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The pandemic has changed the way we use the internet. Social distancing has led us to seek new ways to connect with people and look for information. Following this change in behaviour, where students are forced to attend classes from home while employees are doing remote work, desktop computers are coming back.
With access to larger and wider screens, many mobile apps are seeing a decrease in usage, whereas site visitors are increasing.
This shift of preference for desktop has a huge impact on search.
How will the increase in desktop usage affect your SEO efforts? How long will the rise of desktop search last?
Average Time on Site is Longer on Desktop than Mobile
In a 2020 study from Semrush, the average time users spent on desktop rose by 3%, whereas the mobile phone equivalent declined. Along with this challenge is the declining attention span of users.
One way to keep your users engaged is through good quality, relevant (i.e., to your users’ lives, their needs and concerns) content. How do you achieve this kind of content?
Write with a single reader in mind.
John Steinbeck, author of “Of Mice and Men” proposed this idea of writing for one person instead of addressing a whole audience. Writing for a nameless, faceless group of people that doesn’t exist is harder than writing for a single reader that you can imagine as a real person. It’s easier to empathize with a single person.
Write with a certain person in mind and imagine that you’re talking to that person as you write your content or copy. This approach will help you write like you’re talking to a friend, allowing you to create content that more people can relate to and engage with.
Average Bounce Rate is Higher on Desktop
Bounce rate pertains to the visitors that exit your site, after only viewing one page on your site, to go back to the search results. The average bounce rate would be 41-55 percent whereas 26-40 percent is considered excellent. Anything higher than 55 percent will need to be fixed.
In the past, mobile had a higher bounce rate than desktop. But the tables have slightly turned with the rise of desktop users following the pandemic.
For SEO’s, digital marketers and content writers, this means you need to have a more user-friendly web design and create more engaging content to prevent users from exiting the site and going to another.
CTR is Higher on Desktop
Looking at click-through rates, desktop displays a significantly higher percentage than mobile. For mobile, the first position gets 24 percent of clicks and the second position gets 14 percent. This continues to drop with each position.
Compare it to the CTR on desktop, which is at 31 percent, then falls to 15 percent for the second ranking result. This is because desktop screens have more space to house multiple results at the same time.
Featured Snippets Appear More Frequently on Desktop
Featured snippets appear widely for both desktop and mobile devices. However, they appear twice as much for desktop. Meanwhile, mobile devices receive 12 times more images and 3 times more videos for organic search.
Now is the right time to target featured snippets since it’s something that desktop users will frequently see when doing their searches.
Higher Conversion Rate for Desktops
Although more users are ordering goods on mobile, like takeout food or furniture, more people convert through desktop with a 4.81 percent conversion rate compared to mobile devices with only 2.25 percent.
There’s also the cart size to consider as desktop carts tend to be filled more with the average cart size being 24 percent higher on desktop, compared to 24 percent on tablets. Mobile devices fall into last place for this one.
People like to sit down with their PCs, Macs, or laptops, and then they convert with these devices. Then we have them going on their mobile devices or tablets whenever they can’t or don’t want to access their desktop computers.
One reason people prefer the desktop experience is because the mobile experience hasn’t been perfected yet. They go to their mobile device because of its convenience, not because the experience is better.
How Should Businesses and Marketers Respond to the Desktop Search Rise?
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Desktop is making a comeback, and while mobile search is slipping, it’s best to still optimize both — but separately. You should monitor metrics such as click through rates and bounce rates. Go to Google Analytics and review where your visitors are coming from. Results will differ depending on your business, size, industry, location, and target audience.
Ensure that your website performance is at its best no matter what device is used. It must look good and be equally intuitive whether users are on mobile or desktop.
Speed will be a huge factor when it comes to ranking. Aside from content, images, and videos, one factor that affects website speed are flash-based elements. Search engines like Google can index flash-elements on desktops sites better than mobile. It’s for this reason that you have to create a mobile-specific site or counterpart if you require this feature for your desktop site.
When it comes to SEO, you have to be sensitive to the behavior of the user and the limitations of the device. For example, desktop searches permit more organic search results to be shown compared to mobile search which only permits six to seven, depending on the search query. Most of the time, mobile searches show more paid results compared to desktop searches.
Then, there’s the attention span of your buyers. Desktop users generally have more time to scroll down through search results and open multiple tabs, whereas mobile users will only click on the next page if it’s convenient for them or if they have enough time to do it.
Naturally, typing on a full keyboard is a better experience than typing on the keyboard on an LCD screen. This will affect your keyword selection process. Mobile users will use
shorter keywords (unless they’re using voice search) and desktop users will not mind using long-tail phrases more.
Mobile searches will also heavily involve navigational keywords as users will likely be holding their mobile phones while looking for directions, so it’s best to also create geo-targeted content that will be relevant to your users.
Update your strategy periodically since customer behaviour will be shifting following this pandemic.
Will the Surge in Desktop Usage Last?
Desktop usage will continue to rise as we continue this self-isolation. As long as people continue to work from home and classes continue to be conducted online, desktop search will rise.
However, people are still attached to their phones. Mobile devices continue to have the lead in terms of market share with 55 percent, whereas desktop devices have 42 percent. The remaining percentage would have to go to tablets, which can be categorized as mobile devices since most tablets share the same OS as mobile devices.
Although desktop usage is on the rise in this pandemic, mobile usage is going to be a huge part of search now and in the future. Google still initially uses the mobile version of your site to index and rank your content, so it’s best to optimize for both and do the optimization separately.
The bottom line is that most consumers will prefer to shop online, and this behaviour will likely continue — even after everything returns to “normal.”
The best move is to always optimize your site for both desktop and mobile technologies. This way, no matter who the user is and what device they use to access your website, you’re sure that they will be provided with the best experience, resulting in higher rankings, better conversion, and more sales.
Itamar Gero is the founder and CEO of SEOReseller.com, a global white label SEO and digital marketing solutions provider that empowers agencies and their local clients all over the world. When he isn’t working, he’s traveling the world, meditating, or dreaming (in code).