Google follows the mobile-first approach, and for a valid reason. Currently, over 58% of Google’s searches come from mobile devices and this is only going to increase with time. Hence it is extremely important to pay attention to Mobile SEO and optimize your website for mobile search queries, so your website shows up in Google search results when the user is using a mobile device.
Millennials are a different breed — one that is hungry for information, and they want it on-the-go. Straight from the medicine prescribed by their Doctor to the contents on their granola bar, they Google it all.
So, if your well-decorated site does not load quickly on their mobile devices, this restless generation will hop on to the next one. That would only increase the bounce rate of your website and Google’s algorithm would then consider it to be “user-unfriendly”. On the other hand, the impatient millennials won’t hesitate to leave bad reviews for your website, further damaging your website’s online reputation. Now that explains why you need websites that are mobile-friendly.
What is Mobile SEO and Why it is Important?
Mobile SEO is the future of organic search for many reasons, but the one that takes the lead is Google’s mobile-first index. Mobile devices are portable and are much more affordable than traditional computers. Also, the desire to have information on-the-go is a contributing factor, which puts mobile SEO on the top. Not to mention that mobile devices are incredibly fast, provide information on-the-go and are affordable — all of that makes it ideal for the busy lives that we live. It even lets you locate the nearest restaurant without even typing on your phone (all credit goes to Google’s voice search).
Presently, more and more people have begun relying on local searches to connect with local businesses and form an opinion based on the reviews posted by others. In fact, Bing derives almost 53% of its mobile search traffic from those looking up for local businesses. Also, the conversion rates are higher on mobile devices as more and more people continue to make purchases while traveling to work. So if your website’s mobile version isn’t optimized, then you are losing out on a ton of organic traffic and also the potential market share of your products or services. Let us now dive into some of the core statistics and realistic business aspects that demonstrate why mobile SEO is so important in 2019.
Why is mobile SEO so important?
- Google’s Mobile-first indexing – Google currently makes use of the mobile-first strategy, which simply means that the indexing of your website begins from its mobile version. So if you don’t have one, then you are going to have a tough time ranking your content in Google’s search results.
- Google is the driving force – Google is currently the world’s largest search engine with a market share of over 92 percent of all online searches and also around 92 percent of the total mobile searches. So when the industry leader follows a certain approach, then the other search engines are bound to follow suit.
- Google is mobile-obsessed – Presently, Google clings on to its mobile-first indexing strategy, which emphasizes how high the market leader holds your mobile site. In fact, Google is so obsessed with mobile-friendly sites that it considers it to be a core criterion to rank better in search results.
- User-centric Mobile Page – If your website has great content but isn’t optimized for mobile devices or the mobile version is slow, then you are in for some trouble because it gives a bad user experience. Google has a reader-centric algorithm and to rev up your ranking, you must deliver lightning-fast mobile pages.
- More and More Mobile devices – There are twice as many web-enabled mobile devices today as there are internet-connected PCs. A million smartphones are activated over the world, every single week. Five years from now, 70 percent of searches will be performed from a mobile device.
Android takes the Lead – The enormity of Android’s market share has gone through the roof, in the past couple of years. In fact, over 160,000 mobile devices are being activated every single day
The above-mentioned facts highlight some of the reasons why we think Mobile SEO is the future. If you are wondering what Google thinks is Mobile SEO, then you are probably living under the notion that the term also includes other portable devices such as tablets. That is not so, in fact when Google refers to mobile devices, then the tech giant simply refers to Smartphones.
How to Optimize Your Website For Mobile SEO?
Now that we’ve delved upon certain valuable facts and figures, you probably have a clearer picture of why mobile SEO is the next big thing. Let us now move forward and figure out how to actually get there. Honestly, there’s a lot you can do to optimize your website for mobile devices, but let us stick to some of the best ways in which you can achieve this. So, let us start with some basic tweaks and move further to the more advanced ones.
Step 1 – Take the Mobile-friendly test from Google first
As we have already mentioned, Google is absolutely head-over-heels about mobile-friendly sites, but there’s a twist to it. Google won’t consider your site to be mobile-friendly unless it meets a certain set of criteria and this applies in all cases, responsive sites and the ones with distinct URLs for mobile and desktop versions of their website.
So, to identify what Google considers to be the potential issues that hold back your website from ranking high, you can take Google’s mobile-friendly test.
Once you identify the issues, fixing them should be a breeze. In fact, with this tool, you would be optimizing every element of your website’s mobile version, which is critical for its ranking in the Google search results. As you do that, you can also confirm that the changes you’ve made aren’t leading to any further issues.
Step 2 – Choose a Mobile-friendly Website Template
Stay away from graphic-rich templates as those are relatively heavier than their minimalist counterparts. If you use a bulky template then that’s more than likely to mess up your page load time. So be aware of this fact and choose your website’s template accordingly. If needed, hire a developer and get your existing website’s design fixed for mobile devices. The content should be readable, there should be no scrollbars, the font size, margins, image size — every bit of it counts when you are trying to achieve a flawless mobile website.
We strongly recommend that you pick a mobile-friendly responsive template (most of these aren’t free, not with all the mobile-site capabilities) so be prepared to invest in one. You can also consider hiring a developer to do the job for you (psst… use Google’s mobile-friendly tool before and after the Developer does the job) to check the difference in your page load time. This difference indicates the changes in your website’s performance, and ideally, this must increase the overall speed of your website.
Step 3 – Optimize your Website’s Speed
Speed is precisely where your Mobile SEO journey begins as Google, Bing or any other search engine for that matter would prioritize user experience, and the present-day user barely has the time or patience for a slow website. So, if a page takes more than 4 seconds to load, then it is a red signal that you need to watch out for. Go ahead and mercilessly eliminate all the idle or unwanted code and plug-ins. Get rid of anything that’s making your website slow and focus on the speed as that is a lot more critical than having an aesthetic website.
Step 4 – Optimizing Titles and Descriptions
If you use yet another URL for your mobile site and if that’s managed separately, then make sure to optimize its meta content. More often than not, people forget to optimize this for their mobile sites. Also, the titles of your posts are important when it comes to ranking on search engines, so don’t forget to optimize them by including the keyword in it.
Step 5 – Use Fewer Pop-ups and Interstitials
It’s no secret that readers hate huge pop-ups that block the content that they were looking up for. As a result, it leads to bad user experience. However, as a Website Owner, it’s hard to resist putting up pop-ups, simply because they generate more conversions e.g Newsletter sign-ups, ad clicks, sales and so forth. So we recommend that you keep it limited to what Google classifies as “good pop-ups” only. You can figure that out by running a quick test on the Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool.
Step 6 – Watch out what’s in your Robots.txt file
Most website owners shy away from letting mobile versions load all of their content, just to make it faster. This approach is archaic and something that you must avoid. Instead, make it easier for Google to crawl all over your website, whichever version it is. This helps the search engine index all of your website’s content. If you didn’t get a word of what we said and are massaging your temples, then here’s some relief. The robots.txt file tells search engines what not to index, and most leading search engines oblige to it.
Step 7 – Show ‘em all you’ve got!
Google, the source of over 92 percent of all internet searches has resorted to the mobile-first approach, your website needs to have content that loads fast on all devices. Due to this new approach, you need to show all the resources on the mobile version of your website because that is what the search engine is indexing.
Step 8 – Check how it looks on different devices, OS and Browsers
You need to figure out how your website looks on different devices, operating systems and the various versions of it. Also, you need to check how it functions on different browsers as there are so many of them. If not all, then at least ensure that your website is compatible with the leading technologies. To do this, you can make use of an android emulator, IoS simulator, or you can also consider Browserling, Browsershots or Cross Browser Testing
Step 9 – Use the Right Font Size
Unless you use the right font size on your website, the reader is going to have a tough time browsing through the site on a mobile device. Also, as mobile devices are smaller, the font size needs to be adjusted accordingly. If you are wondering what the right font size is for the mobile version of your website, then be prepared to get confused because when it comes to this, opinions differ.
Step 10 – Make use of Google Search Console
Google Search Console lets Webmasters take a dig into the data pertaining to the performance of their website. So if you have a website then you can use GSC to make it more mobile-friendly and SEO friendly by allowing it to help you detect and fix crawl errors, broken links, etc.
This tool also tells you the keywords that your website ranks for and helps skim through all the other elements that Google thinks you need to fix, in order to rank better. You can also access useful info such as the penalties imposed by Google for possible violations, and a lot of other useful information that can help you deliver outstanding user experience, and rank better in the search results. This tool is Google’s way of making useful legitimate data available to you so that you can improve your website in the areas where it’s lagging behind.
Step 11 – Set up Google Analytics
Google Analytics tool lets you keep track of what’s driving traffic to your site, the source of your traffic and a ton of other useful tidbits to cater to the specific needs of your readers. You can also check the pages that are experiencing a higher bounce rate on mobile and fix them.
As all of this data comes straight from Google, there’s no need to worry about its authenticity, as in the case of third-party tools.
Step 12 – Make use of Google AMP Framework
The Accelerated mobile pages (AMP) Framework ensures that your website is ready for mobile devices and meet the criteria put forth by Google itself. Websites with the AMP Framework usually rank better on Google, although it is never guaranteed to rank better just because you have AMP framework. According to Experts, optimizing content according to the AMP framework hasn’t worked much in the US, but has increased traffic that comes from countries like Brazil, considerably.
Step 13 – Declutter your Website
With countless social network buttons scattered all over your site, you are only making it bulkier. Hardly anyone cares about a Facebook page these days, and the ones who do will find it anyways on your ‘Contact Us’ page.
Step 14 – Have a Responsive Design
It is currently much easier to have a responsive design on your website than it used to be a decade ago. You can easily pick one of the responsive WordPress templates, which fits according to the device that it is accessed from. So, with just one website you can deliver a great user experience on desktop, laptop, tablets, mobile devices and anything else that may be invented in the near future.
Step 15 – Make your images Responsive
By making your images responsive, you customize them to fit almost any device and that is definitely a good Mobile SEO practice. There are several ways of doing this and you can use the one that best serves your needs. You can also use some simple HTML or CSS codes and make your images responsive. However, if your images are crucial to your business (If you are a Photography blog or online Photo Library) then have a word with a seasoned developer because image quality cannot be compromised upon.
Step 16 – Focus on Content-centric Graphics
You need to accept the fact that readers come to your website to look into your content and not the decorations around it. So, it’s your job to ensure that the background is light and the font is dark so that it’s easier for the reader to skim through the data. Also, make sure to keep your header small, so that it doesn’t take over the screen, or slow down your website on mobile devices.
Step 17. Render Blocking CSS and JS
If you’ve followed our above-mentioned tips and have checked your website’s page load time on Google Page Speed Insights, then one of the most common suggestions that Google gives you is to get rid of the render-blocking scripts and CSS.
Mobile Site Configuration and URL Structure.
There are many ways in which you can structure the configuration of your mobile site. Now, this can get confusing and so we’ve nailed down the best one for your website.
1. Separate mobile URL(s)
Some Website Owners choose to have a separate URL for their mobile website, but we do not recommend this approach. By having 2 separate websites, you risk running into conflict with Google for duplicate content. Also, even if you tweak around and resolve that issue by telling Google that the two belong to you, still ensuring consistent data on the two sites is going to be quite a challenge.
2. Dynamic Content For Mobiles
Dynamic Content is again not something that we recommend because search engines don’t seem to like it. The reason for this is quite simple! As this approach serves different content to different users, it violates the law of consistency, which is a crucial ranking factor.
3. Responsive Design
Unless you are a large corporation, you may not have all the resources necessary for you to manage two separate websites — one for desktops and laptops and the other for mobile devices. Plus, there is no need for it either. Simply pick a responsive design to make your website functional on a host of different devices. As all the content that shows up on different devices is from a single dashboard, it remains consistent. This, in turn, helps you rank better because Google is looking out for websites that deliver consistent data without any discrepancies.
Our Verdict and Suggestions
We look at Mobile SEO as an addition to the regular website SEO or WordPress SEO, which requires you to optimize the titles and meta description, anchor text, meta content, focus on internal and external link building and all other aspects of it. While doing so, you also need to ensure that you are addressing the needs and requirements of Mobile users. In our opinion, Mobile SEO begins with a lightning-fast, responsive website, and the best way to conclude it is with great content wrapped in a minimalistic design.