Mobile Friendly and the Busy CEO: C-Suite SEO Tip #2

The Culture Goes Mobile: Is Your Business Ready for That?

How does a half hour on the phone with Apple customer service tie into the way Google treats your website? In this video I explore an anecdote to illustrate why ignoring the mobile trend in website marketing is tempting but dangerous (a transcript appears below the embedded video).

If you would like an assessment of your website’s mobile friendliness, contact us today.

Video Transcript

Yesterday I had a really frustrating experience with Apple customer service. When I was done with that frustrating experience, I realized that I needed to reach out to top level managers and CEOs and business owners and give them fair warning that they could end up having a very unpleasant surprise in the very near future with Google. If those things don’t seem to line up, stick around. I’ll put the pieces together in just a few seconds.

Hi. I’m Ross Barefoot with Horizon Web Marketing. First, I’m going to tell you a little bit about this frustrating experience that I had with Apple customer service. Like many of you out there, I have a teenage daughter, and a teenage daughter who spends a lot of time on her iPhone. She’s a really responsible girl, so I let her use my Apple sign-in ID. The other day, she downloaded an app that came with a subscription. She had no intention of buying it, but she just wanted to see what it was like. There was a trial period. She deleted the app, and I said, “Well, I need to do due diligence. Let’s log in to Apple and see if there’s going to be any consequences to this. Is there anything that we need to cancel?”

Of course, what do I do? Troglodyte that I am, I go to my desktop computer, I go to the Apple website. You see it right here. Of course, you got a way to sign in. I’m signed in right now. Once I sign in, I navigate on over to my account. Within my account, I check the status of any orders. No orders showing there. I can’t find anything about subscriptions, so I figure, “Hey, I’m good. Right?” What do you think happens? Of course, two days later, boom, I got a $50 charge on my credit card.

I get on with Apple chat customer service. Long story short, after 30 minutes, I finally was able to get the subscription canceled. In the meantime, while I’m chatting with this lady who’s trying to help me, she’s directing me to articles like this one, “View, change, or cancel your subscriptions”. I’m sending her screen captures of the place where I’m at. By the way, she wasn’t even looking at my screen captures, so bad for customer service in that respect. Finally figured out that the only way to cancel the subscription was on the iPhone. There was a workaround if I would have had iTunes installed, but I didn’t. There’s just simply no way though the web browser interface to get this simple job done of canceling a subscription.

Alright. Why am I going into all of this? Because it illustrates a point. The point it illustrates is how strongly the culture, users, and major companies are moving towards a mobile-centric world. I don’t like it anymore than you do, at least I hope you don’t like it, if you’re like me, but that’s the way it is nowadays. You know who’s paying attention to this? Google. That’s why Google is writing like on their official Webmaster Central Blog recently, they did an article on how they are moving to a mobile-first index and how eventually they may even move to a mobile-only index. Not going to try and explain what mobile-first index or even what index is, I’m just going to tell you the impact.

The impact on your business website is if your website does not run smoothly, look good, load quickly on a mobile device, it’s going to start hurting you in Google search results, and most likely Bing as well, although most people only really care about Google nowadays. Basically, the ante has been upped. You need to make sure that your business website, if you need visibility in search, and who doesn’t, has to be ready on mobile. You might be saying to yourself, “Well, we got web developers and we hired this company that does our website and everything.” Maybe you haven’t even checked it out.

That factors back into why I’m talking to top level business executives. If you’re, for example, a CEO, you’ve got a really busy schedule. It’s entirely understandable if you’ve never actually pulled out a phone and taken a look at your company’s website on the phone. I’m going to tell you that you need to engage with this and not just delegate it away. Here’s a couple of examples of why.

I’m going to go to a website, or I’m going to show you here a large company website. This company is $87 million in annual revenue estimated. Look at their page over here on the right. You can see their page on a mobile device. This tool here that I’m showing you is Google’s own mobile friendly test. Notice what Google concludes, “This page is not mobile friendly.” This factors back into what I was telling you about Google. If the page is not mobile friendly, it’s not going to be well situated for a mobile-first world, the world that Google is preparing for.

Let me give you another example here so you can see this is not an isolated incident. Here’s a $106 million business. On mobile, their website doesn’t even render correctly. I doubt if the CEO or if the top level senior management people in this company even know that this is the case. You also might be thinking, “Hey, our clientele is always going to be looking at our website on a desktop computer, so it doesn’t really matter”, but it does because Google says, “Page is not mobile friendly.” Google is basically saying, “Page is very possibly not going to do well for search in the future.”

screenshot of a large company website that is not mobile friendly

Here’s my final example to show you really quickly, and that is … Let me see if I can find it here. Here is probably the most egregious example that I have. A $410 million company, half a billion dollars almost in annual revenue, and their website does not render correctly on a mobile device.

The purpose of this video is not to give you a how-to of how to check out your website. I have done a video that shows you how you, without any technical skills, can check out your own company’s website in order to see, “Hey, are we measuring up? Is our website mobile friendly?” I’ll put a link to that video in the description for this video, but no, the purpose of this is to give you my “dad” lecture, like I did with my oldest son when I said, “Hey, listen. If you drop out of high school, you’re going to regret it.” He did drop out of high school, and yeah, he does regret it. The point is if you don’t check this out, if you don’t engage with this issue, you’re likely to regret it when you find that you’re losing ground in Google search results.

If you need any help on this, at Horizon Web Marketing, we do consulting and we also do seo training, either for you or for your staff, around all sorts of digital marketing issues, including issues like this. What impact does this type of thing have on your placement in search results? That’s part of what we do for SEO, or search engine optimization. Definitely if you like videos in plain business English, subscribe down below. Also in the comments, let me know what you’d like to learn more about so that you can be more effective in managing your company’s digital marketing presence, or making sure that other people and companies do a good job of that. Until next time, my name is Ross Barefoot with Horizon Web Marketing and Horizon Web Marketing Academy. Thank you very much for your time.

Drawing of woman standing out in a crowd

What is Personalization of Search Results? (Video)

Drawing of woman standing out in a crowd

Who knows you better than your best friend? Probably Google.

One of the key concepts in SEO: Why there’s no such thing as “Number 1 on Google” anymore

Personalization of Search is the practice pioneered by Google of modifying the Search Results based on a number of factors, including:

  • The location of the searcher
  • The type of device the searcher is using
  • The browsing activity of the searcher
  • Identifiable social media activity of the searcher
  • Any other information the search engine has available that helps them to discern the preferences that might affect what this searcher wants to see in their results.

A transcript is given below for those of you who’d prefer to skim text.

Video Transcript

Hi there. I’m Ross Barefoot with the Horizon Web Marketing Academy, and I’m going to take about five minutes today and discuss a topic called personalization of search. You may not have heard of this term before, but whether you have heard of it or not, it’s something that affects you every time you conduct a search. It also affects to whom and where your website appears in search results. Let’s take a moment and break this concept down. First, I’ll tell you how it works. It’s pretty simple, really. You conduct a search. Based on the query that you enter to the search bar, the search engine, whether it’s Google or Bing, is going to find the most relevant websites, and then it’s going to give you the most relevant of those at the top of the search results, and the next most relevant in second place, and so on and so forth.

What then happens nowadays is that a search engine applies something called a personalization filter. Both this collection of results and the filter are things that occur before you see anything. It happens behind the scene in just a fraction of a second while you’re waiting for your search results to appear. Then finally, the search engine will show you search results after it’s applied this personalization filter. These results are ones that the search engine thinks are more personal to you based on your preferences and what you want to see. You may see a different order or results, sometimes even a different set of results than what the search engine collected when it didn’t know anything about you or at least wasn’t trying to give you results that were personal to you. The results on the left, Google refers to as verbatim results. The ones on the right are ones that have been personalized.

illustration of Google verbatim results

Here’s an example from a search that I conducted for internet marketing [see below]. The results on the left are without personalization. The ones on the right are with personalization. Here is what those results look like. There’s not huge difference, but you can see the yellow highlighted results on the right appear in a different position in the personalized results than they would’ve appeared in the non-personalized results. Then you’ll notice those two results in orange. On the left, the 9 and 10 results drop out entirely when the results are personalized, and they’ve been replaced by two websites based on the fact that those two websites belong to businesses that are in the city in which I live. This is basically the way personalization works.

example of personalization of search results

What are the factors that relate to this? First of all, location affects which results you see. Secondly, the device you’re using, whether it’s mobile, or a desktop, or a tablet, and then also your browsing history is going to affect the results that you see. What websites have you shown a preference for in the past? Then finally, everything else a search engine might know from your use of all their products. Of course, when it comes to Google, there are a lot of products out there where you log into with your Google ID, and it gives Google a clue as to things you like and what you want to see. They’re always trying to give you what you want to see. Search engines will even use occasionally your social media profile and your activity in order to determine what results are best for you.

The implication of all of this is that there’s no such thing as a number one or even a page one results anymore because the results are going to vary from person to person. That’s why it’s so hollow really when some SEO company comes to you and guarantees you a number one result. There’s really no way they can do that nowadays. Also, it means that rank tracking tools, in other words services that will go out and track your position for any given number of keyword choices, they also are going to give you results that are maybe good for that tool but doesn’t necessarily indicate that those results are going to be the ones that your customers are going to see. Rank tracking tools have limited value, usually only a comparative value. In other words, they can show whether you’re improving or declining over time. It also means that checking your own position by googling your own keywords has very limited value as well because Google is going to show your website typically higher up than it would’ve been anyway since they know you prefer your own website. Therefore, you need to find better ways of determining whether your search engine optimization program is working.

You can learn more about this type of thing, and not just personalization of search but what to do about it, how to overcome it, by taking one of our SEO courses. You can also follow our blog, which is no charge, of course. You can also sign up for our free newsletter giving you SEO tips. The one thing that you can do where you’re willing to spend some money is you can also hire us for a consultation. All of these options are available if you go to Again, this has been Ross Barefoot with Horizon Web Marketing and the Horizon Web Marketing Academy. Just so you know, we’re a licensed affiliate of the Search Engine Academy, which has been teaching SEO skills for 14 years.