Adapting To Mobile SEO
Can you live without your mobile phones for a week? Maybe a day? Difficult isn’t it, even to think about it? People are so used to browsing, buying stuff online and checking the email and news, it’s impossible to imagine life without it. The advancement of technology has made a mobile device so accessible and powerful that it’s threatening to be a powerful competitor to the age-old desktop/laptop devices.
It also means businesses need to rethink or adapt their SEO strategies and take into account mobile devices as the majority of people now access the internet from these.
Why is it necessary to adapt to mobile SEO?
The amount of traffic that’s being generated from mobile devices nowadays is almost equal to what’s being generated from desktop or laptops. It’s not going to be long before the balance shifts. This makes it all the more important for businesses to chalk out a strategy that caters to mobile traffic.
Things like your website, content, and images should show up without being distorted on these devices. Pages should load fast, maybe faster than desktop, because people are getting more impatient and more so on mobile devices.
According to research, the intention to buy is more in mobile device users than their desktop counterparts. Now if your site isn’t optimized for mobile devices users, you sure are leaving money on the table.
Is there any difference between Desktop and Mobile SEO?
Though many aspects of SEO are common for both Desktop and Mobile, there are three factors that should be given more importance for Mobile SEO. They are performance, user experience, and content. These are the factors that Google is going to rank your websites in the years to come. They need to be tailored to Mobile users as “mobile-first” index is what Google is aiming for.
Now there’s no way of knowing how the algorithm will change unless it’s rolled out and tested. But a mobile-first index would mean your mobile site needs to be as informative as a desktop version and not a scaled down version. It needs to be crawlable and responsive.
Searches on Mobile Devices:
The intention of users searching on a mobile device is different from the search that originates on a desktop. For example, if you’re looking for the nearest seafood restaurant, it makes sense to offer directions for the mobile users than the desktop user.
If you keep up with the trends you’ll also notice almost 20% of the searches nowadays are Voice searches. And this number is on the rise. With all the voice assistants fighting for market share, this is a trend that’s not going away soon. These searches are different from text-based searches as humans ask questions that are more than 4 words long on average. So you’ll have to research and focus your content around long tail keywords that people are searching for. You will have to keep this in mind while designing your SEO strategy for Mobile.
In addition to superior UX, useful content and site performance search intentions and trends should be kept in mind while framing your SEO strategy for mobile devices.
How to Improve Mobile Performance:
First off you’ll need tools to audit your current site performance and get insights on what factors needs improvement. Google has various tools that are free and will help you get behind the scenes information. Google Search Console should be your starting point, add your property (website) to it. You’ll also need to verify that you are the owner of the website you registered. Google will give you a couple of options like dropping an HTML code inside the website, or through the domain name provider, or verify via the analytics code etc. Once you’re done, you’ll be able to analyze data that is collected via search console. You will have access to data like how many people are landing on your website via mobile devices, what pages they are looking for, how long are they staying on the page and much more.
You should also run your web pages through Google Page Speed Insights to know what part of your mobile pages need improvement these could range from images to render blocking scripts. There are many paid tools like SEMRush, Screaming frog and such that’ll help you get more insights on your site’s mobile friendliness and performance.
Performance will almost always boil down to site speed. Let’s take a look at the most important factors that can help.
Responsive Pages Are Indexed Faster:
There are three ways webpages are served. A separate domain for mobile users in the form of m.website is one of the ways to serve your web pages. You’ll have to let Google know via the rel=”alternate” and rel=”canonical” specification elements.
Your webpages can be dynamically served. The technology resides on the servers where your webpages are served from. Depending on what browser and device the page is requested from a separate set of files are sent. It makes use of the vary header in this case.
Responsive design is what Google is actively promoting businesses to use. The search engine will index your site with a higher preference if you have a single site, unlike the previous methods and it adapts to the screen size of the device it’s requested from.
Fix The PageSpeed Recommendations:
If you’ve used the pagespeed tool you’ll know about the recommendations. Pagespeed has separate recommendations for mobile pages. These include identifying render blocking scripts, minification of JS and CSS and other issues that can fix your page loading times.
You don’t really need to score 100, but it’s better to be in the 70+ scores. Other tools that you could use to check issues with your page loading times and what improvements you could pursue are GTMetrix and Pingdom.
After fixing the recommendations you should run it through the same tool to measure your site performance improvement.
Read the PageSpeed Insights rules to get a more detailed overview on what Google Developers recommend for a quick loading web page.
AMPing Up Your Site:
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is a joint project by Google and Twitter with the sole aim of getting web pages load faster or mobile devices. Web pages are enveloped in special HTML code and optimized to be presented with lightning speeds. This is work in progress and several advances are being made regularly. For example, it was used for static pages before; with the release of amp-bind, you can have interactive web pages on the AMP framework.
Though it’s relatively new, it’s sure catching up. And the quicker you can adapt your website to it the better for you in the long run. Find more information about this initiative on Google’s guidelines.
When your customer is on the mobile phone, user experience matters even more than a desktop user. A smaller screen brings in its own share of challenges. Consider the following keeping your visitors in mind:
- Are the menu’s & sub-menu’s clickable? Do they overlap? Is it difficult to click on a menu because it’s too small?
- Are all the action buttons like click to call, link to directions etc working?
- Does the content and images make the page look too cluttered?
- Is the font type and size too large or too small to read?
- Are the forms working fine?
- Shorter meta descriptions appear on Mobile Search results. Are your meta-description and titles optimized for web searches?
Think from the point of view of your viewers and you’ll be able to decide what experiences can be enhanced to make them stick around longer.
Making Your Mobile Site Locally Relevant:
Did you know that 76% of near me searches resulted in a business visit within a day and 28% of them were conversions? There’s a huge opportunity for you to tap into if you’re a local business. Now searches with an intention to buy are a lot more frequent when people are on the move. Therefore improving your local SEO will help you gain rankings when people search for businesses near them.
How do you improve your local SEO?
- Use consistent NAP (Name, Address and Phone Number) on Google My Business and other local directories.
- Get backlinks from locally relevant business websites.
- Create content that caters to the local population.
- Ask customers to review you on Google, Yelp or relevant review websites.
Things are changing rapidly in the world of SEO, and specially for mobile sites. So if you want to remain relevant and be found, here’s a summary of the things you should be focusing on.
- Responsive Design: By far the most important factor to have your website indexed on google. It makes life easy for both the search engine as well as you, as there’s only one site. Test your website on a mobile testing website and fix any issues that are stopping your site from being rendered correctly.
- Site Load Speed: Fix Google Site Speed Insight Scores. The critical ones being:
- Number of Requests: Various parts of your website are requested from various places. Some of them are on your server and some from external sites or urls. Minimizing the number of requests will reduce the round trip time, thereby decreasing page loading time.
- Images: Optimizing images are a key part of speeding up your site. There’s no point in your images being super detailed and very high resolution. As the screen size wouldn’t allow the image to be seen in that level of detail without having to scroll. So keep dimensions in mind when you optimize images. Use plugins like WPSmush or an offline editor like RIOT to make the best of your images.
- Caching: Utilizing “browser caching” will make browsers load certain things from memory without requesting for them again. This is useful when the user visits the page often.
- UX: Design a user experience which will help visitors stay on your site when they are browsing on their mobile devices. Major things to look out for are tabs that are too small to tap, overlapping layouts, skewed images and non-functional CTA buttons.
- Pop-ups: Google has announced that it will penalize people sites with pop-ups that hamper uninterrupted access to the website. Use pop-ups intelligently. If you have a form that needs to be filled in order to access your website, then you’re making it difficult for the search engines to index your website.
- Is AMP for you: AMP is relatively new, but there are many plugins available that make it easy for you to test it out with your website. Give it a shot or if you’re not so confident, use a web designer. AMP is being promoted by Google so there’s a good chance that a mobile website using the framework will have a greater chance to rank better on searches.
To be or not to be Mobile isn’t the question anymore, as mobile first is definitely the way forward. As more people use handheld devices to get their daily fill of the internet, mobile SEO will only increase in importance. So if you haven’t given much thought to your mobile SEO strategy, it’s high time you started.
Edward Kundahl, Ph.D., M.B.A.
CEO and Founding Partner
Ed can be reached at