Mobilegeddon. Mobile-pocalypse. Mobile-My-Life-Is-Overrrrrr.
Anyone else have a dramatic nickname to add? Seriously, these sound like a 14-year old school girl made these up because the quarterback didn’t text her back.
In case you missed it, Google rolled up a new “mobile friendly update” that went live April 21st and the SEO community (and internet community as a whole, really) FREAKED OUT.
A few thoughts on this:
1.) WHY IS EVERYONE FREAKING OUT?
Seriously. It’s 2015 and “mobile friendly” is not a new thing. Responsive websites have been around since 2004 but didn’t’ start to really catch on until 2011-2012. That still gives us a solid three-year window, up to this point, to have figured out what we are doing here. Smart phones have been the norm for quite a while now and businesses, marketers, and developers have had ample time to perfect design and programming that works flawlessly across devices.
This isn’t a fad – it’s the norm. Many design and programming principles are led by human behavior. The fact that nearly two thirds of Americans own a smart phone indicates that these devices, as annoying as they might seem to some, are here to stay, and websites need to adapt to what people are using – not the other way around.
If you are just now thinking of converting to a responsive or mobile-friendly website, you are no longer trying to “keep up with the Joneses”, you are a Flintstone trying to fit in in a Jetson world.
And, ultimately, one cannot argue that this update is a bad one. How many times have you been on your phone, you land on a site that isn’t mobile optimized, and you immediately click back to search results. Like all Google updates, this one is intended to make the search experience better for users (which should, by the way, also be the goal of your website).
2.) Google Actually Threw Us A Bone… For Once
SEO-ers especially should appreciate this one… Google actually TOLD US IN ADVANCE that they were rolling out an algorithm update. WHAT?! This is pure gold, guys.
Typically, when Google (or any other search engine, for that matter) rolls out an algorithm update there is no advanced warning. Sure, industry experts who monitor trends and changes might think they can predict when a change might occur, but no body knows for sure except for the Googles themselves. The fact that they actively announced that they were going to roll out an update, told us exactly what that update was, told us the date is was rolling out, and even gave us a tool to help us meet the requirements of the update is unheard of. Seriously, why not just hold our hand and implement the responsive design for us while you are at it, Google?
In the famous words of Bill Engvall – HERE’S YOUR SIGN.
Clearly if Google went out of their way to release so much information about the update ahead of time and provide so much assistance to the general public – the update was going to be kind of a big deal.
So, what does this mobile update actually mean for your hotel?
Well, that depends on your goal. Obviously your ultimate goal is to get heads in beds and drive as much revenue as possible – got it. But from a strictly search engine perspective, a hotel must realistically consider what goals are and how aggressive the tactics must be to reach those goals.
Now, in most cases, we would definitely recommend updating to a mobile optimized format to ensure the best user experience across all devices. That is a given.
When is mobile-friendly not right for your hotel? Well, that really depends on how important search engines are for your business. More importantly, how important is non-brand related search activity to your guest acquisition strategy?
This seems like a stretch – but hear me out.
If you are a large brand or large property group and search engine optimization and content marketing are important parts of your digital marketing strategy, then absolutely, mobile friendly is a must.
However, if you are a smaller group or single independent hotel who perhaps does not have the budget for such an upgrade, will this update really effect rankings, particularly for brand related terms? If the later is your case, your online guest acquisitions most likely come from brand related terms as it is, so the chance of your site getting “dinged” for non-brand terms is low; hate to break it to you, but you probably weren’t ranking for much in the first place. Furthermore, would it really be in Google’s (who is purely concerned about the end user) best interest to not rank a branded website for a branded search term? Not likely. Think about it – if you searched for “XYZ Resort” and the first few search results were TripAdvisor, Hotels.com, and Yelp, that’d be a pretty disappointing user experience.
So, if your goal is strictly to maintain a strong brand presence, then honestly, your hotel should be fine – for the time being if it is not 100% mobile friendly. That’s not to say Google won’t change it’s mind and make the requirements more stringent for overall visibility in the future, but again, what purpose would that ultimately serve?
Now, if you are in the first group and are aggressively trying to rank for more broad, non-brand related search terms, having an enjoyable user experience is a must and being as mobile friendly as possible is key. This will come in to play for not only search engine optimization purposes but also for content marketing, social media, link earning, email marketing, public relations – really any channel that could drive traffic to your website.
A third consideration for all hotels to consider, no matter how aggressive your search engine goals are, is the overall on-site experience and the cross device experience that potential guests might have while interacting with your hotel website. The percentages vary greatly based on who your particular audience might be but it is no secret that travelers often complete the full research to booking process on several devices, often beginning the initial research on one device and completing the actual booking process on another device.
Ensuring that every aspect of the research and booking process is as easy as possible, no matter what device a person might happened to be using, is essential. Even if you website is not 100% mobile-friendly yet, finding essential information about your hotel and going through the hotel booking process should be as easy as possible – no matter what device is being used.