By Louise, McKenzie, Head of Digital Marketing, Webedia Movies Pro
On March 26, Google announced that the migration to “mobile-first indexing” of websites had started. According to the Google Webmaster Central blog this “means that we’ll use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, to better help our—primarily mobile—users find what they’re looking for.”
While the move to mobile-first indexing does not specifically penalize any website for not having a mobile version, it does promote the importance of having fast-loading mobile-friendly content that can be recognized by Google when people are making searches on a mobile device.
This announcement is significant in that it confirms what we have known to be true for a while—that we live in a mobile-connected world and we need to make sure that we provide a mobile-friendly service. Google is simply changing the way that they index content to give their mobile customers a better search experience.
So, what does this announcement mean to cinema operators and their web presence?
If you have a desktop website or a responsive website (i.e., a site that adjusts to different screen sizes), there is no specific change to the way that Google will index your site. For those of you with separate mobile versions, some best-practice adjustments need to be made—there is plenty of support on the Google site regarding this.
For me, it simply highlights the growing need to focus on two things—a truly mobile-first strategy and the effective optimization (SEO) of your website and content to serve the mobile customer better. A better mobile customer experience will help increase your search engine profile on all search engines and generate more traffic and sales on your website.
There has been a lot of focus on social media and big data/targeted email in recent years without any real acknowledgement of the relative importance of SEO in terms of contribution to online sales. The attached graph shows just how much each channel contributes to the online sales performance of cinema websites.
Why is SEO a key area of focus for online customer acquisition for cinemas?
According to Internet Live Stats, there are 1.9 billion websites online today, and over 4 billion Google searches made every day. As the pool gets bigger, a strong search engine profile acquires greater importance.
For cinema operators, however, a significant proportion of current traffic comes from search engines. And, with an average of 75 percent3 of revenue resulting from web searches through Google, Microsoft Bing, etc., an optimized web presence is much more than a “nice-to-have” for cinema operators. It is a golden opportunity to maximize both traffic and sales on their e-commerce platforms.
At the same time, we should also consider the significant contribution of mobile commerce to the online cinema experience. Currently, mobile represents around 60 percent3 of total online transactions on cinema websites—this compares with an average of 51 percent2 across all e-commerce. The proportion of traffic to cinema websites from mobile devices is even higher—at around 75 percent3 of all traffic.
These insights seem to give clear directives when it comes to an online marketing strategy: mobile-first, well-optimized websites. This is where the majority of cinema’s online income is being derived.
So, what needs to be done?
This announcement should be a catalyst to those operators who are yet to provide users with a mobile-friendly experience.
The need for a mobile-optimized website is an obvious starting point. Ideally this will be part of a responsive web solution.
The key battleground, however, is in the technical and content optimization of the sites themselves. And the secret to effective optimization lies in the efficient delivery of clear and relevant content.
Typically, search engine optimization (SEO) is a catchall for all on- and off-site optimization, but the key areas of focus for cinemas should be as follows:
Promotion of Movies & Event Cinema
Optimization of movies and event cinema is the most vital focus area for a cinema website. The structure and semantics of a movie landing page prior to the launch date are crucial to increase visibility on the search engine results pages (SERPs). Recent work optimizing movie pages for one circuit resulted in a revenue increase of 130 percent year on year from search traffic landing on these pages—over five times the average increase in overall year-on-year revenue.3
Experiences and Promotions
It is particularly important for companies wanting to promote the diversity of experience that they offer beyond movies—bowling, dining, gaming arcades, etc. Recently Google introduced experience descriptions to its movie listings to enable users to distinguish between standard and premium movie experiences, such as IMAX, 4-D, or Dolby Cinema. On a cinema website, it is important to make sure that the relevant keywords are promoted with the content so that customers can find the experience they are looking for.
Local Area Optimization
Google estimates that 94 percent of U.S. smartphone owners search for local information on their phones.
This is a key statistic for venue-based entertainment such as cinemas, which compete with local leisure activities and rely on local market visibility
At a very basic level, cinemas must claim a business listing and decide on the N-A-P (name, address, phone number) for each location on Google to create consistent, recognizable locations across the website and secondary search sites.
The creation of content for local promotions and experiences is also key to keep your cinema on top of the rankings and ahead of the competition.
Social Media Compatibility
Think social media and SEO aren’t linked? Think again. Social media will not only increase your brand visibility but also provide a platform to distribute content relating to movies, local experiences, and events. This platform gives authority and quality to the website content and improves your real estate on the SERPs.
In conclusion, the impact of a well-optimized web experience on your traffic and resulting sales cannot be overestimated. The focus on mobile offers another opportunity to increase return from SEO. This is not about delivering marginal gain—SEO has long been the primary driver of traffic and sales to cinema websites, and this makes it the key battleground for the hearts, minds, and wallets of moviegoers.
[EDITORIAL NOTE: Webedia Movies Pro is the parent company of BOXOFFICE Media]