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Cindy Krum, CEO of MobileMoxie, will cover our mobile future—where we’ve been and where we’re going—and how search is evolving into an Amazon versus Google world. You’ll learn about:
- How mobile has changed and the landscape we have today
- Google’s new Merchant Centers
- The future of mobile optimization as multi-modal and screenless
- Why the industry has moved to separate domains?
- How is the code base changing for mobile and the desktop?
- What is dynamic serving and AMP?
GUESTS & RESOURCES:
Ben: Welcome to Mobile Optimization Week on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro, and this week we’re gonna publish an episode every day covering what you need to know about the technical optimizations that will improve your performance and visibility on your mobile sites. Joining us for Mobile Optimization Week is Cindy Krum, who’s the founder and CEO of MobileMoxie, which is a mobile centric set of tools and APIs that help SEOs gain better insights into their mobile site performance. Outside of leading the charge at MobileMoxie, Cindy is also the author of Mobile Marketing: Finding Your Customers No Matter Where They Are.
Ben: And today, we’re gonna start off Mobile Optimization Week by talking about the development of mobile SEO and the landscape of the industry as it exists today. But before we get started, I wanna remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data driven decisions. To support you, our loyal podcast listeners, we’re offering a complimentary digital diagnostic. A member of our digital strategies group will provide you with a consultation that provides how your website content and SEO strategies can all be optimized. To schedule your free digital diagnostic, go to searchmetrics.com/diagnostic.
Ben: Okay. Here is the first installment of Mobile Optimization Week with Cindy Krum, founder and CEO of MobileMoxie. Cindy, welcome to the Voices of Search podcast.
Cindy Krum: Thanks, Ben.
Ben: It’s an honor and a pleasure to have you here. Excited to talk to one of the world’s most renowned experts on mobile optimization.
Cindy Krum: Whoo. I’m excited too.
Ben: First off, let’s talk a little bit about you. Tell us about your background, and how did you become the preeminent expert in mobile ops?
Cindy Krum: Well, I started by building really crappy web pages in FrontPage years and years ago. And then, they weren’t ranking. And, that’s how I got into SEO. And, when I happened to switch jobs in the SEO, I got a fancy new phone and started searching on it, and noticed that the results were very different and very bad. So, I started researching it and writing about it. And, that was around 2004, 2005. So, before the iPhone. That’s kind of a claim to fame. I was doing mobile SEO before we had iPhones, and app stores, and all that stuff.
Ben: Back in the prehistoric days when BlackBerry was king, or at least still relevant. And, here we are today where we’re optimizing across the iPhone, the iPad, the Apple Watch, everything named Android, Samsung phones blowing up in your pocket, the whole deal.
Cindy Krum: Yep.
Ben: Well, exciting. Let’s talk a little bit more about the landscape of mobile SEO and how it’s changed. You mentioned that you started off with a technical background and experience in SEO, and sort of discovered mobile. Talk us through the timeline about where mobile optimization started, and how is it changed to the point where we are today?
Cindy Krum: Sure. So, when I first started talking about mobile optimization, the .mobi sites were still a thing. And, I had to convince people that having a separate domain for your mobile content, ’cause a .mobi is different domain than a .com, that was confusing for Google and that it was splitting their efforts, splitting their SEO potential, by putting mobile version of a page on a totally different domain. So, that’s kind of where it started, is, “Hey, don’t do that.”
Cindy Krum: And at the time, there weren’t standards. There weren’t commonly adopted things. So, people were testing out all this different stuff. If they didn’t do .mobi, they were like, “Oh, should we do /mobile and do a mobile subdirectory or subdomain?” And, that was a big conversation for a while. “Which is better, mobile subdirectory or mobile subdomain, if we’re gonna keep it all on the same domain?” And I started talking, actually … Even in 2005, I was talking about using style sheets to resize content. And, that was before we had even the word for responsive design. But, that’s what I was describing. And, yeah.
Cindy Krum: So, it’s come a long way from all of these questions, “How do we do this?” to “What’s the best way to organize separate mobile content?” And then, we got to the point where Google was like, “Listen, separate mobile content is really annoying for us indexing it. So, maybe just do responsive.” And for me, responsive was great because it allowed you to consolidate signals for the page and didn’t … avoided duplicate content. And then, Google came out and said, “Yeah, do that. That’s much better.”
Cindy Krum: And then, things got really complicated with dynamic serving and selective serving, and using the server to really, really hyper adjust what you’re serving in a responsive setting. And, that still happens to some degree, but a lot of it’s more automated. We have image servers that kind of detect the phone size and send the right version of an image.
Cindy Krum: So, it’s just like anything else on the web. It took a while to figure out what was the best way to do it, and then to consolidate and have everyone buy into the same kind of scheme, or plan, or idea of what’s best. It took Google changing their mind a couple times.
Ben: Yeah. Just to summarize some of the things that you said that I think are interesting, I remember, going in the way back machine, when Jordan, the CEO of Searchmetrics, and I first started working together at eBay, it was around eBay investing heavily in mobile. And, the vast majority of the traffic wasn’t through the mobile app, it was through m.ebay.com. You know, a separate domain. And, I understand how that could create problems for Google, and it seems like there was a Google-led industry shift to try to bring everything, consolidate it into one domain. And, that brings up all of these other problems of, “How do you create these different experiences based on the different device?”
Cindy Krum: Yep.
Ben: Talk to me a little bit about some of the landscape changes recently. We’re gonna get into more details about this, but there’s dynamic serving, there’s AMP, there’s basically using a code base that’s changing for mobile and desktop. Where do we stand today? Are we in, still, the teenage years of mobile development? Are we in college? How far along is mobile development, in your eyes?
Cindy Krum: Let’s see. That’s a brain teaser. I would have to say, if mobile is going to get where I think it’s going to get, then we’re actually not even in teen years yet. We’re more like pre-teen. And, the big growth spurt is gonna be PWAs and API oriented content, where we get less and less focused on websites as a presentation layer, and more and more focused on content and data being multi-modal and cross-device. So, for instance, we’ve built all these websites thinking that people are always gonna have screens. But, that’s not how Google envisions the future of the web.
Ben: Hence, the focus on the Google Assistant and Google Voice.
Cindy Krum: Right, exactly. If Google … When they started, they decided, “We want to index the information of the world.” And, SEOs took that to mean the websites of the world. But, there’s information that’s not in websites that Google wants too. And for a long time, Google has been forcing the issue and saying, “No, but put it in a website.” And, that’s not good for developers, it’s not good for brands. If the content wasn’t meant to be in a website originally and works better in something else, don’t force the issue. But everyone, SEOs, are like, “That’s the way it is, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.” But, we were actually just accommodating Google’s shortcomings.
Ben: Give me an example of where content isn’t in a website, where Google wants access to that information?
Cindy Krum: Product data, product specs.
Ben: Product data and product specs. What do you mean by that? To me, all of the product data and product specs, that’s all part of the eCommerce landscape, right?
Cindy Krum: Right.
Ben: That stuff has to exist on a website, ’cause people wanna buy against it.
Cindy Krum: Yeah. But, people don’t necessarily wanna buy against it from your website. They’d rather search for it and not have to navigate, necessarily, your website, a more standard way. Like, if I want a black dress, how many websites do I have to go to to look at black dresses to find the right one? Or, if Google had all the product specs and inventory, then I could just go to Google and search for all the black dresses that would fit me and that would fit the occasion, and look there. And, they can aggregate it based on product specs and inventory, rather than making me go into all these separate websites.
Ben: I just assume if you’re doing anything eCommerce related you’d go to Amazon.
Cindy Krum: Right, Amazon. And, that’s a huge threat to Google. Google hates that. Hence, this launch that was announced earlier this week about the … What do they call it? The Merchant Center. Merchant Center used to be just for PLAs, product listing ads, where you would upload a XML feed of all your products, inventory, and specs. And, it was for paid. And, they’ve just opened it up for … They’re not calling it organic, but they’ve opened it up for non-sponsored product listings, right?
Ben: Unpaid, I guess. Yeah.
Cindy Krum: Yeah. But, that’s organic. I think we’ll talk about this in a separate episode, but that’s a game changer.
Ben: So tell me, when we think about the landscape … I know I gave you the question about, “Are we in the college, teenage years?” You think we’re still very much in the early phases of mobile optimization because, to you, mobile is not just mobile website optimization but multi-modal, basically non-screen driven search.
Cindy Krum: Yep.
Ben: Let’s just focus on some of the more near-term optimizations that are affecting SEOs today. I do totally understand how the future of mobile optimization is going to be multi-modal. It’s gonna be screenless. But, for the purposes of this conversation, let’s exclude voice. Let’s exclude … What was the Tom Cruise movie? The Vanilla Sky, or whatever it was, where he’s using his hands and just walking up to a board and projecting a screen that doesn’t exist? But, exclude all the future stuff and talk about something with a screen in front of us. What are the main places where SEOs need to focus to optimize their existing sites?
Cindy Krum: Video. If you think about the way that the media is changing as a whole, everyone’s cutting cables. Cable cutters are a big deal. And, Google wants to be there so that Amazon doesn’t serve that market too. So, people expect, now, their video content, TV, and movies, and music, basically, to be on demand. They don’t wanna have to buy it, and they want an a la carte subscription, if a subscription at all. And so, being able to surface video easily, whether it’s on your website, or part of YouTube, or both, that’s a big, big deal. Because, it’s filling a void that we know about, right? People are canceling their cable subscriptions, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t want media, they don’t want entertainment. And, people are getting more used to using video as a way to answer questions.
Ben: And from a technical perspective when you’re doing mobile SEO optimizations, I know that there’s tools like AMP, and getting into things like code debt, some of the topics we’re gonna dive into a little bit deeper, what are some of the technical optimizations, or tools, or technologies that are being built, that you think are coming to the forefront, that are important for SEOs to study and be aware of?
Cindy Krum: Yeah. So, AMP is great, but maybe not for all the reasons you might think. So, AMP is great because it speeds things up, and then that helps conversion, helps engagement, creates a better user experience. But, one of the ulterior motives or side benefits, depending on where you stand, of AMP is that Google hosts the AMP content. And what we believe, what we’re seeing in our own research, is that anything that Google hosts gets a benefit because they understand it better. They understand the relationships between it and other things. And, because when they host it, they can crawl it at their leisure. They know when it’s changed, and they can re-crawl it. And, they also can reuse it or lift it.
Cindy Krum: And, you see this the most with AMP stories. AMP stories are collections of information on one topic that Google is lifting from a variety of AMP resources, not all the same story or resource. And, they’re recompiling them into animated slideshows that provide more information on one topic than any of the singular AMP articles would. And so, the example that Google uses in their documentation for this is a celebrity, I can’t say her name. From Food Network. So, in her knowledge graph, you can click through to an AMP story. And what it is, is a couple video clips, a couple factoids about how old she is, where she was born, yada, yada. And, it’s combined into this animation slideshow. But those things, those facts, those videos, those images, are from a variety of different AMP pages, not just one.
Ben: Fascinating. So, my takeaway from what you’re saying … The first things when I ask about the current landscape and some of the things that SEOs need to think about in terms of mobile optimization, your answers are very much content centric in the sense of rich media, right? It’s video. It’s creating the imagery and the short form contents that can be put together, kind of like what you’re seeing with Facebook, and Instagram, and stories, or short form content, little bursts of text like what we’re seeing on Twitter. And so, Google is also trying to take advantage of the on demand nature of people’s expectations, where they want faster, shorter form content.
Cindy Krum: Yes. And, the engagement that people are getting used to on Facebook, and Instagram, and Snapchat, people stay in those apps because it’s engaging, because it creates a dopamine hit. Whatever it is, people like that experience. And Google feels threatened by the social networks too, right? Google is protecting its kind of ground as the place that you start your internet experience, whether or not you realize it’s an internet experience. And so, if people are finding all their funny cat videos in Facebook instead of YouTube, that’s a problem for Google, right?
Ben: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Cindy Krum: And so, if they can recreate that, either as an answer to a search or as some other kind of experience, like in the Google feed … If you’re on an Android phone, they create a feed of topics that they know you care about. And, they surface content in the same way Yahoo RSS Feed Readers might in the old days. They’re kind of trying to do that, based on what you’ve said you explicitly said you care about and what you’ve searched for before. So, if all I ever search for is cat videos, bam, they’re auto-populating cat videos into my newsfeed, which is where, on an Android phone, it’s one of the places you can start a Google search.
Ben: Interesting. Okay. Lots to cover for the rest of Mobile Optimization Week. I think that when we think about the current landscape today, we’re reaching some level of maturity when it comes to optimizing for the screen. And, there’s more tools that are coming out. We’re gonna get into a little bit of a deeper dive into some of those tools that you can use that are actionable for today. And then, we’re also gonna talk a little bit about the future of mobile optimization and moving towards a screenless environment as well. So, lot’s of ground to cover. And, we’re gonna publish an episode every day this week.
Ben: So, that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Cindy Krum, the founder and CEO of MobileMoxie. We’d love to continue this conversation with you. So, if you’re interested in reaching Cindy, you can find a link to her LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact her on Twitter, where her handle is suzzicks, S-U-Z-Z-I-C-K-S. Or, you can visit her company’s website, which is mobilemoxie.com. And, Cindy’s been kind enough to offer a free month of MobileMoxie’s service for listeners to this podcast. You can use the promo code SEARCHMETRICS, in all CAP.
Ben: If you have general marketing questions, or if you wanna talk about this podcast, you can find a link to my contact information in our show notes. Or, you can send me a Tweet @benjshap. And if you’re interested in learning more about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic, online visibility, or to gain competitive insights, head over to searchmetrics.com/diagnostic for your complimentary advisory session with our digital strategies team.
Ben: And if you like this podcast, and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app. And, we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning to discuss Cindy’s view on the impact of Google moving to a mobile-first crawl. Lastly, if you’re enjoying this podcast and you feel generous, we’d love for you to leave us a review in the Apple iTunes Store, or wherever you listen to your podcasts.
Ben: Okay. That’s it for today. But until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.