What Google’s Latest Mobile Search Changes Mean for Pharma

Adapting to Mobile for Pharma Marketing

It’s indisputable: mobile is a leading medium for researching topics, therefore, it is at the forefront of organic search. It’s important for pharma marketers to keep tabs on best practices because websites without a customized mobile experience are going to be left behind in search results.

Mobile search has continued to increase in popularity each year, and a greater percentage of total queries conducted are happening from mobile devices.

These findings, combined with recent changes from Google that this POV will detail, serve as a reminder to pharma to ensure all assets are mobile optimized.

Adjusting to Audience Demand

As consumer demand and habits change, Google has reacted, adjusting its algorithm to meet the demands of its enormous audience. The motive in its actions are always the same: purifying its search results to provide the right information that aligns with visitors’ searches.

Per an official statement on February 26th, Google will begin to take action to once again refine its results on mobile devices. “Starting April 21, [Google] will be expanding [its] use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in [its] search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”

Google plans to begin rewarding brands that adapt to the changing tide of search behavior. This means websites with a poor mobile experience may not appear as highly in mobile rankings as their counterparts who optimize their site for mobile devices. Although the results can be devastating to older sites, Google is allowing brands time to adjust to these changes. In addition to the two years of warnings provided, Google doesn’t plan to officially roll this out until April 2015.

In light of the mobile-friendly algorithm, Google has already begun testing a search engine result feature that labels website with slow loading times. This red “Slow” label applies to both mobile and desktop browsers, which also contribute as a ranking factor. As a general practice, mobile websites require a variety of elements to be condensed in order to be viewed quickly and efficiently. Websites that do not account for mobile browsers cause long loading times with high resolution images and video embeds. This lack of optimization simply compounds the issue of not having a mobile-friendly website.

Recommendations

For those brands who do not yet have a mobile optimized site, the time is now. Organic search remains one of the top ROI-driving digital marketing tactics in a brand’s arsenal, but Google has spoken: on-site optimization is not enough. It is a great start, but websites should have a customized mobile experience to improve search results.

When it comes to creating the mobile browsing experience, a common debate is whether to go with a mobile website or with a responsive website. Mobile websites exist as their own entity separate from their desktop version, which only appear to a user if they visit from a mobile device. Responsive websites are actually desktop websites with design elements that alter the content displayed to the user, based on the device they use. Each approach comes with pros and cons that can both help users navigate through the website with a mobile device.

However, the stronger case can be made for responsive design websites because all the SEO optimization strategies stay in one centralized location as opposed to having to optimize multiple websites. Mobile websites also require a subdomain (http://m.brand.com) which splits the organic search traffic across two versions of the same landing page. Furthermore, most content management systems (CMS) have built-in responsive design features that do not require a developer to program new lines of code. These improvements in technology have made it easier to create a positive mobile browsing experience for the end user with responsive design websites.

Mobile visitors search and behave differently than their desktop counterparts. In order to account for this, speak with your SEO team and have them work with the development agency to repurpose the experience that already exists and optimize the mobile user experience.

If you already have a mobile optimized website, you aren’t out of harm’s way yet. This news from Google almost guarantees that a number of competitors are going to be scrambling to produce mobile websites. Revisit the data. See what has been working and not working. If there are pages performing well on desktop and driving bounced visitors for mobile, it may be time to consider revising your design. Remember, just because you’ve produced something, doesn’t mean it’s been optimized.