Reputation Management Tips for the Mobile Web

In reputation management, it is one thing to be able to create an amazing SERP filled with 10 fantastic, natural-looking links, but is entirely another to be able to follow through from that SERP to provide great web experiences for those people who are looking for your brand name online.

Reputation management isn’t just about making a SERP look good, it is about giving people an experience that benefits and satisfies their needs. To that effect, the web is changing dramatically. Just in the last 5 years, we’ve seen the rise of the social web, and now we’re experiencing another shift—to mobile. Mobile web use has been growing rapidly for the last few years, and it is estimated that mobile web use will surpass desktop web use in 2013 (source). So, more and more of the searches that are taking place online are occurring on mobile devices. And mobile users expect just as much out of their mobile web use as they do out of the desktop web use.

In fact, in July 2011, Compuware released the findings of a study on mobile use indicating that:

  • 1/3 of mobile users will turn to a competitor’s site if they have a bad mobile experience
  • Nearly half of mobile users are unlikely to return to a website via a desktop browser that they had trouble accessing on their mobile device
  • Only 50% of mobile users are willing to wait more than 5 seconds for a mobile site to load before leaving

So how are we preparing for the mobile web through our reputation management strategies? There are two ways to create engaging mobile experiences for the web, through a mobile website and through a responsive web design.

Mobile Website

Creating a separate mobile site for your web properties is the oldest way to create engaging mobile experiences online. Creating an alternative mobile site is the best way to control exactly what your users will see when they click through from the SERP. When you build a mobile site, you know that the online experience will be exactly the same for every user and that the experience will be consistent across different devices.

However, building alternative sites for each web property takes a lot of work and can be hard to maintain. In addition, you need to make sure that your mobile site is similar to your desktop site, or you will risk alienating users who switch between the two experiences.

Responsive Website

Building a responsive website from the ground up is a complete rethinking of what a website can be. Instead of defining exactly what each user will see, despite different screen sizes, a responsive web design uses CSS to dynamically generate your website to fit any screen size. That means you don’t need to create a separate mobile site because your website changes to fit mobile as well as desktop sized screens.

The advantages are that mobile users and desktop users have virtually the same experience and you won’t have to worry about disorienting users who may switch from one device to another. Additionally, you won’t need to bother with creating two separate web designs. On the other hand, a responsive web design needs to be created from the ground up—meaning a complete site redesign to existing properties—which can take time and money to complete.

Mobile Is an Experience

Keep in mind that reputation management is more than just getting a good SERP. It’s about follow through on the platforms you can control. If you can make your brand seem that much more appealing by creating an engaging and consistent mobile experience for anyone who may be searching for you online, then you’ll truly be creating a positive online reputation.

The Rise of Mobile and Your Online Reputation

It is predicted that mobile internet use will outpace desktop internet use worldwide in 2013. Right now there are already more mobile internet connected devices than have ever existed and the numbers are growing daily—especially in emerging economies like India and China.

For proof you can look at the sale of Apple devices. It took 3 years for Apple iPod sales to reach 10 million units sold. The iPhone reached 10 million units in 2 years. And the iPad took only 9 months to reach the same number. More and more people are using mobile devices for internet access. But most of our websites are built for traditional desktop-based browsers.

If you’ve ever seriously tried to find information on the internet with your smartphone, you know how frustrating it can be to visit websites and landing pages that are not optimized for mobile. The text is small, and so are the buttons. You have to zoom in to see pictures or make any sense of what the text is saying.

In fact, 50% of mobile users are not willing to wait more than 5 seconds for a website to load on a mobile device. And 1/3 will return to the search results to find a mobile optimized site if their first click did not result in a mobile-friendly site.

In terms of reputation management, that means that you need to start thinking not only about your customer’s online experience, but their mobile experience as well. It would be terrible for a mobile user to click through to your main websites only to find that it isn’t mobile friendly, and for that user to turn back to the search results and click on a blog post by a disgruntled ex-employee that is optimized for mobile use.

Your Mobile Reputation

First and foremost you need to make sure that your main site—which should be the first result in a Google search for your company name—is optimized for mobile. And there are three ways you can go about doing this.

1) Separate mobile and desktop sites
Instead of redesigning your entire site for multi-platform use, you can simply make a separate mobile site and reroute all mobile users to that site for a better mobile experience. This is a reasonable solution, but it isn’t always the most elegant, and it is not the preferred method Google likes to see.

2) Separate HTML for mobile and desktop

With this method, users are visiting the same URLs, but the HTML served to them on each page is different, depending on the device they are using. This is a more efficient way to tackle the problem, but it is still a hassle to have to deal with what are essentially two sites in one.

3) Responsive web design

Responsive web design would require a reworking of your entire site so that the HTML remains the same across the board, but the CSS changes the looks and feel of the site based on the size of the screen. This is the most efficient and elegant solution—and the one preferred by Google, but it requires a site redesign, which is not always an option.

All Web Properties

Seeking an optimized mobile experience for your users is your first step to ensuring that your reputation stays intact. Not only will it prevent your mobile users from bouncing from your site, but it will improve your reputation by building trust in the people who visit it.

Additionally, if you’re serious about building an iron clad SERP for your reputation management, you’ve probably built multiple sites and that all rank for your company or brand name. Now is a good time to make sure that all these sites are optimized for mobile as well. It might actually be easier to optimize these sites with responsive web design than your main site because they are smaller and built simply for ranking purposes.

Of course you cannot control the way other people build their websites. But if you are trying to get 3rd party sites to rank well in your branded SERPs, try to ensure that these sites are mobile friendly as well. If not, that okay. But if you have a choice, choose mobile optimized sites over desktop-only sites.

Mobile is on the rise and those that are prepared will succeed in the new mobile world. Those who cannot adapt now will only be playing catch up. So make the choice now to get ahead of the trend and the technology by being aware of the mobile compatibility of your web properties. It may affect your online reputation more than you know.