How to use context to improve your mobile search results

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With the predicted exponential global growth of mobile commerce (m-commerce) and continued search engine focus on mobile search, it is understandable that many website owners expect to be getting more from mobile search, but for most, this is not happening.

Using context more effectively is a key element of this perception disparity between mobile search expectations and current mobile search results.

Understanding context within mobile search

To start with, I’m taking a fairly literal definition of context:

Context: The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood

Oxford Dictionaries

When applying this broad definition to mobile search, there are lots of practical applications and I’m going to focus on:

  1. Effectively using mobile data
  2. Understanding the role of location

When you take a step back and think about mobile search, you are talking about reaching people any time of day and in myriad circumstances.

It is because of this, that the challenges facing mobile search success are so varied, and the role that context plays is so high.

Effectively using mobile data

Using data is always a fundamental when it comes to understanding anything digital, and mobile search results are no different.

I recently discussed how to use data for content creation, and many of these principals are relevant to mobile too, however, it’s also important to look at mobile without other data distractions.

As I want you to see how to positively impact pre-click mobile gains at this stage, Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) is a good place to start.

The first step is to go into Search Analytics and set up your mobile specific filters.

In the example below I am able to see the growth in search impressions and resulting clicks from mobile traffic only.

More importantly, I am able to drill down into the data to increase the logic on why this is happening (assuming I have not implemented recent actions to support the gains seen).

Google Search Console Mobile Data View

From the above I can look at mobile data in the context of the performance for:

  1. Brand vs non brand
  2. Themes of visibility
  3. Single search term performance (although entire theme would be a preferred option)
  4. Web, video and image search
  5. Country specific performance
  6. Page comparisons
  7. More

You could also reset the filters and look at other data metrics like click through rate (CTR) and average position changes.

Let’s look at a practical example that many businesses can use right now.

A lot of people using mobile devices have an immediate need and very often this includes solving a current problem the user is facing.

The following is an example of using mobile data to find out what your audience is looking for help with.

In this case we are looking at the comparison between mobile search queries and desktop, so that we can identify mobile specific needs and data opportunities.

Although, this specific example is filtered for search queries including ‘how’, this can easily be applied to varied other problem solving themes (in addition to the standard extensions including; who, what, why, where, when):

Google Search Console Mobile Data Compared To Desktop Examples

Getting an aggregated look at mobile data

Seeing all of the relevant data in a single place enables you to make more logical mobile data decisions and we can see this in action below.

Using a single aggregated data dashboard I can see:

  1. The speed of the site for mobile devices
  2. How the site appears in mobile layout
  3. Technical auditing current performance
  4. Technical impediments to mobile (and total) search success
  5. Who engages with your content
  6. Where your traffic is coming from

All of the above helps me to understand the setting in which mobile users are operating within, and most importantly, how I can positively impact that setting for more mobile results.

Here’s an example of how that dashboard looks like:

Apollo Insights Mobile Dashboard

Understanding the role of location

Since the Google Pigeon update, the focus on local optimisation has changed and certainly increased. I had a great chat with Greg Gifford at the latest Brighton SEO on this topic and here’s what he said.

This additional focus is even more identifiable for mobile search and largely this is tied to context – in this case where the searcher is when he/she completes a search query.

Google tells us that ‘20% of searches on Google are related to location‘ and when aligned with the impact that location has on user intent with mobile search especially, location must take a priority within your mobile context strategy.

This makes perfect sense.

If I’m looking for a pizza and I’m in London, the chances are, I want to find a pizza within a couple of miles of where I am.

When you couple this location relevancy with the restricted screen sizes of many mobile devices and Smartphones, this then places even more importance on high positioning within mobile search.

Here’s some practical advice for mobile search location optimisation.

  1. The added value and prominence of Google Business Profile for mobile search results means that making the most of this is a strategy must for mobile gains
  2. Citations work. Even more so since the Pigeon update
  3. Maximise location on page value. Be creative and think about what people really want to know – location hubs can create amazing linkable assets
  4. Structured data. It’s easy to add to website templates and helps Google identify and index/display your location content
  5. Local reviews. Plus local chat, engagement and buzz. It’s natural and adds personality to brands
  6. Social media. Identify, engage and build.

Next steps

If you have questions about mobile search that you would like to chat through, call us on 023 9283 0281 or click below:

Request a call from one of our digital marketing advisors »

Lee Wilson profile picture
Lee Wilson

Lee has been working in the online arena, leading digital departments since the early 2000s, and oversees all our delivery services at Vertical Leap, having joined back in 2010. Lee joined our company Operations Team in May 2019. Before working at Vertical Leap, Lee completed a degree in Business Management & Communications at Winchester University, headed up the online development and direct marketing department for an international financial services company for ~7 years, and set up/run a limited company providing website design, development and digital marketing solutions. Lee had his first solely authored industry book (Tactical SEO) published in 2016, with 2 further industry books being published in 2019, and can be seen regularly expert contributing to industry websites including State of Digital, Search Engine Journal, The Drum, plus many others. Lee has a passion for management in the digital industry and loves to see the progression of others through personal learning, training and development. Outside the office he looks to help others while challenging himself, having skydived, bungie jumped and abseiled (despite a fear of heights) with many more fundraising and voluntary events completed and on the horizon. As a husband and dad, Lee loves to spend time with his family and friends. His hobbies include exercising, trying new experiences, eating out, playing countless team sports, as well as watching films (Gangster movies in particular – “forget about it”).

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