This week feels like a switch was flipped. Or a target reached. Or is it just that mobile has finally grown up?
A number of the things we have been predicting finally happened this week. Now these predictions weren’t like our (cheesy) 2002 Futurology piece where we called a fair bit of todays tech enabled world.
These are more logical next steps or inevitabilities. But they have taken longer to happen than we expected.
Google use mobile optimised as a signal in ranking.
Google have finally announced that they are going to tell users which sites are mobile optimized. And they are going to experiment with using this data as a signal for ranking. So Google will now reward those people who have invested in their mobile experience. And (gently) start to penalize those who haven’t
If you think about it, Google has one key job; help the user find what they are looking for as quickly as possible. Everything in the Google armoury has been focused on this – using your location, your previous search history, landing pages score etc. But until now Google has ignored one key factor – your device. Knowing you are using a smartphone and returning answers that are not mobile optimized doesn’t make any sense for the user. Or for Google. But now they are correcting this anomaly and a huge amount of SEO work is about to be made redundant.
If you don’t have a mobile site, now would be a good time to get one. And if you do have one, you should be constantly testing to make sure it’s as good as it can be – too many mobile sites are designed by desktop web people and are not really focused on touch and fat fingers. (
Google kicked out by Firefox
When we talk about GAFA and vertical stacks, we cover the way Google have been eased out of iOS. When the appstore was launched Google were baked in with 3 key integrations; the YouTube app that Apple built, Google maps as default and Google as the default choice is the Safari browser. As we all know Apple have evicted Google from Maps and if you want a YouTube app you have to go download the one Google made. Both have had an impact on Google, but they are still pretty big in Maps and Video on iOS
We have long argued that, at some point, Apple will kick Google out of search by changing the default setting for search in Safari. They added DuckDuckGo, so the 4 options are now Bing, DuckDuckGo, Google and Yahoo, with Google getting the default tick – for which they pay around $3bn. And we are convinced that Bing and Yahoo would happily pay more.
Firefox have tested this scenario out and in just a few weeks time Yahoo will be the default search engine for the Firefox browser. We can’t imagine that both Bing and Yahoo aren’t pitching a similar deal to Apple every single day.
How long before Apple decide they would rather not have Google know what all their users are searching for? And such a deal could help Apple with legislators like the EU worry about the Google ‘dominance’ of search; by making the default setting an alphabetic one they could rebalance the market.
We’ve been advising our clients to focus more attention on Bing and Yahoo SEO for a while now – you should start too.
Apple have released some advice for developers focusing on the Watch; essential reading around on what can and can’t be done. The key thing for us is that the iPhone is heavily involved in most possibilities so as to leverage the more powerful CPUs and longer life of the phone. So the Watch is a peripheral rather than a wearable. Slightly pedantic I know, but we have to develop experiences that use both devices, not just the Watch.
And last in our told you so list, we now have some more good proof that mobile advertising can and does build brands. We laboured against the belief digital is purely a response medium 10 years ago and it’s slightly frustrating that the same mis-informed nonsense has been trotted out about mobile. But a good case study from Havas and Sky proves what many people have known all along – you can drive brand metrics and response metrics with mobile advertising.
You just need to think carefully about how you use the medium and recognize that an investment in good creative is just that – an investment. One that usually pays off.
Future of apps
Over the past few weeks there has been a lot of debate about how apps are going to evolve. There is data showing that time spent in mobile apps is now more than the time spent using the browser on both desktop and mobile.
The Wall Street Journal take the view this means that the web is dying as the walled gardens of GAFA and others dominate. (We would argue that much of this time is actually games and music where one would have used a different device before smartphones).
The very nature of these apps is changing as the latest versions of both the Apple and the Android OS enable notifications purely etc to do more, reducing the need to open the apps. We pointed to this smart thinking about what that means for brand apps and one of the people who initiated the debate has come back to say his thinking as misinterpreted – apps are not dying – they are just evolving.
Both these pieces are worth reading as is this other viewpoint what the web is pretty resilient and could still come out on top.
Just like they say in Hollywood, no-one know anything and brands should remain nimble and avoid making moves based purely on technology. Instead focus on creating valuable experiences for your customers on the devices they choose to use and in the channels where they spend their time.
Flurry have some new research showing time spent in apps now exceeds time spent watching TV in the US. This doesn’t mean one should ditch TV but where are the examples of people looking to link these two hugely powerful media? There is huge potential to marry the power of TV with an immersive mobile experience; essentially delivering part 2 of the commercial.
Interesting look at how GAFA (and Microsoft) are developing their vertical stacks. And how their value has doubled in 3 years.
Snapchat say their ads work even though there is no targeting. Reach – combined with the targeting inherent in the channel – can be enough
Retailers continue to test how mobile can improve the instore experience. Target are trying in store navigation
BAT – the Chinese GAFA – have a way of investing in promising startups and using their reach and muscle to accelerate the growth. Could they bring this Kingmaker strategy to the West?
Finally …More proof that content is king. A podcast has gone viral and is getting over a million downloads for each episode. We believe episodic content has huge potential in modern digital. Imagine a 3 minute video version of something like Hollyoaks published on Facebook at 12 noon every day with storylines expanded in Snapchat Stories. A weekly omnibus on YouTube. And each character has a rich social presence too.
It’s time for brands to reinvent soap operas. We are developing an interesting format and would love to talk with potential partners and collaborators.