Is Your Email Program Ready for Google's New Algorithm?

Google recently announced that it will expand its use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal for search results on mobile devices.  The change will be introduced starting April 21, and will apply to mobile searches in all languages worldwide. And, effective immediately, Google will begin using content from indexed apps (limited to Android only for now) in search results for signed-in users who have the app installed on their mobile device.

According to Google, this change will have a “significant impact” on its search results.  Google is deepening its commitment to ensuring that mobile users get the most relevant and useful search results, no matter where the information resides. A Google team member recently went as far as saying that the new mobile-friendly algorithm will have a bigger effect than the Panda and Penguin updates of 2011 and 2012, respectively.  With approximately 50% of searches now conducted on mobile devices, any sites that are not optimized for mobile could see big decreases in search traffic.

So what does this change mean for your email marketing program?

Some email experts have dismissed the importance of the new Google algorithm, suggesting it has no repercussions for email marketing because it only affects organic searches from mobile devices.  >While that view is not without merit, it is also a bit short-sighted.

There are two reasons why email marketers should be paying close attention to Google’s announcement:

  1. Mobile’s Time Is Now.  If you were waiting for a  final impetus to optimize your web site and email messages for mobile, this should be it.  Time is running out for brands that don’t provide customers with mobile-friendly email messages and landing pages.  Return Path data shows that about half of email is read on mobile devices, and that figure is expected to only increase in the years ahead.  Optimizing marketing content for mobile isn’t about being “friendly”; it’s about being relevant and staying in the game.  Whether email or search, if your brand doesn’t have mobile baked into your marketing DNA you are at risk of ceding advantage to the competition.
  2. Organic List Growth.  A less obvious impact of the new Google algorithm is its potential to suppress organic list growth.  As consumers frequently use their mobile devices to access online content, email marketers will be challenged to find innovative ways of facilitating mobile opt-ins.  Mobile-specific acquisition strategies and thumb-friendly opt-in forms will become increasingly important tools for marketers to harness search traffic to grow their email lists.  This will require thinking of creative ways to get the initial opt-in and then to successively profile new users with onboarding messages that are specifically tailored to the mobile channel.  As mobile devices become the default for many users—particularly the much-touted millennials—email marketers will need to test ways of optimizing email sign-ups via mobile, just as they did for desktops over the past decade or so.

We’re reached the proverbial tipping point for mobile, and it’s conceivable that in the not-too-distant future the majority of online activity—from search to shopping to email—will be conducted on mobile devices.  Email marketers need to follow Google’s lead by ensuring that all aspects of the email lifecycle, from opt-in to conversion, are optimized for mobile.

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