With more than half of Google’s 100 billion monthly searches now being conducted on mobile devices, and the company’s own research concluding that more than 77 per cent of mobile searches in Canada lead to action, there’s no doubt the search engine giant represents a valuable tool for companies hoping to reach consumers through their mobile devices.

To support them, digital marketing firm Mediative, a division of Yellow Pages Ltd., recently conducted a biometric study measuring how mobile users react to Google searches on their mobile devices and compared it with the company’s 2014 study of desktop users.

The results are striking, though perhaps not unexpected: faced with a smaller screen, mobile users have to scroll further to see what the study calls “organic” listings – that is, search results that aren’t sponsored ads – offering marketers a significant opportunity to direct traffic to their sites using sponsored results, since a greater percentage of users focus on them, and for a longer period of time, when using their mobile devices rather than desktop.

Mediative study 2

That said, while mobile users were more likely than desktop users to click on sponsored results, both show a clear preference for organic, with 57 per cent of the mobile study’s participants and 62.6 per cent of the desktop study’s participants clicking on one of the top four organic pages (click on the image for a larger version).

Mediative study 3

Whether you’re trying to reach mobile users through organic or sponsored content, the study offers a few salient tips:

Treat mobile and desktop differently

Many businesses do not realize the importance of optimizing their sites specifically for mobile, taking a one-size fits all approach that fails to optimize either medium, according to the study, which suggests that businesses create mobile and desktop versions of their homepages and track their mobile rankings separately.

Ensure your website is mobile-friendly

There are multiple ways to ensure your site is mobile–friendly, with Google’s Mobile Friendly Testing Tool offering a basic assessment based on three factors: responsive design (that is, a website that is displayed differently depending on whether it’s accessed from desktop or mobile), dynamic serving (in which the site adjusts to mobile and desktop from the same URL), and distinct URLS.

Other steps you can take to ensure your business ranks higher in mobile search engine results:

  • If you have an app, ensure it is indexed. By indexing an app, Google’s systems can better promote search results for users with your app installed, or display it in results for users who don’t;
  • Optimize your website’s titles and meta descriptions, ensuring the most important information is at the very beginning and including priority keywords in the website’s content;
  • Speed up loading times as much as possible. Websites that use Accelerated Mobile Pages might receive higher rankings;
  • Reduce your images to a size that is manageable on a standard mobile device. According to a 2015 Searchmetrics report, top-ranking mobile results contain an average of fewer than four images per page;
  • Avoid Flash, since not all devices are compatible and it can take several seconds to properly load.

Optimize for local searches

Mobile users are more likely to out and searching locally for business or services than desktop users, so create landing pages for each location you have so they can find them. Include your town or city in page titles and descriptions, using local keywords and phrases, in addition to any services you offer.

It can also be helpful to make sure your site is accurately listed on the leading online directories – such as the signature website of Mediative’s parent company, YP.ca. The study notes that review sites such as Yelp and Trip Advisor also had a significant impact on clicks: top organic listings with star ratings captured an average of 38.7 per cent of clicks.

When all else fails, consider buying

Whether you’re looking to improve website traffic or optimize for local searches, consider using paid text ads rather than focusing all of your efforts on reaching #1 in the organic listings, the study says, noting that during the mobile study an average of 19.2 per cent of page clicks went to the top two sponsored text ads, and that the top organic click-through rate when three paid ads were present was 30.4 per cent on mobile devices.

You can download the full study here, or check out the infographic that Mediative released summarizing it below:

Mediative mobile search report infographic

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