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By: Raymond Lowe at WL Media HK
Google recently released a new tool at https://testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com/ to encourage people to test their own small business websites for three different quality factors. Is this relevant to your website in Hong Kong? I take a look and give you some context.
Google has released a new tool called “test my site”, it is designed to test your website. And it is designed for the small business owner, not for programmers or web developers.
Does that matter?
Is it relevant to your small business and small web site in Hong Kong?
Is it relevant to your small business and small web site in Hong Kong?
I’m Raymond Lowe and I help companies in Hong Kong with their online marketing needs. In this article I am going to look more closely at this tool from Google and explain its significance and what the business owner should take away from it.
Every business needs to be on the good side of Google, for most businesses with an online presence that’s how we get most of our visitors. When people want products or services, whether to research purchase decisions or to actually buy now, they search in online. And Google is by far the biggest search engine globally, and in Hong Kong. While being close to China means that many HK people also use Baidu, and there are historical reasons that Yahoo! is also frequently used, it is still Google that has the lions share of the market; particularly when it comes to English language queries.
Take this example from the analytics of one of our Hong Kong websites, this is an English language website, and looking only at visitors from Hong Kong who arrived via search engines. This is a chart direct from Google Analytics.
See that top line? The big blue area of the pie? The first place goes to Goole with over 94% of the traffic coming from them. Now that doesn’t mean every website in HK will have this pattern, but it is certainly very common. So what that means to your business is that Google matters. If you want people to find your product or service online, then while Social Media and other forms of presense are also great, it is really going to help your online marketing efforts if Google Loves You!
Therefore what matters to Google matters to you and your business.
Therefore what matters to Google matters to you and your business. And at the moment, they are testing websites, and encouraging you to test yours. Whether you are subscribing to one of the many monthly seo packages available from different SEO companies, doing SEO yourself or simply letting nature take its’ course it is worth finding out what Google thinks of your efforts.
Now, when considering whether to test or not you should also give consideration to the fact that by doing so you are getting insights into what matters to Google, because they are offering these tests in an attempt to get people to focus on this issues that they believe matter. This is typical of Google behaviour in many areas, first they start with a vision of how they think things should be, then they encourage webmasters and businesses to move towards that vision. Some would say that at times they distort reality quite heavily in an attempt to get the world to go along with their vision.
How much of that is really just their perspective, reflecting their own view of society, business, and the web, and how much is heavy handed marketing is a matter of debate. But one thing is for sure, and that is many people experience an online reality that differs markedly from what Google reports. Finding a cooperative balance between what Google wants, and what works well for your online business is all part of the process of online search engine marketing.
Let’s take a look now at the website testmysite.thinkwithGoogle.com and see what there is to learn, I think the first clue here is “thinkwithgoogle.com” is their marketing site, the site where they teach people about marketing. It’s not really the normal part of Google, but instead is focused on teaching mostly small businesses about marketing, in particular online marketing, and of course online marketing via Google.
A few examples to check out their scores.
The next thing is to try it on a few web sites and see how they do in terms of Google scoring. So let’s start with a few examples to check out their scores. A good place to start is one of the most popular English sites in Hong Kong.
So, scmp.com that’s a good example of a Hong Kong website. It is modern, very popular, and been in operation a long time, yet also is kept up to date and current with the way online marketing is changing. Entering “scmp.com” into the tester and it starts to look like this:
There a number of tests that are processed one at a time, it only take a few moments, typically less than 2 minutes. Though of course that may vary depending on how complex the website is, how busy the tester is and so on. I’ve seen it get stuck at 98% for a minute, but then finally complete, so patience is in order here if you see a delay. You have to keep your browser window open and visible though while the test runs, if you switch to another tab in Chrome or minimize your browser then the test stops. An unusual factor for tests like this, presumably Google wants to discourage people from setting up many tests and walking away.
Once completed the report page is actually very long, but the key details are all on the first screen, as though Google has realized that many people don’t scroll down, let alone click through for details. Most of the details get rapidly very technical and are not really the main point.
So lets focus on those key facts offered up in the first page of the report. Here they are again for SCMP.COM:
These numbers represent Google’s view of scmp.com, what is good, what is not so good. And they use figures like this to determine if a website is a “good user experience”, because as they say they always want to provide a good user experience for the people who search via Google. And so websites that offer that experience are more likely to be listed high up in the Google result page.
From the three items they have selected to display we can tell that Google is, at least at the moment, saying that Mobile Friendliness and speed, both on mobile and on desktop, are the three most important things they wish to see improved. And that goes with their whole vision of people being able to get the best information, quickly, whether they are on the road or in the office or home. Mobile is important, both friendliness and speed, and speed is important, both on mobile and on desktop. The overlap point is obviously speed on mobile, and that is the worst result here so a bit of a worry there.
Why are they focusing on these items? The whole trend towards mobile is of course something happening in the real world and they are only reflecting this and of course at some point this has to be addressed.
How many people are using mobile to browse the web in Hong Kong?
How many people are using mobile to browse the web in Hong Kong? Lets take a look:
In this graph from a English language Hong Kong information site, 60% of the visitors are on Desktop while the rest are on mobile. But of the mobile the great majority are using what Google terms “mobile” or smart phones, your typical iPhone or Samsung phone, while a mere 6.9% of the total are “tablets”, mostly being iPads of varioius types.
Not every website is going to show this ratio, but clearly the mobile phone using population is a very important part of the audience. And while any website will load in one way or another, there are those that work better than others. But if a website is not intended to be mobile friendly the the phone has to do the best that it can, which typically means just shrink things until they first. Making them unreadable without clumsy zooming in.
Take a look at two choices:
On the left the text is fully redable, there are collapsed buttons for navigation that pop out easily at a tap, and scrolling works smoothly to get to other articles. While on the right, well, nothing much readable, navigation and ads are all very confusingly tiny. So whether as a reader, or an advertiser, I wouldn’t be particularly happy. And is that reflected in the test scores? Yes it is, with the website on the left scoring 93, considred GOOD, while the right side one is only 65 out of 100, which gets it a POOR rating.
Look around you next time you are on the MTR, eating lunch in Central, or waiting for a minibus. Everybody is reading on their phone. Some may be doing Facebook, chatting with people on WhatsApp, or watching the latest TVB dramas. But they do it via the phone, indeed it is quite strange to find someone using the phone to make a phone call!
If your website doesn’t work on mobile, the people are just a likely to go away and find another one.
The Post have invested in making their website work well on mobile, and it really shows in the results. Other companies, not so much, and that shows as well.
According to the Google report, however, the scmp.com website does still hae an issue with speed. There is a poor rating for mobile speed, which is the key one, and only a “fair” for the desktop speed measurement. First of all it should be understood that this isn’t just literally speed, as measured by a stopwatch. If you wanted to know that, are you are prepared to get very geeky, then there are much better ways to test it.
What we are seeing here is an overview of the theoretical speed issues that may arrise. And some of them reflect real practical problems, while others are somewhere between impractical to fix, and insignificant. So a healthy dose of realism needs to be taken when interpreting these figures, and being concerned about actual speed that your customers may be experiencing, while not entirely ignoring Google’s opinion for the reasons mentioned before.
Going back to the scmp.com example, it has a mix of results. A good, a fair and a poor.
Is that bad, is it good? How can you interpret mixed signals like this. What do the mean for the online marketing efforts of your business in Hong Kong? Really they don’t mean very much until you put them into context. Until you compare them with something else.
And that’s really what you have to do in order to see whether these things apply to you. Lets compare it with a few other websites in Hong Kong, at various types and scales to give a general overview. First up is the very well known site hongkong.asiaxpat.com, which is a big and popular website in Hong Kong with plenty of material.
I think any English speaking person in Hong Kong will have ended up at this site from time to time, to use the forums or simply to go through and research things. You will find here threads going back years, full of good information, though some of it is out-dated of course given how old the site is. But this depth of information is valuable to readers, and that is something recognised by Google and the site is therefore often shown by Google.
Looking at the test scores though it is easy to tell that this is an older site which hasn’t really been keeping up with modern trends, it scores quite badly on all of the tests. But it’s still a great website, and even though scores really badly here on these tests, I think people are still going to use it. People are not going to stop using it because of these issues, though of course they may be discouraged if it doesn’t load quickly or is hard to read.
Should you be worried if you own asiaxpat.com?
So should you be worried if you own asiaxpat.com? Probably not, at least not in the short term. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a plan to improve this at some time, but how urgent it is that’s another matter.
What about some other examples : bumpstobabes.com. A great shop I always loved going into the shop in Peddar Building which is the lovely building in itself, and it’s a great shop and it has a very nice website. The strange that you can’t buy things on their website you can’t even order things on the website or reserve them, you have to call up if you want to do that. But the website itself is pretty pleasant, you can you know find products you can see what they’ve got in stock.
But how does it do on the Google testmysite score?
Despite the website being quite nice, the scores are really bad here. At the same time, again they don’t need to worry about their online presence because of this. Could it be better? Yes it could be better. But how urgent is that depends upon their business and if they are not planning on doing online sales, then this is easily something that can be lower down on their priority list. If they decide to branch out into ecommerce at some time, or at least do the “select online and make a shopping list” strategy that Ikea HK uses, then of course it should be fixed.
Here is another company also very big in Hong Kong Tree.com, the tree furniture company lovely furniture lovely shop and a better website mobile 98% out of a 100.
That sounds pretty good as close to perfect. Mobile and desktop speeds not so good again though should I be worried? Well it’s a matter of context. So they would need to look at their competitors and see how the websites doing compared to that. Is people coming to the site an important part of their business?
Here’s a more modern web site.
This is Lightfoot Travel, it’s a travel agent in Hong Kong quite small but really investing heavily in online marketing and with a very nice websites.
You know it’s a joy to look at, joy to browse through and you can find a lot of information. I would much rather use their website than one of the more old fashion ones that are quite common in the travel industry in Hong Kong. They have invested in good technology for the website in terms of a good content management system, custom designs that work well in mobile, but they do fall down quite badly on speed which is a surprise given their investment. The site isn’t really badly slow, in practical usage terms it is quite acceptable. So really the only concern is that Google has this perception of it as a slow site.
With the good connection speeds that are available, even on mobile, almost everywhere in Hong Kong the whole speed issue is really less important from a practical point of view. But there is a valid and on-going concern that Google will look badly on a site it sees as slow, and that you will loose out in terms of ranking positions to other sites that score better.
You may be wondering is a perfect score possible at all. And what better way to check than to get Google to “eat their own dog food” as the saying goes and test their own testing site with their tester. I input http://testmysite.google.com into the tester to see what the results would be. Surely their engineers must have tried this already, and done their level best to get a good score, any less would be embarrassing.
And here is the result. An excellent, but not perfect, score!
That shows what is possible, if you try very very hard as you can imagine that the Google engineers must have done to avoid any embarrassment. And it isn’t 100/100 across all three measures. And realistically most companies do not have the resources that Google has in order to maintain a super-fast website.
So what’s the conclusion?
What should matter to you is not any simple test of how your own business website is doing, but how it stands when compared with your competitors. Every business in Hong Kong has some kind of online presence whether intentional or not, and these are all competing in a very crowded field. The fact at everybody wants to be on the first page of Google for their business terms, and there are only 10 places on the first page, and only one #1, means that getting an edge can be vital.
Moving up just one position on the rankings can actually double the number of potential customers landing on your company website.
Moving up just one position on the rankings can actually double the number of potential customers landing on your company website. It isn’t something to be taken lightly. But you are competing not against every website in the world, but against a short list of local and international competitors. So the question for you to take away is:
Are your competitors doing better than you?
Are your competitors doing better than you?
That presumes of course that you have a good identification of who your competitors are, not simply in the wider business place, but specifically in terms of your online marketing. It’s all about the context, and by understanding that you can know where to prioritise your efforts and ensure a positive ROI from digital marketing.
These are the things you should be looking at.
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