For the moment, let’s presume that the Apple Watch takes off and becomes the next big thing. It may happen. In 2007, it was hard to believe that the iPhone would change all of mobile. It’s entirely possible that soon tens of millions of people are walking around with their primary internet interface on their wrist.
How big is that screen? Slightly bigger than a postage stamp?
I suggest you think long and hard about the future of content marketing on increasingly smaller devices and on devices no longer directly connected to the idea of a “computer”. Google’s mobile integration is the first step long term towards a future where content relevance is going to be determined by more than a crawl of a website.
Here’s three ways to start thinking beyond “mobile friendly”:
One – Start Thinking Visually
In the end – the real issue going forward boils down to semiotics. In terms of symbols and language – a picture really is worth a thousand words. The first human writings (Sumerians in 3200 BC) were not lingual but logogrammatic. The reason is obvious, pictures require considerably less context than language to communicate an idea.
It’s basic human anatomy – we can see an image (about 13-80 ms) much faster than we can read (about 300ms). This doesn’t even presume the mental overhead necessary to understand the image (which is longer in the case of reading). Bottom line – we like seeing stuff more than we like reading stuff. Combine this fact with the evidence that screen sizes are already affecting our habits and what we will read – the sticky sites are going to be the visually interesting ones.
A diagram demonstrating the acuity of foveal vision in reading (Source: WikiPedia)
Two – Structure my experience in media res
If I’m accessing your content via my phone or a tablet, think about what I’m doing. We tend to “whip it out our phones” largely for three things – information, assistance, or entertainment. Start thinking about how your presence fits into those big buckets. How are you going to add value to my life?
For example – If you’re a law firm and I find you on my phone, what do you think I’m most likely doing at that moment? Am I in jail? Facing a cop? Give me the information, the assistance, or the entertainment I want, in a manner matching my access your content via my device.
Three – More than my browser
Smart devices are amazing generators and consumers of content. Leverage that fact. The ideal consumer experience is some kind of multimedia app I come to rely on authoritatively. Great examples of this – Oakley’s Surf Report, REI’s ski conditions, Audi A4 Driving Challenge. The returns on having one of the most downloaded App’s on Itunes (like Zippo) cannot be understated. These are experiences that leverage “in media res,” are highly visual and sticky, and bond me to your content.
Changed Slowly… then all at once.
Historically Google first makes incremental changes, then makes changes “all at once” (think about the link changes that lead to the “Penguin” update that caused convulsions throughout the SEO world). This is predictable. It’s happened many times since Google entered the arena in 2000.
While mobile friendly design is the standard everyone is focused on today – long term, the game is not changing – what keeps users on your content, engaged, and not bouncing to something else is what Google most closely watches and ranks.
So while today the question is “will your website be useful on a mobile phone” as a ranking factor – very soon, brands will be ranked overall about the adaptability of their content and how well their content matches the user’s needs and devices at that point of contact.
Start thinking now about being visual, thoughtful about the environment in which users access your content, and delivering media experiences beyond the web, ensures that regardless of what Google does in the future. Those that do that will ensure their content and brands are positioned to succeed.