Tag Archives: events

Oculus looks to improve VR app discovery with content-based search

Oculus will roll out content-based app search for Gear VR and options for developers to promote app events, announcements. The post Oculus looks to improve VR app discovery with content-based search appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
content-and-SEO.jpg

Share17 Chicago: The key themes and trends

Digital marketers gathered in Chicago last week for Share17, an event hosted by SEO and content marketing platform BrightEdge.

Share17 provided a welcome opportunity to take stock of where the industry stands, discuss common challenges marketers are facing, and consider the upcoming trends we should all aim to capitalize on.

The agenda for the day reflected this, through a combination of guest speakers, customer panels, and plenty of revelations about search marketing trends. The below is a recap of the key themes and SEO tips we took away from the event.

The convergence of SEO and content marketing

The key theme for the day was the convergence of SEO and content marketing, although there were also discussions on how SEO impacts all areas of modern businesses.

97% of BrightEdge customers state that SEO and content marketing are either merging or have already done so. As a result, the focus shifts to the more pragmatic matters of how this plays out at companies both large and small. At a conceptual level, there is widespread understanding of the interplay between the disciplines, but at a practical level there is still some work to do.

Although content marketing has grown to become a $75 billion industry, each piece of content needs a lot of help if it is to cut through in such a crowded market. In fact, research from BrightEdge revealed:

  • 50% of B2B content draws some engagement from its intended audience. The other 50% receives no visits or shares.
  • The picture is bleaker still for B2C content, with only 20% engaging consumers. The vast majority of B2C content is simply never seen.

SEO can help here, of course, but it is clear that something is amiss at a broader scale. The content marketing industry has not aligned demand with supply if so much of its output fails to resonate with even a small audience.

Scott Mowery from Cleveland Clinic had some tips to help ensure that content is created with conviction. Without that dedication of attention and resources, it is highly likely that the audience will not engage when so many other options are available.

Scott used the acronym C.O.P.E. (Create Once, Promote Everywhere) to distil his team’s philosophy, and it is one that is reaping dividends so far.

The core idea here is to make sure that there is a clear purpose behind every piece of content created and that it is of the highest possible quality. Then it can be repurposed for different media formats and delivered to an audience through a focused amplification plan. With a projected 110 million visits in 2017, this plan seems to be working for Cleveland Clinic.

SEO is very closely aligned to business strategy

Throughout the day, there were nods to the prominent position SEO has assumed within businesses due to its ties with content marketing. This is due to the fact that content sits at the center of marketing plans, while marketing channels are ways of promoting this message and directing traffic towards content.

SEO is a fusion of medium and message, as it is simply impossible to rank in competitive industries without creating something of value that appeals to an audience.

Working in SEO in 2017 therefore requires a broad range of skill sets, from the technical through to the strategic and the interpersonal. Frankly, SEO fails if it exists in a vacuum and it requires input from across departments to reach its full potential.

Guest speaker John Hall had an interesting take on what this means for the career prospects of SEOs. He said that he sees more SEO professionals take up senior leadership positions than ever before, based on their ability to view business problems from a range of angles.

The changing nature of SEO has made it hard to pin down with concrete definitions, but that fluidity also creates marketers that are adept at managing the complexities of the modern business landscape.

SEO professionals need to have influence, both internally and externally, to get this message across.

John Hall shared some fascinating insights into the psychology of influencing people, whether within a company or when communicating with customers. His presentation revealed the importance of making a genuine emotional connection with people to stay top of mind in the long term. That brings with it a certain vulnerability, but it is imperative if we are to gain the trust of our audience.

Share17 Chicago: The key themes and trends

Some of this may feel very intuitive, so it is therefore worth asking why we fail to make these connections more frequently. A narrow focus on gaining short-term ROI restricts the potential for brands to make emotional connections over time, but the most profitable brands achieve exactly this aim.

Such campaigns have typically been the domain of brand marketers but as media spend continues to move online, there should be a seat at the table for SEO too.

Consumers are in control

In the age of cord-cutters and ad blockers, the message for brands is clear: consumers are in control. 28% of US Internet users used ad blockers this year, as the digital advertising industry struggles to balance monetization with user experience.

This dynamic is playing out with particular significance on mobile devices, where consumer expectations continue to heighten. BrightEdge research found that 79% of results for the same query differ across mobile and desktop devices.

Concurrently, the growth in queries containing the phrase ‘near me’ is slowing. This is driven by implicit intent; users are coming to expect that Google knows where they are and will tailor the results accordingly without direction.

From Google’s perspective, the core focus now is on speed. To keep consumers in the Google search ecosystem on mobile, it is essential to provide an app-like experience via search results pages.

We have seen this recently with developments like AMP and app indexation, but there is still a sense that marketers need to place more emphasis on providing a faster digital experience. 82% of smartphone users consult their phones while in a store deciding what to buy, so every second of extra load time can be costly.

In fact, as Eugene Feygin from Quill.com discussed, Amazon has calculated that an extra second of load time across their site would result in $1.6 billion in lost revenue per annum.

Share17 Chicago: The key themes and trends

This creates a multitude of moments of need or want throughout each day, with the average user now spending 2 hours per day on a mobile device. The approach of applying broad demographic groups or personas is no longer fit for purpose if we want to put consumers first.

A more accurate and profitable approach understands the importance of being in the right place when people need information. That consumer journey will differ by brand and by industry; the companies that prosper over the next few years will comprehend this and plan their content marketing accordingly.

Share17 Chicago: The key themes and trendsThis provides a robust structure to an SEO campaign, driven by genuine consumer demand. That structure needs to be populated with content that connects, however, and this is where we should recall the lessons learned from John Hall’s presentation. It is only by investing ourselves in our content that we will provide something of value that stands out in such a competitive landscape.

Throughout the day, there was a sense of this being an exciting moment for the SEO industry, but also one that requires a strategic mindset to comprehend and capitalize on so many diverse areas of activity.

Scott Mowery from Cleveland Clinic shared a helpful mantra that his team goes by to keep efforts focused in what is an increasingly complex market. If an initiative is not digital, mobile and measurable, don’t do it.

This seems an apt summary of the core themes from Share17 in Chicago, and sage advice for all search marketers.

7052608.gif

Win Your Ticket to the 2017 U.S. Search Awards in Las Vegas! by @jrdoog

SEJ is giving away two tickets to the US Search Awards happening on Wednesday, November 8. Check the details here.

The post Win Your Ticket to the 2017 U.S. Search Awards in Las Vegas! by @jrdoog appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

7052608.gif

Win Your Ticket to the 2017 U.S. Search Awards in Las Vegas! by @jrdoog

SEJ is giving away two tickets to the US Search Awards happening on Wednesday, November 8. Check the details here.

The post Win Your Ticket to the 2017 U.S. Search Awards in Las Vegas! by @jrdoog appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

The last word on Fred from Google’s Gary Illyes

This month’s Brighton SEO delegates all hoped for Google’s Gary Illyes to enlighten them on the major talking points in search this year. They weren’t disappointed. 

Google algorithm updates are frequently on the minds of SEOs and webmasters, and have been a hot topic for years. We are always on tenterhooks, waiting for the next change that could damage our site’s rankings.

We are never able to rest, always at risk of being penalized by the next animal to enter Google’s zoo of updates.

Past assumptions about Google Fred

Back on March 7th 2017, many webmasters reported unexpected fluctuations to rankings. The name Google Fred then began to circulate, following a chat on Twitter between Barry Schwartz and Google’s Gary Illyes where Gary joked about future updates being named Fred.

We safely assumed there was an adjustment to the algorithm as Google confirmed there are updates happening every day. As usual, Google did not confirm any details about this particular update, but analysis of affected sites suggested it focused on poor quality content sites that were benefiting from monetization tactics.

As this update felt larger than the normal day-to-day algorithm changes, it seemed only natural it should be worthy of a name. As a result, the name “Google Fred” officially stuck, despite Gary Illyes intending his tongue-in-cheek comment to refer to all future updates.

So how can we tell the difference between the Fred update in March and other updates?

What is Google Fred, really?

In a Q&A session at September’s Brighton SEO, Google Fred was brought up once again, and we got the final word on Fred from Gary Illyes himself. Here’s what Fred’s creator had to say:

Interviewer: Let’s talk about Fred.

Gary Illyes: Who?

Interviewer: You are the person that created Fred. So Fred is basically an algo that…

Gary Illyes: It’s not one algo, it’s all the algos.

Interviewer: So you can confirm it’s not a single algo – it’s a whole umbrella of a bunch of different changes and updates that everyone has just kind of put under this umbrella of “Fred”.

Gary Illyes: Right, so the story behind Fred is that basically I’m an asshole on Twitter. And I’m also very sarcastic which is usually a very bad combination. And Barry Schwartz, because who else, was asking me about some update that we did to the search algorithm.

And I don’t know if you know, but in average we do three or two to three updates to the search algorithm, ranking algorithm every single day. So usually our response to Barry is that sure, it’s very likely there was an update. But that day I felt even more sarcastic than I actually am, and I had to tell him that.

Oh, he was begging me practically for a name for the algorithm or update, because he likes Panda or Penguin and what’s the new one. Pork, owl, shit like that. And I just told him that, you know what, from now on every single update that we make – unless we say otherwise – will be called Fred; every single one of them.

Interviewer: So now we’re in a perpetual state of Freds?

Gary Illyes: Correct. Basically every single update that we make is a Fred. I don’t like, or I was sarcastic because I don’t like that people are focusing on this.

Every single update that we make is around quality of the site or general quality, perceived quality of the site, content and the links or whatever. All these are in the Webmaster Guidelines. When there’s something that is not in line with our Webmaster Guidelines, or we change an algorithm that modifies the Webmaster Guidelines, then we update the Webmaster Guidelines as well.

Or we publish something like a Penguin algorithm, or work with journalists like you to publish, throw them something like they did with Panda.

Interviewer: So for all these one to two updates a day, when webmasters go on and see their rankings go up or down, how many of those changes are actually actionable? Can webmasters actually take something away from that, or is it just under the generic and for the quality of your site?

Gary Illyes: I would say that for the vast majority, and I’m talking about probably over 95%, 98% of the launches are not actionable for webmasters. And that’s because we may change, for example, which keywords from the page we pick up because we see, let’s say, that people in a certain region put up the content differently and we want to adapt to that.

[…]

Basically, if you publish high quality content that is highly cited on the internet – and I’m not talking about just links, but also mentions on social networks and people talking about your branding, crap like that.

[audience laughter]

Then, I shouldn’t have said that right? Then you are doing great. And fluctuations will always happen to your traffic. We can’t help that; it would be really weird if there wasn’t fluctuation, because that would mean we don’t change, we don’t improve our search results anymore.

(Transcript has been lightly edited for clarity)

So there we have it: every update is a Fred unless otherwise stated. The ranking drops in March may well have been triggered by the “original” Fred update, but so will all fluctuations, for they are all Fred.

How can we optimize for Fred?

Gary says that 95-98% of updates are not actionable for webmasters. With two or three updates a day, that accounts for a lot of updates each year! So what do we do?

The answer is simple – do what you were doing before. Build great websites, build your brand and produce high quality content aimed to satisfy the needs of searchers whilst adhering to the Webmaster Guidelines.

As Simon Ensor wrote in his recent article on the SEO industry and its sweeping statements, SEOs shouldn’t fear algorithm updates from Google:

“Many may complain that Google moves the goalposts but in actual fact, the fundamentals remain the same. Avoiding manipulative behavior, staying relevant, developing authority and thinking about your users are four simple factors that will go a long way to keeping you on the straight and narrow.

The Google updates are inevitable. Techniques will evolve, and results will require some hard graft. Every campaign is different, but if you stick to the core principles of white-hat SEO, you need not take notice of the sweeping statements that abound in our corner of the marketing world. Nor should you have to fear future Google updates.”

What does it mean for SEOs?

Sage advice aside, this explanation from Gary Illyes may still leave SEOs feeling slightly frustrated. We appreciate that not every small update warrants a name or set of webmaster guidelines, but we still have a job to do and a changeable industry to make sense of.

We have stakeholders and clients to answer to and explain ranking fluctuations to. It doesn’t help us to put all updates under the carpet of Fred.

Of course we would find it really useful if each major update came with clear guidelines immediately, not leaving us for days in the dark, figuring it out and stabilizing our rankings.

But maybe – as Gary may have been alluding – where would the fun be if it were that simple?

To read the full transcript of the Q&A with Gary Illyes or watch a recording of the interview, check out this blog post by iThinkMedia.

totally-excellent-local-links.png

How to create a kickass link-building strategy for local SEO

Link-building is a tried and tested SEO tactic, and although there are a number of dubious ways to go about it, at base developing a strong link-building strategy is a smart and very necessary way to get your site ranked above your competitors.

This is particularly true of local SEO, where a few savvy tactics for building links and relationships with other local businesses can give you a huge visibility boost in local search.

According to the 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors, inbound links are the most important ranking signal.

But if you’ve run through all the usual methods of getting inbound links, what can you do to give your site – or your client’s site – a leg up in search?

At Brighton SEO last Friday, master of local SEO Greg Grifford shared some “righteous” tips for a kickass link-building strategy, in his signature flurry of slides and movie references – this time to 80s movies.

How link-building differs in local SEO

With local small businesses, said Gifford, you have to think about links in something other than pure numbers. Which is not to say that quantity doesn’t help – but it’s about the number of different sites which link to you, not the sheer number of links you have full stop.

With local SEO, all local links are relevant if they’re in the same geographical area as you. Even those crappy little church or youth group websites with a site design from the 1990s? Yes, especially those – in the world of local SEO, local relevance supersedes quality. While a link from a low-quality, low-authority website is a bad idea in all other contexts, local SEO is the one time that you can get away with it; in fact, these websites are your secret weapon.

Gifford also explained that local links are hard to reverse-engineer. If your competitors don’t understand local, they won’t see the value of these links – and even if they do, good relationships will allow you to score links that your competitors might not be able to get.

“It’s all about real-world relationships,” he said.

And once you have these relationships in place, you can get a ton of local links for less time and effort than it would take you to get a single link from a site with high domain authority.

So how should you go about building local relationships to get links? Gifford explained that there are five main ways to gain local links back to your business:

  1. Get local sponsorships
  2. Donate time or volunteer
  3. Get involved in your local community
  4. Share truly useful information
  5. Be creative in the hopes of scoring a random mention

Practical ways to get local links

These five basic ways of getting local links encompass dozens of different methods that you can use to build relationships and improve your standing in local search.

How to create a kickass link-building strategy for local SEO

Here is just a sample of the huge list of ideas that Gifford ran through in his presentation:

Local meetups

Go to meetup.com and scout around for local meetups. A lot of local meetups don’t have a permanent location, which gives you an opportunity to offer your business as a permanent meeting venue. Or you can sponsor the event, make a small investment to buy food and drink for its members, and get a killer local link in return.

Local directories

Find local directories that are relevant to the business you’re working with. Gifford emphasized that these should not be huge, generic directories with names like “xyzdirectory.com”, but genuine local listings where you can provide useful information.

Local review sites

These are easier to get onto than bigger review websites, and with huge amounts of hyperlocal relevance.

Event sponsorships

Similar to sponsoring a local meetup, a relatively small investment can get you a great link in return. Event sponsorships will normally include your logo, but make sure that they also link back to your site.

Local blogs & newspapers

Local bloggers are hungry to find information to put on their blogs; you can donate time and information to them, and get a killer blog post and link out of the equation. The same is true of local newspapers, who are often stretched for content for their digital editions and might appreciate a tip or feature opportunity about a locally relevant business.

Local charities

Local charities are another way to get involved with the community and give back to it – plus, it’s great for your image. By the same token, you also can donate to local food banks or shelters, and be listed as a donor or sponsor on their website.

Local business associations

Much like local directories, it’s very easy to get listed by a local business association, such as a local bar dealer’s association – make sure there’s a link.

Local schools

These are great if you’re on the Board of Directors, or if your child or your client’s child is at that school. Again, getting involved in a local school is a good way to give back to the community at the same time as raising your local profile and improving your local links (both the SEO and the relationship kind).

Ethnic business directories

If you’re a member of a particular ethnic community who runs a local business, you can list your business on an ethnic business directory, which is great for grabbing the attention – and custom – of everyone in that community.

Of course, it goes without saying that you should only do this if it genuinely does apply to your business.

How to create a kickass link-building strategy for local SEO

Gifford’s presentation contained even more ingenious ideas for local links than I’ve listed here, including local guides, art festivals and calendar pages; you can find the full list on his Slideshare of the presentation.

Gifford advises creating a spreadsheet with all your link opportunities, including what it will cost or the time it will take you. Make sure you have all of the relevant contact details, so that when it comes time to get the link, you can just go and get it. Then present that to your client, or if you’re not working on behalf of a client, to whichever individual whose buy-in you need in order to pursue a link-building strategy.

In fact, Gifford has even put together a pre-made spreadsheet ready for you to fill in, and you can download it here: bit.ly/badass-link-worksheet

Decide what links to go after, and go and get them; then, after three months, wipe the spreadsheet and repeat the process.

Some important points to bear in mind

So, now you’re all set to go out and gather a cornucopia of local links, all pointing right at your business, right? Well, here are a few points to bear in mind first.

A lot of times, the people you approach won’t know what SEO is, or even what digital is. So be careful about how you go about asking for a link; don’t mention links or SEO right off the bat. Instead, focus on the value that will be added for their customers. “This is not about the link; this is about the value that you can provide,” said Gifford.

How to create a kickass link-building strategy for local SEO

Once again, for the people at the back: it’s about building up long-term, valuable relationships which provide benefit to you and to the local community. When it comes to local SEO, these relationships and the links that you can get will be worth more than any links from big, hefty high-domain-authority (but locally irrelevant) websites.

Or in Gifford’s words: “Forget about the big PR link shit. Go really hard after small, local links.”

Bing Offers Historical Knowledge Box: Search “On This Day”

Bing quietly announced on Twitter that if you search for [on this day] in Bing you may just get an historical knowledge box showing you important and historical events that happened on this day in the past...

New Google SOS Alerts In Search

Google announced a new search and maps feature that provides SOS alerts for locations and events that are in crisis. Google wrote "SOS alerts is a new set of features in Google Search and Maps to help you quickly understand whatâs going on and decide what to do during a crisis...
t_amp_trump_google.png

Accelerated Mobile Pages vs Facebook Instant Articles: Is Google winning the mobile war?

Articles published with Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) load four times faster than standard mobile pages with a 35% improvement in engagement time, according to new research from Chartbeat.

Facebook Instant Articles (FIA), a key competitor to Google’s AMP product, load faster than AMP. But publishers see three times as many AMP articles viewed per day than FIA articles.

This comes hot on the heels of a stream of encouraging news on AMP from the Google I/O keynotes, presented by VP product management Rahul Roy-Chowdhury and Malte Ubl, creator and tech lead of the AMP Project. These included:

  • There are now 2 billion AMP pages from over 900,000 domains, as of May 2017. A year ago there were 125 million AMP pages.
  • An average AMP page loads in less than a second and uses ten times less data than a normal mobile page.
  • AMP supporters and partners include Twitter, Tumblr, Qzone, Weibo, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Bing, Feedly, Nuzzle.
  • AliExpress reduced load times by 36% with AMP, helping to increase orders by 10.5% and conversion rates by 27%.

Meanwhile, in late May 2017, Facebook announced an extension to its Software Development Kit (SDK) so that articles produced for FIA will also be publishable as AMP articles, and soon also as Apple News. This is in response to publisher frustration at having to produce content in different formats for different platforms.

Facebook’s move could also be a reaction to a number of publishers reportedly dropping Facebook Instant Articles, and a recognition the FIA is losing ground to AMP.

A recap: What is AMP?

AMP is special type of slim-line mobile webpage, which is an open source project, led, or controlled (depending on your viewpoint), by Google. AMP web pages are faster because:

  • AMP is not part of the publisher’s main website (less baggage to download).
  • The content is static (less interactive baggage to stall download).
  • The articles are pre-cached on servers around the world, by Google or its AMP partners, so they are closer to the user (faster to download).

Any web page could be – and should be – speeded up in a similar way, by reducing page bloat, and using caching via a content delivery network. But the advantage of AMP is Google will only cache AMP pages and Google promotes AMP pages in mobile search above non-AMP pages.

As demonstrated by the following screenshots, of a Google search for “Trump” captured concurrently on a tablet and smartphone, using the tool mobilizer, AMP news stories dominate mobile search results for topical terms. Not just in the picture-led carousel of news, but throughout search results. AMP doesn’t feature at all in tablet results, which is baffling.

What the difference between AMP, Facebook Instant Articles, and Apple News articles?

Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News are news articles from third-party publishers that appear in the newsfeed on the Facebook app and within the Apple News app, respectively. They are tightly controlled by Facebook and Apple and only available to users of those apps. They are also not discoverable through web search or other third party sites or apps.

While these platforms present additional distribution channels for publishers, there is a double drawback to using them: the potential for losing out on direct traffic to their own sites and apps (where they potentially control all the ad revenue), and also the need to prepare articles in three additional formats.

The stats

Chartbeat’s research is particularly interesting as it provides an independent assessment of AMP and a comparison with FIA. There’s no inclusion of Apple News in the research, which is unfortunate as little is known about the platform except that it has 70 million users, according to Recode.

Chartbeat compared 360 sites that use both AMP and FIA, from its 50,000 media sites that use its analytics tools. So how did AMP stack up in the race against Facebook?

Speed and engagement

Let’s start with speed and engagement.

  • The research found the average mobile web article took 5.3 seconds to load, but AMP took 1.4 seconds. That’s not as quick as Google’s claim of under a second, but it is a four-fold improvement.
  • FIA loaded in a fraction of that time at 0.001 seconds, on most occasions too fast for Chartbeat to measure.
  • Comparing the read time of visitors coming from search, Chartbeat found readers engage with AMP articles for an average of 48 seconds v 36 seconds for normal mobile articles i.e. 35% longer.
  • There were no comparable engagement stats for FIA.

Accelerated Mobile Pages vs Facebook Instant Articles: Is Google winning the mobile war?

Considering AMP’s focus on speed, this comparison with FIA is embarrassing. However, Google is already working on speeding up AMP.

In his Google I/O keynote, Malte Ubl announced a plan to make AMP twice as fast to deliver “first contentful paint” – a technical term referring to the first ‘interesting bit’ of a webpage that the browser loads.

In practice, this will make it twice as quick to access the important part of a document, e.g. the text in an article, when clicked through from search.

Article volume

On a daily basis, publishers see three times as many AMP articles viewed as FIA articles, according to Chartbeat. The report authors concluded from these results that content has a longer lifespan on AMP, or receives traffic for more days from AMP, than from Facebook Instant Articles.

Accelerated Mobile Pages vs Facebook Instant Articles: Is Google winning the mobile war?

Article volume matters to publishers. Especially when they have to reproduce content for different platforms, as well as, and in competition with, their own sites and apps.

As noted above, Facebook has opened up its SDK so articles produced for FIA would also be AMP and Apple News ready.

Similarly, if AMP volume continues to plateau for these publishers as Chartbeat suggests it has since the beginning of the year, publishers could become restless.

AMP vs mobile web

The biggest competitor to AMP probably isn’t FIA or Apple News; it’s the plain old mobile web.

Chartbeat’s research shows that publishers that use AMP and FIA have seen them steadily make more of an impact on mobile traffic. But today AMP is 16% of all mobile traffic for AMP publishers, and FIA is 14.8% of all mobile traffic for FIA publishers. While this is still significant, the majority of mobile traffic is not made up of either.

Accelerated Mobile Pages vs Facebook Instant Articles: Is Google winning the mobile war?

Not everyone is happy with AMP

There has been a growing number of voices of dissent to AMP. A lot of this sentiment is summed up in this provocative Register article, calling on Google to “Kill AMP before it kills the web”.

It’s clear from the Google I/O keynote that AMP publishers have also raised issues. Elena Legeros highlighted and addressed four key challenges:

  1. All AMP pages look the same. Response: Google is releasing more templates through AMP start.
  2. It’s hard to measure/track visits to AMP pages. Response: Google Analytics is working with third party analytics companies to improve this.
  3. Not everyone likes AMP URLs in Google Search. Response: Google recognizes that it is frustrating. Will work with partners to display the original article URL.
  4. AMP pages do not monetize well through ads. Response: Google disagrees.

Andy Favell is Search Engine Watch’s columnist on mobile. He is a London-based freelance mobile/digital consultant, journalist and web editor. Contact him via LinkedIn or Twitter at Andy_Favell.

t_twitter_ola_pwa_native.png

Google I/O: What’s going on with Progressive Web Apps?

At Google’s developer jamboree, Google I/O, last week the search giant paraded a host of big name case studies and compelling stats to herald its success with two initiatives to make the mobile web better and faster: Progressive Web Apps (PWA) and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).

Progressive Web Apps are a Google innovation designed to combine the best features of mobile apps and the mobile web: speed, app-like interaction, offline usage, and no need to download anything.

Google spotlighted this relatively new web product at last year’s Google I/O, where the Washington Post showed off a newly-built Progressive Web App to enhance its mobile experience.

Whether companies believe in or plan to adopt Progressive Web Apps, the initiative (along with AMP) has done a fantastic job of highlighting a) the importance of making websites and apps lean and mean so they perform better on mobile and b) how ridiculously bloated, slow and inefficient websites and apps have become.

PWA and AMP are not the only answers to mobile bloat, but being led and backed by Google, they bring the potential for 1) broad adoption, 2) lots of resources, and 3) favorable treatment from Android, Chrome and Google Search.

What’s so great about Progressive Web Apps?

PWAs bring native app-like functions and features to websites. They should (depending on the quality of the build) work on all smart devices, adapting the performance to the ability of the device, browser and connection.

The key features that get people excited about PWAs are:

  • The ability to send push notifications
  • Option to save to the device (home screen and – now – app launcher), so it loads even faster next time
  • Ability to work offline (when there is no internet connection)
  • Make payments. One of the most significant PWA announcements at Google I/O was that PWAs can now integrate with native/web payment apps, to allow one tap payment with the users preferred provider, including Android Pay, Samsung Pay, Alipay and PayPal
  • Closer integration with device functions and native apps.

The margin of what native apps can do compared with a web-based app (N.B. PWAs do not have a monopoly over mobile web apps) is disappearing rapidly.

The last year has seen a remarkable 215 new APIs, allowing web apps to access even more of the native phone features and apps, announced Rahul Roy-Chowdhury, VP, product management at Google, in his Mobile Web State of Union keynote.

He pointed out that you could even build a web-based virtual reality (VR) app (if you wanted to), citing Within and Sketchfab, which showcase creations from developers around the world.

Who ate all the pies?

But the most compelling thing about Progressive Web Apps is their download size, compared with iOS apps and Android apps. Check out the size comparisons in the image below for two case studies featured at Google I/O: Twitter Lite and Ola Cabs (the biggest cab service in India, delivering 1 million rides per day).

  • Size of Twitter’s Android app 23MB+; iOS app 100MB+; Twitter Lite PWA 0.6MB.
  • Size of OLA Cabs Android app 60MB; iOS app 100MB; PWA 0.2MB.

Why does size matter? Performance on the web is all about speed. The smaller the size the quicker the download. Think SUV versus Grand Prix motorbike in rush hour traffic.

Interestingly, Twitter markets the PWA as Twitter Lite particularly targeted at people in tier two markets where connections may be inferior, data more expensive and smartphones less advanced; while Ola Cabs markets the PWA at second or third tier cites where there are similar issues with connections and smartphones.

This (cleverly) helps to position the PWA as non-competitive to their native apps.

Which companies have launched Progressive Web Apps?

A growing number of big name brands (see image below) have launched PWAs. These include:

  • Travel companies: Expedia, Trivago, Tui, AirFrance, Wego
  • Publishers: Forbes, Infobae, Washington Post, FT, Guardian, Independent, Weather Company
  • E-commerce companies: Fandango, Rakuten, Alibaba, Lancôme, Flipkart
  • Formerly native app-only companies: Lyft, Ola Cabs.

Google I/O: What’s going on with Progressive Web Apps?

At I/O, Google trumpeted the achievements of a number of companies, inviting several to share their experiences with the audiences – only the good stuff, clearly.

1. Faster speeds; higher engagement

m.Forbes.com has seen user engagement double since launch of its PWA in March (according to Google).

For the inside track see this Forbes article. The publisher claims its pages load in 0.8 seconds on a mobile device. The publisher was aiming for a Snapchat or Instagram-like experience with streams of related content along with app-like features such as gesture-based navigation.

In this video case study, embedded below, created for I/O, Forbes claims to have achieved a 43% increase in sessions per user and 20% increase in ad viewability.

The Ola Cabs PWA takes 1-3 seconds to load on the first visit – depending on the network, “including low 3G” Dipika Kapadia, head of consumer web products at Ola, told I/O attendees. On subsequent visits it takes less than a second as it only needs to download the real-time information, including cab availability.

Ola achieves this partly due to its size: the app is just 0.5MB of which only 0.2MB is application data. As it downloads it prioritizes essential information, while other assets download in the background.

2. Consumers readily download PWAs to their home screens

When mobile visitors are using the mobile app, they receive a prompt to save it to the home screen, so it loads faster next time. It does this by caching all the static parts of the site, so next time it only needs to fetch what has changed.

Twitter Lite, as Patrick Traughber, product manager atTwitter, told the Google I/O crowd, sees 1 million daily visits from the homepage icon.

Since launch of the Progressive Web App, in April 2017, Twitter has seen a 65% increase in pages per session and 75% increase in tweets.

3. Notifications

The ability to send notifications to mobile users to encourage them back to the app, used to be one of the big advantages of native apps over mobile web. No longer.

Notifying users about recent activity is very important to Twitter, said Traughber. And Twitter is taking full advantage of this capability, sending 10 million push notifications each day.

For the inside track on Twitter’s PWA, see this article.

4. Winning back customers that have deleted your native app

App-only companies face the challenge that users only download and retain a limited number of apps on their smartphone and will uninstall those that aren’t used as regularly as others, thus once deleted, it’s over.

Thus it is an eye-opener that 20% of Ola PWA bookings come from users who have previously uninstalled the native app.

See Google’s case study on Ola’s PWA.

5. PWAs appeal to iOS users

Compared with other mobile browsers such as Chrome, Edge, Opera and Samsung, the default browser on Apple devices, Safari, can be slower when it comes to adopting advancements in mobile web. This means Safari users won’t experience some of the more advanced features of PWAs, yet.

Despite this, brands are seeing improved mobile engagement after launching a PWA. Lancôme Paris has seen session length improve by 53% among iOS users, according to this case study of the Lancôme PWA, cited at Google I/O.

6. Conversions

According to Wego’s video case study, embedded below, created for I/O, the Singapore-based travel service has combined both PWA and AMP to achieve a load time for new users is 1.6 seconds and 1 second for returning customers. This has helped to increase site visits by 26%, reduce bounce rates by 20% and increase conversions by 95%, since launch.

If you need more impressive stats to make the case for a web app, visit Cloud Four’s new PWA Stats.


For more articles on mobile web performance see:

How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 1: data and download speed
How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 2: autoplay and audio
How to fix your bloated mobile website: fewer, better, smaller images
Optimizing images for mobile: right format, right size, right place, right device
How JavaScript impacts how fast your page loads on a mobile device

Andy Favell is Search Engine Watch’s columnist on mobile. He is a London-based freelance mobile/digital consultant, journalist and web editor. Contact him via LinkedIn or Twitter at Andy_Favell.