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Understanding Mobile User Needs

Understanding Mobile User Needs

Mobile website performance

This is our second post on Google’s Search Quality Rater’s Guidelines. For a quick overview of why this document is important, read our first post

After last year’s anti-climactic rollout of Mobilegeddon, Google is now operating under the assumption that your website is accessible to mobile devices. This is no longer an if statement, but one of fact. If you want a Google-friendly website, you’d better make it a mobile-friendly website.

We expect a lot out of our mobile devices. Everything from a simple search query to looking up and booking plane tickets. In spite of obstacles with connectivity, smaller screen sizes and inaccurate typing/voice commands, Google is pretty clear.

Important: Mobile smartphones should make tasks easy, even for mobile users with a small screen device (i.e., size of smartphone, not a tablet).

Users want results right away – at a moment’s notice – and don’t want to spend a lot of time searching. Google has very little sympathy for your mobile excuses. Treat mobile users well and you’ll be on your way to SEO success in the future.

Understanding User Intent

A big part of the newly released Search Quality Rater’s Guidelines focuses on understanding user intent behind search queries. Google is constantly honing its algorithm to better understand user intent so it can deliver the best, most relevant content to satisfy users.

Understanding user intent across devices adds an interesting layer because our needs and actions are very different on a desktop versus mobile device.

If you’re matching content to one of these devices, it will be easier to get that page ranking on Google. It’s not about gaming the system anymore. It’s about understanding the user’s search intent and delivering results.

  • Know Query – User is seeking either simple or complex information. A Know Simple Query might read [who is graves disease named after], while a more complex Know Query might be [graves disease].
  • Do Query – As the name suggests, Do Queries indicate that users are trying to perform an action [buy citizen kane dvd]. A more complex version of the Do Query is known as the Device Action Query that uses a voice command to activate a device action. If you already had a digital version of “Citizen Cane” a Device Action Query could be [watch citizen cane].
  • Website Query – User is attempting to go to a specific website or webpage [youtube].
  • Visit-In-Person Query – This query occurs far more frequently on mobile devices. In fact, queries that may appear to be Know Queries on a desktop, are interpreted differently on a mobile device, changing the intent behind things like [pizza] and [coffee shops].

Knowing how your users are searching for you and on what device should play an integral part of your keyword selection process for your site (or more broadly, how you write the content on your site).

For more deep information on how Google is interpreting search queries, read the Search Quality Rater’s Guidelines (beware, it’s 160 pages long).


Nick Lindauer
Nick is the vice president, client services and operations at Forthea. He’s been working in internet marketing since 2002, when – ironically – he answered an ad in the newspaper. When he’s not at work, he’s off spending time with his family, working on his house, building furniture, cooking on his two Big Green Eggs & brewing hot sauce.

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