Your business can add credibility and complexity to its content when you regularly incorporate the positive feedback your customers leave. This practice has an added bonus of rewarding customers for their praise, strengthening your relationship with them and encouraging others to follow in their footsteps.
You may think that simply regurgitating customer acclaim can seem like a cheap or shallow tactic. When you go about using customer reviews incorrectly, that can absolutely be the case.
But when you can masterfully weave praise into your content marketing and collateral materials, it feels like a natural fit. Your content becomes richer, and your brand name becomes more credible.
According to eMarketer research, online reviews are by far the most trusted source of business information. In fact, 8 percent more people 18+ trust online reviews compared to their own friends, family and colleagues. Putting your reviews front and center in your content offers documented proof of peer approval, and no one has to go digging into third-party sites to find that proof.
So if you’re considering using customer reviews to obtain all of the above benefits and more, try putting the following strategies into action.
Pepper Website Pages, and Especially Landing Pages, With Embedded Reviews and Accolades
Businesses have a huge trust gap they must clear when a potential customer or client first arrives at their website. No matter how comforting or flashy the site is, customers are always on the lookout for signs that they could get burned. They may scrutinize your claims or look for fine print that reveals how your offers aren’t what they seem.
Incorporating reviews right there on your web page immediately begins to chip away at their defenses. They can feel a tinge of relief knowing explicitly that your business has rewarded others for their trust. Evidence that people don’t regret spending their hard-earned money on your products or services can reduce the natural hesitation some people might feel.
You also potentially negate their need to go hunting for outside information on your brand. If they already see positive reviews or a live meter documenting your score aggregate for a site like Yelp, then they don’t need to go wading into all of the other reviews online. By extension, they are much less likely to encounter negative reviews that color your business in an unfavorable light.
Even if someone does do their own homework and encounters a mixture of positive and negative reviews, their first impressions are already fairly rosy. Each negative reviewer must then make their case for why this positive first impression is wrong.
When incorporating testimonials and feedback on your web pages, be sure to use the following best practices:
Take a second to re-read the third-party reviews site’s policy on sharing reviews. They may have limitations on how you use them.
Always ask the reviewer for permission. Nothing hurts worse than having someone who praised your business turn around and complain that their own words were used unethically.
Don’t take things out of context. Using an excerpt of a review is fine, but don’t cherry-pick statements that are actually out of color for the nature of the review as a whole. For instance, don’t take just the positive things someone conceded out a scathingly negative review.
Quote the person verbatim. Changing words around or using tricks like mashing two unrelated things together to make a sentence is absolutely deceptive and unethical. You may even be subject to FTC penalties.
Favor embedded reviews over text quotes. Most third-party sites actually demand that you use embedded features since these are more transparent. When you receive direct feedback, such as on a blog comment, try to embed the message itself when possible.
Share Interesting or Glowing Reviews to Social Media
A second study found that most people only leave a positive review if they were overwhelmed with how great their experience was. “If instead you had a moderate view, you’re likely to have left no review at all, finding it not worth the time and effort,” say the researchers in the Harvard Business Review.
So how do you encourage people to leave a review if they aren’t angry with you and they weren’t absolutely blown away? Simple: reward them with a public mention!
By sharing someone’s positive review online, you reinforce the behavior. You also encourage others who want public recognition and attention to leave reviews of their own.
Again, follow the guidelines above. Certain platforms like Yelp forbid copying and pasting review text, for example. You also absolutely need to secure permission from the person before sharing, even if their praise was a public comment on one of your social media or blog posts.
Let Reviews Inspire Your Content Marketing Strategy
The problem is that most businesses can’t find an angle. “8 Reasons Our Food Is Amazing” is something no one would want to click on! But “10 Keys to Improving Customer Service” can work, especially if you’re able to point to specific best practices you can use.
When writing these types of articles, starting with positive features of your business or product as a jumping-off point can lead to a disconnect. In other words, your business could be proud of something that no one really notices.
Instead, take a look at your own reviews to get inspired. Take a look at this review below to see what we mean.
Here, you can see that the person cites six different positive reasons they love coming to the resort; it was clean, pet friendly, had great cabins, lots of site availability, a swimming beach and also a swimming pool.
Taking that list, you can simply write an article about the “6 Most Important Things to Look for in a Camping Resort.” Since you know people enjoy these things about your business, you can mention them honestly. You can also write while thinking about the perspective of a customer who has been to a campsite that is not clean or that regularly has overcrowded and overbooked sites.
Of course, you can also use negative criticism to inspire you. If you have had issues in the past with bad customer service, you can list “X Things We’ve Changed to Make Your Experience Better” to win people back.
Getting More Customer Reviews to Use in Your Content Marketing
All of the strategies listed above depend on a constant, fresh stream of customer feedback. If your most recent review was from 2014, you may have a problem!
To counteract this issue, make leaving a review as convenient as possible. You can use third-party software tools to automatically send an email to someone and ask them for their review on your preferred platform. You can also leave a convenient link on your home page so that everyone can easily find their way to your review pages.
Don’t just encourage people to go on sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp, either. You can ask for more detailed feedback in an email or through an online form submission. Reach out to some of your most loyal or satisfied guests to see if they would take the time to write a one to three paragraph testimonial on your behalf.
You can use these longer reviews (with their permission) as quotes or embedded reviews framing your content or occupying your most critical landing pages.
Another surefire method to jog people’s memory is to use marketing collateral offered by review platforms both online and in real life. Place window decals on your entrance, or include a ready-to-print plaque right by your cash register.
With just a small amount of effort, your content quality and credibility can be dramatically improved by using customer reviews in clever ways. Customers’ trust absolutely thrives on documented proof, and they like to see that their words matter when they have something to say.
Sharing their reviews is the best way to tell them “thank you” and that their opinion is important. That’s customer service and content marketing rolled into one!
Writing’s really hard. Even people who do it for a living admit that. Not only do you have to know how to string together sentences that keep people’s attention, but you have to make some sort of blasted “point” out of the whole thing. It’s maddening!
All silliness aside, content writing and blog writing are really complex acts that can appear deceptively simple on the surface. Structure and rhetorical knowledge can help make your point clear, but you also need to be engaging. Add SEO best practices to the mix, and you have even more issues to deal with.
Getting it right takes either a lot of practice or a lot of time spent revising. Even a business owner who happens to be an excellent writer will need help making it all happen on a deadline.
So that’s when you turn to outside help. It can be a freelance writer or a content marketing agency, but the goal is to find a writer (or several) who can meet your guidelines and turn things in on time.
Locating a writer like that is exactly as hard as it sounds! Luckily, there are five tips you can use to make your search easier and ensure you find just the writer you’re looking for.
Always Request Samples and a Trial Draft
You can find great writers you enjoy working with no matter where you turn as long as you follow one simple rule: check out their writing before you commit. That means requesting samples of their prior work. It also means paying them to write a first draft of what you need that you may or may not ever use.
That’s right: you’re likely going to have to invest in crummy writing to find your diamond in the rough. Ideally, you’re paying several writers at the same time to write the same prompt or a similar one, so you can compare the talents of each person.
While it may seem like money down the drain to receive samples you won’t ever use, it’s better than the alternative of hiring a writer for a multi-blog project only to find out they aren’t a good fit.
Also, be very specific about the types of samples you request. You may wish to see live, published blogs, since these prove that a writer’s work actually gets used. Be warned, though: many freelancers are also ghost writers. You are either going to have to take their word for it that a sample with someone else’s byline is their work, or you will have to go through the effort of contacting the client and hoping they will reveal who wrote their blogs.
If someone sends you samples that you like but that don’t quite hit the mark, ask for more work! Far too many bloggers get passed up not because their samples weren’t good, but simply because they couldn’t read the mind of the job offerer as to what they were looking for.
Avoid Typical Job Listing Sites Since You Get What You Pay For
In the business world, quality and convenience don’t typically mix. If you want to find a patio chair at the same place you buy your kids’ breakfast cereal, you are going to have to lower your standards on how long that chair will last.
Similarly, if you go to the absolute first place you think of when looking to find your content writer, you’re going to end up with low quality.
The biggest problem? Labor pools from non-native English speakers. They may charge just a few cents a word, but their end product will likely be riddled with broken grammar and be all but incomprehensible. Since Google specifically recommends that you use proper spelling and grammar, having an unreadable blog likely works against your SEO and branding goals.
So as a rule, skip Craigslist, Monster and Indeed unless you really don’t know where else to turn. Definitely don’t just Google “content writer” and hire a person or company that ranks first. You want to know that you can get a decent level of quality, and sifting through the bargain bin is not a good place to find it.
Hunt Down Content Writers in the Spaces Where the Pros Lurk
Some of you are going to be frustrated by the above tip. “If I can’t just look for a content writer on Monster or Craigslist, where should I go?”
Well, our vocal and hypothetical friend, there are several specialty project-related websites where you can find freelancers:
ProBlogger—ProBlogger is dedicated to writers and editors, and it also has an amazing community of professionals. Posting your listing costs money, but you’re highly likely to get responses from mid- to high-level talent.
WriterAccess—WriterAccess straddles the line between full-service referral agencies we’ll mention below and simpler job listing sites. The site does a handy job of organizing writers by experience and quality, however, and you do get a personal account manager in the upper tiers.
Contently—Contently acts as a broker to find you the perfect writing talent or team for your project needs. Yes, that’s as expensive as it sounds, which is why the platform is mainly aimed at enterprises with larger content budgets.
Upwork—The world’s largest freelancer platform happens to be quite picky about letting job-takers aboard. That means you have access to a higher caliber of writers. Note that Upwork also allows agencies to apply to your project offers by default.
Guru—Guru is far less choosy about who it lets on its platform, so you will end up with applicants that may not have the firmest grasp of English. Nevertheless, the platform makes a name for itself by having an integrated project management and payment system.
There are dozens—if not hundreds—of other websites like these where you can post project listings and track down decent writers. These are just the top ones you might want to consider during your hunt.
However, you definitely don’t want to overlook your best option: getting referrals.
Ask Fellow Professionals for Referrals
Referrals are always your best source of freelance writer leads for a few reasons.
First, the best writers out there aren’t actively posting on or looking through job boards. They’re hard at work, hammering out content for their clients. But they may be persuaded to take on a larger workload if the details and the price are right.
Secondly, you can get personal testimonials from people you know and trust. Someone who can appear like a perfect fit online could turn out to be awful with deadlines or bad at following instructions.
Since not every business engages in content marketing, start by asking people whether they have a regular SEO or blogging contract. If the answer is “yes,” follow up by seeing what agency or writer they work with.
If their answer is “no,” then you may have to do some probing. Don’t be afraid of reaching out to a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend, though. Not every company works with content writers, but those who do will likely have strong opinions about who to recommend or avoid.
Track Down Popular Writers from Their Online Work
If you have the budget for working with a top-caliber freelancer, then the place you should start your search is on publication sites rather than a job board.
Start by taking a second to look back at enjoyable industry niche articles you’ve shared or read recently. Keep an eye out for pieces that get a high level of shares and don’t have controversial pushback from commenters. Then, simply find the writer’s byline.
Make a list of several authors using this method. Research to see if they have their own personal website and whether they are accepting freelance contracts. If they are looking for work, reach out to them with a “pitch” for your project needs. Preferably, this pitch includes an offer, details on the level of depth the work will require and a rough timeline for everything to be completed.
Since making a name for yourself as a professional writer these days is tough, expect some sticker shock if they reply! But if quality is really what you’re after, you can likely find a way to work long-term with someone whose reputation and published work you admire.
Work With a Reputable Content Marketing and SEO Agency
All of the tips above pertain to finding an individual, but you also have the option of hiring a content marketing agency to satisfy your SEO needs.
The same rules above apply: pay for samples, avoid bargain bin job listings and look for referrals. But your search should be easier, considering marketing agencies often do a decent job at marketing themselves!
Plus, you can work with several writers at once and have the security of a guaranteed contract. That means you aren’t left hanging if your writer leaves the project; you can simply work with someone else in the agency. You also have access to scale, meaning you can get a higher volume of projects accomplished at once that would normally take a single writer weeks.
In the end, the search for your content writer is all about finding a good fit and knowing where to look. If you fail at first, don’t get frustrated! There are tens of thousands of writers out there who can do good work but don’t have enough of it right now.
Searching using a voice function instead of a keyboard has huge ramifications for your organization’s SEO strategy. For starters, usually only one result is brought up, meaning you have to know exactly what it takes to earn that coveted spot. Secondly, the technical SEO best practices that make you more likely to rank in voice search are fairly different from the typical approach.
Don’t worry, though, because we’re here to break it all down for you. You’ll learn how and why people use voice search to gain insight on how you can meet their needs, and then you’ll learn how to implement voice search SEO best practices that can help boost your rank. Let’s get talkin’!
How Do People Use Voice Search in 2018?
The first rule of SEO is to always put the search user’s need for information over your need to rank.
Sure, you can climb the ranks the cheap way using grey hat SEO tactics, but those gains won’t last. Inevitably, Google, Bing and Alexa will change how their algorithm works and knock you back down. But if you consider the user’s needs foremost, you have a better chance at staying on top even when big search engine changes come through the pipes.
So, since it pays to know how and whypeople use voice search so you can meet their needs, here are a few interesting facts about voice search.
Firstly, the home is where the majority of consumers make their voice search queries. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 43 percent of people say they most frequently use the feature in their home, versus 36 percent who use it mostly in their car and 19 percent who say they most often use it “on the go.”
The idea that people are mostly going to be using voice search as a hands-free option in their car is partially untrue. Voice search has a number of other benefits that compel people to use it beyond just driving without distraction.
What are the benefits hinted at in No. 2? While 61 percent of people do agree that searching using voice commands is “useful when hands/vision” are occupied, 30 percent say that it leads to “faster results.” Twenty-four percent say they have “difficulty typing on certain devices” and 12 percent say they want “to avoid confusing menus.” Twenty-two percent say they use voice search because it’s “fun/cool,” so those suspicious that it’s a novelty are fairly correct.
These insights paint a broader picture of how and why people use voice search, though. Namely: they want quick answers, and they don’t feel like they need to actually touch a device to get them.
In response to these needs, the gist of all the voice search SEO tips below is this: give people easy access to the information they want, and you’re more likely to rank.
So, how do you accomplish that goal? Here are some of those voice search tips in detail.
Focus on Semantically Related Keywords Over Exact Query Matches
Take a moment to think about how you would speak an online search query out loud versus how you would type it.
When we type, we often want to be get our query as specific as possible while using the fewest possible words. So, we might write something like “best laptop backpack” to find out which bag is most worth buying, and then we’ll likely click around or search again to find the best deal on said backpack.
But when we talk, we want to be specific without using awkward words or phrasings. As a result, we naturally gravitate towards strings of simple, descriptive words that may seem like a long phrase but that are easy to say out loud. We also want to avoid pulling up results that do a different action than we intended, since we can’t click or navigate as easily.
For example, we might say, “Siri, what is the best laptop backpack according to reviews?” Or, if we already know what we want, we might say, “Ok Google, find laptop backpacks by North Face under $200 near me.”
In response to these trends, your keyword strategy should be less about shoehorning an exact match keyword in and more about covering all of the bases of your topic. Try to include phrases that you might think are things people would ask about your topic or product. Think more about long tail queries in sentence form, and try to include these in a natural way.
Also, get straight to the information. Emphasize the six big question words: when, what, who, why, where and how.
Write Good, In-Depth Content, but Use Pithy, Quotable Phrases
Referring again to Backlinko’s study, the average voice search result was only 29 words in length. Yet, the average word count of a voice search result page was 2,312 words!
That may sound frustratingly paradoxical. Why go through all the trouble of writing thousands of words about something if a search engine’s just going to yank out a tiny sliver of that?
The answer is that the best content often covers several bases, as we suggested above. They go in-depth, explore lots of angles and reveal lots of information. A voice query, however, only needs a small part of that information. Accordingly, content that has voice results pulled from it tends to have pithy, quotable phrases.
So, as an example, this article will be well over 1,500 words by the time we’re done. If we wanted to offer up a voice assistant a juicy quote to sum up the answer to “what is voice search SEO?” we would say:
Voice search SEO is a strategy for ranking highly on voice searches using natural-sounding content that’s packed with information and focused on search intent.
Google may not grab that answer, but here’s hoping!
Because quotable “sound bites” are the preferred information to pull results from, FAQ (frequently asked questions) absolutely rule for improving your voice search rank. To make these pages, you can source common questions about your industry or your business from the following:
Google’s “Other People Searched” and “Searches Related to ___” suggestions
Long-tail keyword suggestions from keyword planning tools
Authoritative domains tend to earn more results, so try to earn backlinks (ethically) through guest posting and social media amplification.
The best-performing content tends to have high social media engagement, especially Facebook shares.
Aim for a 9th grade reading level so your content is easy for a voice assistant to parse and read out loud.
Earning a featured snippet makes you more likely to rank, but Schema markup isn’t necessarily important.
Beyond these tips, simply focus on creating great content that answers people’s questions quickly, and you could see improved voice search results!
Of course, it never hurts to create a more vigorous strategy and test whether your voice search optimization worked as intended. If you want to work with a voice SEO expert to help you get in good with the likes of Siri, Cortana, Alexa and Google, then get in touch with us today!
Modern digital ads can have a huge relevancy problem, and using a retargeting strategy is one of the best ways to solve it.
WIth retargeting, you only show ads to people who have indicated interest in your product or website before. Usually, the interest-signaling behavior is a visit to a particular page on your website.
While the abilities of retargeting sound creepy—and they definitely can be eerie when the practice is done incorrectly—most retargeted ad campaigns are actually doing consumers a favor. Instead of showing them irrelevant ads for things they may never buy, such as an expensive luxury car, you’re showing them ads for things they’ve directly looked at before.
At its core, retargeting strategies are all about that relevancy. The idea is that someone has already entered into your sales funnel or taken the first steps of the customer journey. Retargeted ads should ideally be a nudge a little further along that path.
If you’re ready to try a retargeting strategy for your digital ad campaigns, dig into the information below for a deeper analysis of what makes retargeting effective, along with six tips to help your campaigns find success.
What, Exactly, Is Retargeting, and How Does It Work?
The easiest way to think of retargeting is that it rewrites how traditional ad targeting according to demographics works. Under normal ad targeting, demographics like location, age, gender, household income and even parental status could be considered. A car dealer could target everyone within an hour’s drive of their dealership lot, for instance. Or, the dealership could choose an age range and income bracket that closely matches the most common traits of their best customers.
Retargeting takes the same approach, but instead of looking at static demographics for its targeting list, it looks at browsing behaviors. Specifically, what pages of your site users stopped on the longest or the last page they viewed before they left.
Retargeting campaigns build these lists by applying what’s known as a “tracking pixel” to their page. A list gets built from everyone who viewed the page based on their browser’s cached data.
For example, if someone searches for desk lamps in their area, finds the local office supply store you own, clicks on the product page, and then later closes the tab to do something else, a “tracking pixel” can register the person’s initial visit. Then, they get added to your list of everyone else who visited that page, and they get served an ad for the exact same lamp they were just looking at.
In theory, the ad serves as a reminder for someone who may be willing to buy eventually but just hasn’t committed yet. Say, for instance, that they were browsing through your office products as a way to kill time during their lunch break and weren’t really intending to buy anything just yet. But if they have a chance to think about it again in a few days, they may decide to finally commit to a purchase.
Pixel Tracking by Page Allows Your Campaigns to Be Perfectly Segmented According to the Visitor’s Behaviors
Serving ads according to who ends up on your pixel tracking list allows for a number of different strategies.
You could potentially place a pixel on every page within your site; many companies actually do. This approach allows you to serve personal-feeling ads tailored to the exact pages someone browsed.
Someone who looks at several different versions of the same product, maybe even adding one to their cart, could see an ad for the exact same item. Or, someone who browses many products in a single category but never bothers to add any to their cart could see ads for general items in that category.
Finally, people who visit non-product pages on your website, such as the home page or your blog, could receive more general ads that give examples of your most popular products.
In this way, you have content aimed at different people in the buying funnel that can be optimized towards getting to the next step.
An excellent example of this practice in action would be a retargeting campaign aimed at previous buyers. Someone who checked out of your ecommerce website for an expensive purchase, like a smartphone, isn’t likely going to purchase the exact same device again. If you put a pixel on the “Thank You for Your Purchase” or “Order Confirmed” page, then you can filter these individuals out and avoid showing them ads for a product they already bought.
Better yet, your ad can attempt to cross-sell them a related product, increasing their customer lifetime value. After all, it’s often easier to get someone to make a repeat purchase than to convert a brand-new customer lead to a sale.
6 Tips for More Effective Ad Retargeting Campaigns
On the other hand, 11 percent of people had negative reactions to ads that appear to “follow them around” while they browse the internet. The majority of people — 59 percent — felt “neutral.” You absolutely don’t want your retargeted ads to trigger a negative reaction. You also want to avoid having a neutral impact.
To improve the effectiveness of your retargeting campaigns, put some or all of the following strategies into action:
Start Small and Branch Out—Retargeting may sound sophisticated, but platforms like Facebook and Google’s AdWords make it easy. Start off your campaigns on these networks, and then move on to more complex platforms, such as the Google Display Network (GDN).
Use Frequency Capping—Frequency capping limits the number of exposures people have to a single ad or a retargeting campaign in general. Since you don’t want to annoy people, consider putting some sort of upper boundary on all of your campaigns.
Limit Your Retargeting Window According to Average Buy Cycles—Most retargeting platforms limit your campaigns to 180 days (about 6 months) after their last tracking pixel was registered. But if you have a product category with a shorter buying cycle, such as retail goods under $50, then you may want to end your retargeting campaigns after just a few days. For more expensive products with a longer buying cycle, such as cars, showing people similar ads for months makes more sense.
Use Limited Offers and Urgency to Clinch Bottom-of-the-Funnel Leads—If someone appears close to making a purchase, sometimes a personalized offer is all the nudge they need to commit. Use retargeting pixels to serve special offers to people who browsed for certain products or product categories. Or, use these lists to serve up ads any time your business is doing a big sale.
Be Diligent About Brand Safety—Retargeting campaigns can often find people on thousands of different sites. However, you may not want your brand associated with certain content. Someone snapping a screenshot of an ad for your family-friendly brand on an adult website is a recipe for an instant PR crisis. Review the policies of your ad partner, and use tools like Google Safe Browsing to avoid this scenario.
Study Your Performance Data, Test, Experiment and Optimize—Like so much of digital marketing, your work is far from over when a retargeting campaign launches. Use the data the campaign generates to tell which practices work and which don’t. Experiment and A/B test to find even more effective conversion techniques. Gradually, you should become better and better at making effective campaigns based on past discoveries, successes and failures.
Ad Retargeting Is Easy to Get Started But Difficult to Master
The above tips are just the warm-up for even more in-depth and sophisticated ad retargeting practices. If you can keep the consumer’s experience in mind and establish best practices based on your data, the sky is the limit for how complex and effective your retargeting campaigns can be.
The internet is a mobile- first world now, and your website needs to embrace this shift to avoid missing out on opportunities. By prioritizing your mobile experience with user friendly design principles and an always on-the-go approach to content, you can reap bigger rewards from referral channels and compete more effectively for visibility.
There’s no understating just how much of an impact smartphone devices have had upon the online landscape. Seventy-seven percent of U.S. adults (≈250 million) now own a smartphone, according to Pew Research, and only 17 percent of people own a cell phone but not a smartphone. Even more interesting, there are 6.5 million more smartphone owners than desktop/laptop owners, and 65 million people depend entirely on their smartphones for internet access.
The shift from large, stationary computers to pocket-sized touchscreens has had a huge impact on not just website design but also how online content is consumed in general. Understanding just how much the mobile first mindset has affected the website design process can help your business learn how to build a better website that’s aware of mobile’s center stage presence in our modern tech culture.
What Does Mobile First Design Mean?
The term “mobile first” may sound like a buzzword or industry jargon, but it’s actually quite descriptive despite its simplistic name. People use the term “mobile first” because it instantly separates their design philosophy from older, non-ideal approaches to mobile website design and optimization.
To explain the differences in design philosophy, let’s start with a history lesson. Our journey through time begins in the late 1990s, when pocket-sized devices like organizers and cell phones first began to have internet connectivity.
The thing about the internet back then was that it could be janky and unreliable. People were still figuring out how to make it work properly across a range of computers and connection types. Few people had home access to a reliable and relatively speedy internet connection.
As you might imagine, cell phones at the time endured this struggle a hundredfold. Their processors were weak, display resolutions were minimal and you could never count on a sustained connection.
To compensate, web designers would build two versions of a website. One version would be the fully-featured design intended to run on a standard desktop or laptop computer. Then, a mobile website team would strip down this design as much as possible to its barest components. That version would be loaded when a mobile signal was detected.
At first, most early mobile internet adopters would be forced to navigate to a different URL with an “m.___” added to the domain, such as “m.yourbusinesssite.com” instead of the normal “yourbusinesssite.com” they would find when searching from a desktop computer.
Then, developers and devices advanced so that the exact same URL could load different content for mobile versus desktop/laptop users. This approach was called “dynamic serving.”
Now, most developers have moved onto “responsive design,” which uses the same HTML code for all users. Instead of serving up a few different tiers of content, all content scales automatically. That way, people with different device screen sizes can automatically have the best usability.
During the transition from separate URLs to dynamic serving to responsive design, overall mobile internet use surpassed desktop laptop traffic. In response, designers and developers stopped treating mobile websites as an afterthought or something that is built off of a secondary version of their site. Instead, they considered mobile first, and their designs for larger screens were advanced off of those basic blueprints.
“Progressive Advancement” Versus “Graceful Degradation”
Another way to conceptualize the difference between “mobile first” as opposed to “mobile sometime later” is through the above two terms.
“Graceful degradation” was the old standard operating mode for designers. Their desktop/laptop website was the development priority, and it’s what most of their resources went towards. Then, once most or all of the desktop-focused design was complete, a team would try to scale down the website’s size and complexity while sacrificing as little of the original experience as possible.
In other words: they degraded the original designas gracefully as they could. Compromise was inevitable, and many website visitors could feel like they were being served a second tier experience.
“Progressive advancement,” on the other hand, refers to that approach in reverse. The design team comes up with the perfect set of design principles and layout ideas built around a small screen. This design is optimized so that mobile phone users across a broad range of screen sizes and processing powers could still have an amazing experience. Then, a desktop/laptop team would consider how to expand that core design and take advantage of larger screens, more precise navigation (aka non-touchscreen controls) and heftier processing power.
Mobile users get two main benefits out of progressive advancement:
The website was built from the ground up to look great and be usable on mobile
They never feel as if they are having to make sacrifices to view a website on their mobile device; the larger site version just adds bells and whistles
A further consequence of progressive advancement is that most of the creativity and effort behind a website goes into the mobile experience. Instead of thinking, “how do we change this menu so that people without a mouse pointer can actually use the darn thing?” the team says, “what would a menu perfect for touchscreen controls look like?”
The consequences of such a mindset switch are huge, and they can have a direct impact on your bottom line.
How a Mobile First Website Approach Benefits Your Business
We’ve talked at length about how the mobile first approach evolved over time and how it makes life better for the average smartphone user. But what about how these changes bring your business more opportunities and more money?
Here are a few of the biggest benefits you’ll notice when you make the switch:
1. Better Search Engine Ranking and Visibility
In April of 2015, Google decided to finally put their foot down regarding websites that ignored the needs of mobile users. From that point on, websites that met their mobile-friendly design guidelines would get a ranking boost for all mobile searches.
The change effectively punished sites that weren’t able to keep up with their expectations. There wasn’t a huge penalty, but the difference was enough to create a gap that potentially lead to lost leads and revenue.
This scenario tells you that smartphones are the main driving force behind growing online use. Our obsession with social media and browsing on-the-go is changing the way we approach the internet as a whole.
All of these changes are important now and will only become more important in years to come. If your business keeps kicking the can down the road, you could quickly find that your strategies are hopelessly dated, leading fewer opportunities and lower conversion rates.
Make the switch now. Start thinking “mobile first” with everything you do, because smartphones are no longer the sideshow; they’re the main event.