mobile?

Are the sites you manage optimized for mobile?

  • 63% of businesses were ready for the mobile-first index before it was enabled for their sites
  • A further 10% have optimized their sites since
  • 14% of respondents’ sites aren’t mobile-optimized, with a further 13% being unsure

73% of respondents told us that their sites, or the sites they manage for clients, are optimized for mobile.

While the vast majority of these sites were optimized ahead of the switch, a small proportion have made the changes since. Better late than never!

A significant number of respondents told us that their sites aren’t mobile-ready, with others not being sure. Google developed the super-handy Mobile-Friendly Test to analyze if your pages are easy to use on mobile, and to show what your site will look like.

Mobile-Friendly Test

How have rankings changed for the sites you manage?

How have rankings changed since mobile-first indexing rolled out to local businesses?

  • 22% of respondents reported improved rankings since the mobile rollout
  • 14% have seen a drop in rankings
  • 22% saw no change

Interestingly, 43% of those polled weren’t sure whether they had seen ranking changes since the update.

Of course, it can be difficult to attribute changes to specific causes (especially as the last few months have been so tumultuous). To keep track of your business’s rankings, you can sign up for a free BrightLocal trial.

Since the mobile-first index rolled out, 36% of the remaining respondents saw a difference in rankings – with more seeing a positive increase than those experiencing losses.

Businesses that do not ensure their sites are mobile friendly risk ranking drops. The 44% of respondents who saw increases or saw no change are likely to be meeting Google’s expectations.

What has held you back from optimizing your sites?

What held you back from optimizing for mobile?

  • 42% of respondents experienced challenges optimizing sites for the mobile-first index
  • 10% weren’t aware they needed to become mobile-friendly
  • 13% say they don’t have the budget to change

We asked our users to share the challenges they’d faced optimizing their sites for mobile. While more than half of respondents didn’t face any issues, there are a few problems holding businesses back.

15% of respondents told us they didn’t know where to start optimizing their sites. If you are confused too, start with Google’s best practices, and if you need more help, Jamie Pitman shares his top tips here

The second most cited challenge was local businesses’ lack of budget. We know that it can be difficult to spare cash for website changes, but if businesses want to be seen on Google, they really will have to put budget aside for mobile optimization.

It’s by no means a certainty that websites will need to make major changes, but with 97% of consumers looking online for a local business in 2017, businesses need to ensure they can be found.

A worrying 10% of respondents didn’t know their site needed to be optimized for mobile. This awareness may be skewed by the fact that the poll was made up of BrightLocal users, who are likely to be more informed of mobile requirements, so the overall proportion of local businesses unaware of the necessary changes could be far higher.

8% said they didn’t think it was important. I should reiterate here that Google now prioritizes sites that are usable on mobile devices in rankings whether results are appearing on mobile devices or not. Not being mobile friendly may not automatically tank your rankings, but would you risk it?

The Biggest Challenges with Mobile Optimization

  1. “Getting clients to realize responsive websites need to look good on all devices, not just a desktop.”
  2. “Explaining why these changes are important to our clients.”
  3. “Getting clients to prioritize this with respect to other matters within the greater marketing budget”
  4. “Achieving a good site speed on mobile.”
  5. “Clients not wanting to spend money on site redesign.”

Your Thoughts on Mobile Optimization

  1. “The fear of Mobilegeddon seems to be a bust. No penalty, no advantages from a direct rank correlation for our clients. Indirectly, perhaps, but there’s no metric to easily measure/report on that – so it’s not something we’re promoting.”
  2. “Responsive sites are not difficult, just another aspect of the www.”
  3. “Most clients have a responsive site design and can’t do anything different between mobile and desktop manually. It just is what it is based on how the site is coded for responsiveness.”
  4. “I have not had any issues with mobile. I build sites mobile first and have for years.”
  5. “If clients do not have a mobile responsive site, they don’t receive mobile-first rankings. Some don’t care to understand that.”

Despite the advance warning from Google, many local businesses are still in the dark about the mobile-first index. Has it affected the sites you manage? Let us know in the comments below.

The post Poll Results: Did the Mobile-first Index Affect Local Businesses? appeared first on BrightLocal.

Service Area Businesses: GMB ‘Service Area’ Update and SERP Clicks Analyzed

Big news for Service Area Businesses (SABs) this week, as Google has confirmed and rolled out a change to the way you set your service area in Google My Business (GMB).

Whereas previously you could define the radius around your business address (e.g. ‘Serving customers within 40 miles’) in GMB, you now have to define your service area by region, city, or ZIP code instead.

As this is no longer tied to your business address, you now have the option to not display this in your GMB if you don’t serve customers at your business address. This will be a welcome relief for SABs having to turn customers away from their front doors!

In addition to this news, GMB Gold Product Expert Ben Fisher published a few notes on this change in this excellent Local Search Forum thread:

  1. SABs will now be able to create a listing without designating an address (verification may still be required in most instances).
  2. Increased focus on place-based service areas to provide human-readable descriptions
  3. Existing SAB’s will be able to remove their address.
  4. Removing your address and not designating a Service Area will default to the country.
  5. Existing radius areas will eventually translate to places (cities, zips, etc.)
  6. If postcard verification is needed, the address will not show on maps.
  7. The core reason for this is to better match the consumer to SAB’s.
  8. If you designate multiple service areas, Google will rank them equally.
  9. Drastic changes to your service area could require re-verification (e.g. changing from AZ to NY)

Source: Local Search Forum

It will be particularly interesting to see how much this affects how Google’s Local Services Ads (LSAs), which appear at the very top of SERPs for searches for service areas businesses in certain parts of the USA.

Where Do People Click on SERPs for Service Area Businesses?

On that note, as part of our recent study into the impact of LSAs on SERP clicks, we broke down where and why users click on particular SERP links when searching for a SAB.

Even though the study was ostensibly about LSAs, we noticed some really interesting trends on clicks on standard SAB SERPs (for searches like ‘plumbers san francisco’).

Breakdown of clicks on SERPs for Service Area Businesses

As you can see, more than 50% of all clicks on SAB SERPs (without LSAs present) go to organic search results, and an impressive 32.26% go to the Local Pack. Although PPC ads appearing at the top of the page receive a credible amount of clicks (14.11%), the same can’t be said for PPC ads at the bottom of the page, which receive a paltry 0.44%.

Click here for a full visual representation of these clicks on the page, complete with a side-by-side comparison of clicks on SERPs when LSAs are present.

That’s the ‘what’ covered; now it’s time to look at the ‘why’, which reveals some really interesting motivations behind clicks that can help your refine your local SEO strategy.

Why Do Consumers Click Where They Do on SERPs for Service Area Businesses?

Reasons for Clicks by SERP Type

This data reveals a few key things that should help anyone working with a Service Area Business to focus on areas that will really make a difference to clickthroughs.

Most people click on directory links

Firstly, nearly a third of people who clicked on an organic result did so because they knew it was a link to a directory. Although these links tended to appear the highest in organic rankings, you’ll notice that only 8% of people clicked an organic link because of its position on the page.

This strongly suggests that those in the local SAB research phase are highly likely to be looking for a list of the ‘best’ or ‘top’ businesses, rather than refining their search based on what appears in the SERP.

This means it’s absolutely crucial for your SABs to be included in directories to stand a chance to appear in one of these directory lists when a local search is performed. (We just happen to be a dab hand at citation building if this is something you’re looking for assistance submitting to online directories.)

Reviews are king in the Local Pack

When it comes to the Local Pack just beneath the map, an astonishing 50% of people said that their clicks on these business listings were primarily motivated by the review rating appearing in the Local Pack listing. Not only that, but the number of reviews was cited as the second most important reason.

This highlights how critical your online reputation is to clicks through your listing. You might be doing everything else you can to appear in the Local Pack for relevant search terms, but if your competitors are beating you on strength of reputation, you’re likely to be losing out on clicks.

We’ve researched and written extensively on online reviews, so if you need a business case to get serious about reviews, the following studies should help reinforce it.

If you’re looking for help generating, monitoring and responding to reviews, guess what, we’ve got that covered, too! Check out our recently launched tool, Reputation Manager.

The Local Services Ads Click Study

If you’re working with Service Area Businesses in the US and haven’t already taken a look, I’d strongly recommend you check out the recent Local Services Ads Study. With expert commentary, you’ll come away with a full understanding of what goes on in SERPs when someone searches for an SAB.

We’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts

How do you feel about the update to Service Area in GMB? Is it a positive or negative change? And what do you take away from these findings about SERPs? Let us know in the comments below.

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