Mobile device use is set to overtake PC use in the near future, and companies are being advised to get ready for mobile. Here are five common myths about what it means to optimize content for mobile, and different alternatives to these myths.
"Mobile is very important. I expect Google's mobile traffic to exceed desktop traffic in the very near future. If you don't have a plan for mobile, you really need to make it a high priority."
That was a quote from Matt Cutts not long ago.
Mobile is very important...you need to make it a high priority.
For about a decade in our industry, the running joke was "is this the year of mobile?" When Blackberry was still the dominant player and iPhone was still in its first version, it was a valid question. Once Google bought Motorola's Android mobile unit and Android and iPhone use skyrocketed, it's not been if, but when.
In my view, mobile adoption hit a steep trajectory two to three years ago. And mobile devices are about to reach critical mass on a global scale. As we've seen for many years, in many second- and third-world countries, mobile is the primary means of accessing the Web. Mobile is not an alternative to the "regular" desktop Internet. Rather, it's the way the bulk of the world's population is going to get online for the foreseeable future, skipping the home-Internet experience altogether.
A lot of businesses aren't ready. A recent survey of American companies with more than 100 employees found that more than one-quarter (28 percent) lack a mobile strategy. Globally it's even worse. Fewer than half of 600 companies in an IBM/Oxford Economics study said they have "comprehensive" mobile strategies.
A key component of a plan for mobile is a well-thought-out business strategy backed by both content and technical resources to implement. If you haven't tackled it yet, consider the following misconceptions that we frequently hear about mobile content. Be sure you don't include them in your planning.
Myth 1: "Mobile" means smartphones and tablets, and you can lump them together in your content planning.
Reality: People use smartphones and tablets differently, and your content plan should consider this.
Even though they're often analyzed as the same category, consumers tend to think of "mobile" devices largely as smartphones and to use tablets more for relaxation or reading. When you plan your content for mobile, keep in mind that smartphones, tablets, and other non-PC devices may require different strategies. Learn more from this study from ExactTarget. And to state the obvious, your business needs and resources will determine whether you develop content differently for these platforms.
Myth 2: Responsive design is a mobile content strategy.
Reality: Responsive website design is a tactic within an overall mobile strategy and is not primarily about content.
There are three main approaches for taking a Web presence mobile:
Responsive design means Web design that the site "responds to" different devices so it can be viewed and experienced optimally on any of them.
As I mentioned in a previous article about mobile and SEO, responsive design is widely considered a best practice for going mobile. But it's not a strategy and it's not about content: it's a coding technique that simply makes your sight render for mobile readership. But it's short-sighted to assume that responsive design is enough for your mobile strategy.
Myth 3: You should have a separate content strategy for mobile.
Reality: Have one umbrella content strategy, of which mobile is one aspect.
The most effective and efficient content strategy is one designed from the top down with chunks of relevant material that can be reused and recombined for different audiences and contexts. For mobile, you'll need to learn what people want and do with their devices before you can tailor content for those audiences. I'll be writing a lot more about this process soon, so stay tuned.
Even with mobile content geared for mobile devices, brands also need to deliver consistent experiences across devices. A recent Google study found that people typically use more than one type of device to make online transactions. If you have one content strategy and mobile is a part of it, users can experience content that's seamless across all devices without being identical. This fine-tuning is at the heart of optimization and can only be done under the umbrella of one overarching content strategy.
Myth 4: Best practices for mobile content are different than for PCs.
Reality: There are standard practices for excellent content; what's good for mobile will be good for desktop.
Let's face it. There's a lot of bad marketing advice on the Internet. The impending dominance of mobile is coinciding with the rising tide of ill-informed suggestions. This has led to lots of experts saying that to optimize content for mobile, you should do things like:
It sounds like "optimizing for mobile" starts with using old-fashioned best practices for writing excellence. In a nutshell, you could say that good mobile content is well-written stuff of the sort that we wish we saw everywhere.
The same goes for non-text content. We're often advised to use large fonts, avoid popups, and make forms easy to use for mobile. Why just on mobile? Shouldn't forms be easy to read on all devices?
My point is that content creation is one area where it makes sense to do "mobile-first" or at the very least be "mobile-aware." Create the content to be good enough quality "for mobile" and it will be good for all devices.
Myth 5: Mobile users want only short content.
Reality: There's a role for mobile content of varying lengths, including very long-form content.
It's commonly said that mobile users won't consume long content because they're always on the go. But we're now seeing that users don't like websites that don't have enough information because they're "optimized for mobile." And some enterprises are doing really well with really long marketing copy for mobile.
Why is this? I don't have data to back this up, but intuitively it seems like people use mobile devices to either do initial research or kill time - maybe more so than PCs or laptops. Think about it. Train commutes, your kid's music lesson, five minutes here and there...every day contains pieces of time long enough to digest a long, thoughtful article or video while you're "on the go" with your smartphone or maybe your tablet. I'd argue, in fact, that it's easier to kill time consuming long or persistent content on a mobile device than surfing the Web, which is a way you might mess around on a PC.
What do you think - is this another reason why it actually could make good business sense to create long content for mobile? It's an interesting question.
I'm excited to see what's ahead as mobile use actually overtakes desktop as predicted. As you develop your own mobile plan, keep in mind that yesterday's assumptions about what works could be wrong for you today. Using the misconceptions outlined here as a guide, go forward with your eyes open and a willingness to question what you think you know. And always keep the big picture in mind.
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Dave Lloyd is Senior Manager of Global Search Marketing at Adobe Systems where he leads a global team delivering organic and site search strategy and aligns closely with all other digital and media channels. As part of the Global Demand Generation organization, his team uses the Adobe Marketing Cloud to deliver on KPI-driven results including worldwide subscriptions, trials, sales leads, and revenue-based metrics. In his prior role at Cisco, he oversaw global SEO strategy for all products. He is Google-certified, with 14 years in digital marketing, and a Business degree from U.C. Davis. He's spoken at AdTech, SMX, Adobe Summit, BrightEdge Share, and DMA events.
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