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Mobile

Do I need to go AMP after all?

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By Ryan Pitcheralle

amp_295x175The Internet used across the world is most decidedly mobile; accounting for more than half of all recorded sessions. Still, most websites are not yet mobile friendly.

Most websites owners are under the belief that as long as their sites look good on mobile device screens, they are considered friendly to mobile users. Though, the friendliness they assume is heavily related to load speed instead of the “looks”. Most of what makes the site render well on mobile devices is actually leading to the extended load times due to the dependency on JavaScript and large image files.

Recent studies performed by Kissmetrics have noted that these load times are very pervasive to the bottom line. It has been commonly reported that a, “1 second delay in page response time could result in as much as 7% reduction in overall conversions”. Imagine running an e-commerce based site that typically earns $100,000 each day – a 1 second lag could cost as much as $2.5 million in lost sales a year. This means mobile is now a game of seconds.

Making matters worse, it’s known that most Smartphones have significantly less powerful hardware when compared to that of the desktop machines and laptop devices. In response to these technical limitations, Google wants to be sure that when they refer users to mobile sites, those destinations meet the expectations of users well.

Google’s solution for these limitations is known as AMP – short for Accelerated Mobile Pages.

AMP means a few important things:

  • It is a restriction on the slower bits of web technologies, with a focus on delimiting the heavy use of JavaScript, parts of HTML and thinning out of CSS files.
  • It adds custom <amp> tags to fill in lost functionality from restricting the above
  • Ads will still be supported, but there is now a list of supported ad formats and networks
  • Google provides the benefits of using a CDN through similarly caching AMP pages in order for the server to serve them up in quick order.

With that said, some of what Google is trying to accomplish is similar to the efforts already known to reduce heavy file sizes and done right, these actions would relieve the need to move into the AMP standard.

So how can we tell if our sites really do need to go AMP after all?

Ask yourself the following questions in order to determine if AMP is right for your sites today:

  • Do you have more “non-article” type pages then “article” type pages?
  • Do you have a reliance on third-party tools used for audience tracking?
  • Are you using a non-supported ad network? (link to supported list above)

Answering, “yes”, to any of the above means you may be better suited to improving load speeds on your own, within your own familiar site infrastructures.

Further considerations for skirting the new Google standard consist of the following:

You are using a CDN. Short for Content Delivery network, these networks of servers host site image and content files for when you audience requests them. Then, they are served out from servers closest to the location that the search takes place. CDNs use smart caching of files and built in compression features to speed up loads times by nearly 50%.

You’ve made reductions in the code for the mobile version of the site. AMP minimizes page load times by disabling most plugins and other JavaScript-reliant assets in order to limit code that the website needs to be downloaded by the browser before it’s viewable. Most CMSs, especially those on open source tech like WordPress, allow commands that disable functions if its senses the user making request is using a mobile device. This means you don’t need AMP to disable the unfriendly JavaScript and plug-ins.

You only require a single CSS reference. CSS files power the styles sheets of a site and overall could be considered relatively small by web standards, but typically sites have way too many of them. This leads to slow loads times since the user’s devices makes server requests for each and every CSS file. These many server requests actually lead to the slower content load times. The ideal approach is to roll-up multiple style sheets into one CSS file to rule them all.

If you have now, or are working towards, the above points, then you are already on your way to effectively reducing the size of your code base in order to make your mobile pages fast enough to refute the need to move into the Google AMP standard. Effectively, you would have developed a light and nimble site infrastructure that Google is looking for when determining how friendly your site really is in relation to the expectations of mobile users.

 

Google App Indexing Raises Visibility Of In-App Content

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By Mike Levin & Nyambura Mbugua

App_295x175Google App Indexing allows users to click listings in Google Search results and to be dropped directly into an app sub-location on iOS and Android devices if the app is present on the user’s phone. If the app is not present, normal web results are presented, sometimes with links to the app’s page within the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

Just like webpage deep links, we expect to see direct deep links in the search results to app sub-pages. A good example would be the app-based social platform Instagram. When a user searches for a term/Instagram caption based on a user’s public profile, for example “Good Marnieing” in the mobile search results bo below, the Instagram application to the public profile appears. Google SERPs show that depending on how relevant the Instagram caption/search term is the app window box will appear with the most related posts from the user’s profile.

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If a user does not have the specified app (in this case, Instagram) from where the content is derived, Google will show the “Marnie The Dog on Instagram” app button and a button to download the Instagram app on Google Play will appear in the search results.

This all lends credibility to Google’s assertion “App Indexing plays a key role as a ranking signal for how your app appears, both when the user has your app installed and when the user doesn’t. This helps you increase your install base and keeps your users coming back.”

So, does this app method work for less popular content from 6 months ago and prior? Our tests found that guaranteed uniqueness of an author’s Instagram caption did not always correlate to presence in the Google search results. Instead, Google favored serving the Web-version of the Instagram page, or no page at all for the unique term.

So is there a Google-preference for one type of content or the other (Web vs. in-app)? Will it tend to show in-app mobile content when available? If the answer becomes “Yes” then we have to start adjusting our content strategies, giving more thought to the primary place we imagine our content to reside. In-app may no longer be a second-class citizen, as far as visibility to general Web-search is concerned.

Now that app indexing plays a key role as a ranking signal and how your content appears in search results, marketers must re-evaluate their decisions about which platforms are worth being present on, and why. Previously isolated “island communities” may now suddenly find their hidden content suddenly much less hidden and their in-app communities potentially of much more interest to marketers.

And finally, app indexing may also impact a marketer’s own app-development priorities, opening the possibility of baking natural-search optimization strategies into their own app products.

 

Opinion: Mobile Done Right

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By Jacqueline Chi

Mobile295x175So here we are near the end of 2015, a year in which one of the hottest topics in the world of digital advertising has been the “Year of Mobile.” Everyone knows the reasons why. According to Google, mobile traffic surpassed desktop traffic in major world markets. eMarketer predicted in September that U.S. mobile advertising spend will account for 51.9% of total digital spending in 2015, higher than what was projected earlier in the year.

But let’s be honest. How have we been handling this change? Sure, we started spending more on mobile advertising, started thinking about responsive HTML5 websites and creative and further refined our targeting capabilities. However, ad execution strategies seem to be lagging this mobile boom.

On a large scale, it seems there has been little innovation in terms of ad formats and metrics. Mobile is still largely being leveraged using ad units adapted from display. It’s like the time when we moved from TV and print to online video and banners. At the outset, many people did not think about the difference of media interactions between offline media and digital media. We just conveniently took offline ads and converted them into digital assets. When mobile came, we shrunk banners and put them on phones. It took some time for advertisers to realize that the mobile behavior is not the same as desktop. Among other things, consumers are showrooming, conducting location-related searches, reading live feeds and looking up instant answers.

Instead of creating a customized brand experience and delivering tailored messaging on different devices, many ad efforts still use irrelevant content or go to the other extreme of throwing against the wall all available tactics—often resulting in invasive, creepy ad tracking. Not surprisingly, interest in ad blocking solutions is increasing among smartphone users, given that research around the world shows people consider these devices to be extremely personal in nature.

In short, not nearly enough marketers have customized the experience. A different form factor needs an entirely different approach. And so the experience should be tailored to the person and the “moment,” not the demographic, or psychographic or any other metrics or methodology that came before such a personal marketing communication medium.

Still, I am optimistic. One example from Hotels.com is particularly refreshing and innovative. It’s Facebook advertising effort was conceived in such a way that accounted for user behavior. When on Social Media, people are often multi-tasking and on the go. Not surprising, most Facebook usage comes from mobile users. And with that in mind, by default, videos are muted on Facebook. A user who is multi-tasking and most likely mobile while on Facebook is probably doing a couple other things like listening to music, gaming, messaging, not to mention walking around. So defaulting video to mute makes sense to avoid being invasive, leaving users the option to activate the video’s sound without interrupting their primary activity.

Hotels.com recognized that and a created a video campaign that not only had subtitles, but also a sign language interpreter. Subtitles appear if the video is muted. When the sound is on, one hears a promotion for the Hotels.com app. And if one understands sign language, one can discern an additional offer: those users are told to post comments mentioning “Gift me” to receive a gift card.


 

jchiA search geek since 2010, Jacqueline has experience in various verticals including CPG, pharma and hospitality. Prior joining Acronym, she worked at Carat USA on a Global 500 account. Besides search, she also has an extensive background in lead gen display media and paid social.

 

 

 

 

 

The interstitial ad: Friend or foe?

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By Ghennipher Weeks

So Google is doing an about-face on interstitial ads, now saying they are annoying to users of the company’s mobile app after initially recommending that websites employ them. As a result of this potentially significant reversal, Google plans to devalue, for the purposes of SEO rankings, the content behind the rich full-screen ads that greet visitors to sites like Forbes.com and Amazon. While opinions vary at this early stage — mostly because the full impact of any resulting devaluation isn’t yet clear — marketers should begin to test how interstitials affect the user experience of their specific audiences so as to be able to judge for themselves whether to abandon them.

While marketers’ bread and butter lies in online ads, internet users have become largely “ad blind.” So one of the most popular ways to alleviate this ad-blindness has been the rich-media interstitial. These full-screen ads cover the content of a webpage while it is loading, are often quite visually engaging, and are said to be more effective than banner ads.

If you’re considering including interstitials on your site despite Google’s new policy, how do they affect the experience of your audience? Consider these pros and cons.

The promise of interstitials is that with their full-screen experience, they are interactive, immersive, and make your brand stand out to delight and engage more users than basic text or ads. Interstitial ads, in particular, are often linked to monetizing the higher quality content of media companies, including sites like HBR.org.

Recently, Google did a case study on the UX value of interstitials on its own mobile app. The company’s conclusion was that app interstitials bother users, and Google is encouraging people to stay away from them. In fact, Google webmaster trends analyst Mariya Moeva said, “Speaking as a user myself, I have yet to see an interstitial that brought me some useful info and was more important than what I was originally trying to do. They’re disruptive and can be frustrating, especially if you show them right on the first page the user ever sees from your site.”[x_pullquote cite=”” type=”right”]If you’re considering including interstitials on your site despite Google’s new policy, how do they affect the experience of your audience? Consider these pros and cons.[/x_pullquote]

So Google says it will devalue the content behind interstitials on both mobile and desktop, this after initially providing app developers with interstitial tips and recommending them on its “Think with Google” site.

Do interstitials really provide a bad user experience? Anecdotal data from Google shows that nearly 70 percent of users don’t like them. (I would add that most audiences don’t like any ads at all, but that’s not part of the data being gathered.) Interstitials have been around for many years, but despite the promise of them being a delightful, immersive experience for users, I have yet to find one piece of user data describing interstitials in that way. Most audiences have the opposite view and feel that the interstitial experience is incredibly annoying and disruptive.

That said, advertisers have to walk a fine line between grabbing the audience’s attention while not frustrating them into leaving the site completely. And interstitials do seem to have a higher than average conversion rate despite their nearly universal hatred. Nonetheless, as this article was written, The New York Times announced that it when all the interstitials it has sold within its mobile app have run, the company will drop them altogether later this year. In their place, the Times will roll out what it calls “called mobile moments,” or ads that are customized to the seven moments in a given day that are most important to readers, as identified through a 12-month study conducted by the Times’ editorial product team, Advertising Age reported.

So, are the advertising benefits of using interstitials ever worth the risk? It depends. Sometimes content needs to be hidden behind a paywall or subscription login. In this case, an interstitial may be the perfect dual-purpose in-between page to give the user a chance to log in or to pay.

Another advantage of a rich-media ad like interstitials is their ability to incorporate video. There are times when the best user experience can be gained through a video giving relevant information while content loads up in the background.

There are countless advantages of interstitials for customer-focused advertisers, but there could be serious drawbacks as well. Right now, it’s not clear exactly what the impact of Google devaluing content behind interstitials will have on search results If your goals coincide with what seems to provide a better user experience with interstitials, the best way to decide whether to keep them or scrap them is to A/B test.

Google’s recommended replacement for interstitials are banner ads to provide a better user experience. Before mindlessly jumping on that bandwagon, do your own testing. Test whether banner ads provide a better user experience than interstitials. Test the conversion rates of the different ad types. And really get to know your audience. Grow in empathy for them so that you can engage effectively and create a user experience they want to return to.

Originally published at iMedia Connection http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/39193.asp

Ghennipher_WeeksGhennipher Weeks has provided conversion-driven and insightful search engine marketing and social media strategies for national and regional brands since the late 1990s. Her client portfolio includes Philips, Wells Fargo, The Women’s Information Network, The Allegis Group, TotalGym, Overstock.com, TigerDirect, Denihan Hotels and Wharton Business School. She has spoken at SES, Webmaster World’s PubCon, EVO, WITI, Blissdom, Social Media Club, Agile Roots, Blogilicious and other conferences. Weeks is certified in Agile methodologies such as a CSM and CSPO. She joined Acronym in 2014.

First Website Interstitials, Now Mobile App-Install Ads in Google Crosshairs

By Archives, Mobile, Paid Search No Comments

Mobile_298x178ArticleNot long after declaring that it would devalue, for search ranking purposes, website content that appears behind interstitial ads, Google is taking aim at app-install interstitial ads that pop up on mobile device browsers. A bid by Google to diminish the use of apps, among other possible motives, or a genuine concern for the user experience? In this Q&A, Winston Burton, Acronym’s VP of SEO, weighs in on the latest move by the technology giant.

Q: So this is ostensibly about constantly improving the user experience?

A: Google has been always focused on a good user experience. However, app-install ads can be quite annoying, especially if they take up the entire page and the go-to-mobile site button is hard to find. It’s sort of like the bad old days when you would go to a site and be served with a pop up ad.

Q: So Google is doing the right thing by clamping down on websites that use “Please Install Our App” Ads?

A: I agree that Google should do something about this. However, some of the app-install interstitials are very small and do not consume a lot of real estate. In this case, Google should distinguish between sites whose messages inhabit the whole screen to serve their app-install interstitials and those sites that take a less evasive approach by taking up a small portion of the screen.

Q: How could this be done?

A: Websites could use a link (i.e., Download Our App) but all the content on the page still would show. Another option would be to use an overlay that comes down only over a small portion of the mobile site. Perhaps Google would find this less annoying.

Q: So marketers need to be more creative in promoting their apps to be more user friendly?

A: I definitely think brands need to give users more options for opting in to download apps, with the goal of being less invasive.

Q: Do you see any less-than-obvious motivation on the part of Google?

A: Possibly. It could be another way for Google to push Google Play. If Google penalizes sites for showing interstitials, users would have to find another avenue to download the APPs, which means Google Play or any other competitor. In this manner, Google could drive additional traffic and increase its revenue instead of being the intermediary and loosing revenue.

Q: It would seem that user experience should be up to the user, because many people use lots of apps that make their lives extremely convenient. So why discourage app installs?

A: That’s a very good point. If I visit a website that I frequently use on my mobile device and see an interstitial that has nothing whatsoever to do with that web site, that’s a bad experience—whether it’s an app-install or basic ad unit. However, if I’m going to a website that I frequently use on my mobile device and I get a prompt to install a native app for that very same website service, why would that be a bad thing? For better or worse, Google has the final say on this. At least for now.