What should be your mobile SEO strategy to optimize your website for mobile search?
After rolling out the mobile-first index in 2018, Google now prefers websites that are fully optimized for mobile searches.
Now, even if you do a search on desktop or laptop, the results Google shows are based on what it indexed from mobile versions of websites.
Also, to find answers to any question or to get more information on any particular topic, people generally use their mobile devices to do a quick search.
And the buyer intent of mobile searchers is higher as compared to that of desktop or laptop searchers.
In other words, mobile SEO helps in generating more leads and customers for your business.
So, it’s important that you optimize your site to make it mobile-friendly.
If you don’t, the possibility of your site being not visible to the users searching on their mobile devices is incredibly high. The traffic to your site will decrease and you may lose most of your potential customers.
In this article, we’ll be talking about:
- What is mobile SEO?
- Why is mobile SEO important?
- How to check if your site is mobile-friendly?
- How to implement a mobile-friendly website?
- How to optimize for mobile SEO?
Let’s get started.
What is Mobile SEO?
Mobile SEO is the process of optimizing a website for the visitors who access it through mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.) and also for mobile bots from search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo!, etc.
In mobile SEO, you optimize your site taking into account the site design, site structure, page speed, and more. This helps you in ensuring that your site looks great on all the devices, regardless of the screen size, and offers an exceptional experience to the users.
Mobile SEO improves the traffic to your site from organic search results as well as the users’ perception of your business.
And out of several search engines out there, which one should you be optimizing your site for?
As far as mobile SEO is concerned, Google is the most important one.
Because, according to Statcounter, Google accounts for almost 95% of the mobile search market in the USA.
Why is Mobile SEO Important?
Mobile SEO is crucial for your business as it helps you give your customers the best experience on your site.
Here are a few reasons why you must start optimizing for mobile-friendly SEO:
#1. The number of mobile searches has far exceeded the number of desktop searches.
According to StatCounter, over 52% of users use smartphones and tablets, while 47.04% use desktop.
Also, Email Monday found that depending on your target audience, product, and email type, between 26 to 78% of emails are opened on mobile devices.
Clearly, mobile search has overtaken desktop searches and this trend is only likely to continue.
In other words, mobile search is the future of search.
#2. Google search ranking very much depends on mobile content.
Ever since Google switched to a ‘mobile-first index’, it has started determining the ranking of a website in its search results using the mobile content of that website.
So, if you aren’t having a mobile-friendly site, there’s no doubt that it’s going to hurt your Google search ranking.
And this will lead to a decrease in traffic and fewer leads and ultimately, less revenue for your business.
#3. Mobile-friendliness increases conversion rates.
The users spend 70% of their time on mobile when browsing online.
So, it always makes sense to give them a positive experience by developing a mobile-friendly site.
When they get the best experience on your site, they’d love to come back to your site again and again. This will increase the chances of your visitors becoming your leads for your business and thereby increasing the conversion rate.
Also, almost 80% of smartphone users make a purchase online using their mobile devices.
Yes, my dear friends, making your site mobile-friendly does help you attract more audiences, and more leads and earn more conversions for your business.
#4. Voice search
As more and more people have acquired smartphones and started using the internet on their phones, voice search has become incredibly huge.
Besides smartphones and tablets, voice search is also on home assistant devices like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, etc.
These devices have made it so easy for people to find your content from anywhere if it’s well-optimized.
So, you’ll have a great advantage if you use mobile SEO to optimize your content for voice search.
How to check if your site is mobile-friendly?
Before you start optimizing your site for mobile, it’s important that you check whether your site is mobile-friendly. There are plenty of tools out there to help you check your site’s mobile-friendliness.
You can use Google Search Console’s ‘Mobile Usability’ tool to find if you have any mobile usability issues.
To use this tool, just log in to the Google Search Console account and click on the link ‘Mobile Usability’.
This tool will let you know if your site is affected by any mobile usability issues.
For example, the clickable elements could be too close together or the font on your site could be too small to read for mobile readers.
If your site has such issues, you can fix them to give the best experience to your users and to Google as well.
Another good tool you can use is Google’s ‘Mobile-Friendly Test’ tool.
All you need to do is enter the URL of the page you want to check and click on ‘Test URL’
And you’ll get a full report showing whether your site is mobile-friendly or not and if it’s affected by any other issues.
Since Google’s Mobile-First Index is now live, it’s crucial to fix all the mobile usability issues.
How to Implement a Mobile-Friendly Website?
It’s crucial that your site works properly on mobile devices so that it helps in mobile SEO and your site ranks higher up in the results.
And for this, you need to implement a mobile version of your website.
Google allows you to configure your site for mobile in three different ways:
In this setup, configuration involves creating a separate version of your site for mobile using a different URL, known as the “mobile” or “m” configuration.
As is clear from the name itself, the URLs used for mobile and desktop are equipped with different HTML codes.
You can easily identify a site using a separate mobile site by looking at that site’s URL.
A website having separate URLs has the prefix “m” to the URL of the mobile version of that site. For example, m.yoursite.com.
But managing two versions of your site is complicated.
This is because you’ll have to make the correct connections between the URLs of desktop and mobile. And to make that connection, you need to use the tags rel= “alternate” and rel= “canonical”.
Adding the tag rel= “alternate” on your desktop page will redirect to the corresponding mobile URL.
And adding the tag rel= “canonical” on your mobile page will redirect to the corresponding desktop URL.
You can see that you need to manage and maintain separate URLs for mobile and desktop.
And this is a real hectic and complicated task, isn’t it?
So, this approach of configuring your site has become outdated and Google itself doesn’t recommend this.
In this configuration, the URL stays the same but the server responds with different HTML/CSS depending on the device (mobile/desktop) a user uses to request the page.
To dynamically serve your content, you have to properly add the Vary HTTP code to the header of your site.
The server can now easily detect the user’s device and this code also helps Googlebot to crawl your site.
Though this approach of configuration is better than having separate URLs for mobile and desktop, it also has issues.
For instance, every time a new device comes out, you need to create a different version of your content.
As the dimensions for mobile screens keep changing, maintaining this system is simply impossible.
On many occasions, it happens that the version of the content that your site shows to your users looks terrible on some devices. This results in hurting the user experience of your site.
Another major issue with the dynamically serving mobile sites is that they repeatedly show desktop versions to mobile users.
In this option of implementing a mobile-friendly site, there’s a single URL for both the mobile and desktop versions of a webpage.
Also, it serves the same HTML code irrespective of the screen size of the user’s device.
And since serving all the devices with the same code makes the maintenance easy, Google prefers responsive design.
Here are some more reasons why Google recommends responsive website design to configure your website:
Responsive layout is the best and highly recommended approach to designing a mobile-friendly website.
Recommended by Google itself, you should definitely consider a responsive design setup to configure your website.
How to Optimize for Mobile SEO?
Here are some important steps you can follow to optimize your website for mobile:
#1. Improve the loading time on your website
The loading time of your site for mobile users becomes more important than desktop users. And improving your site’s loading time is one of the most important aspects of mobile SEO.
Mobile users make the search for information on-the-go. Obviously, they can’t wait longer to access it.
Also, if your site takes more than 3 seconds to load, over 50% of visits are abandoned. Google says that if there’s a delay in the loading time of a mobile site even by one second, it can reduce your conversion rates by up to 20%.
There are a number of tools you can use to test the speed of your site.
Google itself offers a tool “PageSpeedInsights”. This tool shows you the loading time of your site on both the mobile and the desktop.
Just enter your URL and it’ll start scanning your site.
After scanning, it gives you a full report showing how your site is performing, if there are any issues, and the opportunities to improve speed.
Here are some commonly suggested ways to improve your site speed:
- Optimize the images by compressing, lazy-loading, etc.
- Choose a good website hosting service provider.
- If possible, avoid using redirects. But if you need them, use them wisely. Choosing the wrong types or using lots of redirects can slow down your site and adversely impact your SEO.
- Use caching to allow the browser to serve pages more quickly. The browser does this by fetching all the details from the saved cache. It doesn’t load the pages again and again when new visitors come to your site.
#2. Optimize for Local Search
When users make mobile searches, most of the time they use the phrase “near me”. In fact, “near me” or “close by” type of searches grew by over 900% over two years.
With such substantial growth in “near me” searches, it’s important that you make sure your website is properly optimized for local searches.
When people use the phrases “near me”, “open now”, “close by”, or “where can I buy”, localized results appear in Google’s search results.
You’ll reach these people by implementing local SEO so that your website or content shows up in results whenever they search locally.
Important ways to improve local SEO for mobile:
- Your content needs to be locally oriented. It’ll help you greatly to improve your rankings in local searches.
- Sign up for a Google My Business account and fill in the required details such as your name, address, and phone number (NAP). It also gives you the option to upload photos of your business, respond to reviews, etc.
- Get your business listed in local directories and build maximum local links.
- Use local keywords. For example, “Italian restaurant in Model Town, Delhi”. Using local keywords will help you immensely to get your business to appear in more local search results.
- You can ask your customers to leave reviews for your business. It helps greatly in your branding.
- Add structured data for NAP details, products, and reviews. It’ll increase the chances of your business to appear in mobile rich search results.
- The content details of your business should be correct, up to date, and the same wherever you’ve got it listed.
#3. Avoid Using Intrusive Interstitials/Pop-Ups
People generally use pop-ups to draw their users’ attention towards a certain action. For example, you may want to request your users to subscribe to a newsletter, download free content, promote your offers, or webinars.
Pop-ups could be an efficient way to draw your user’s attention to these sorts of actions.
But use them only when necessary.
Some pop-ups can take up the entire screen on your users’ mobile devices. These could be hindrances for them when viewing content.
How will your users be able to see the information on your site when pop-ups appear in front of the content they try to access?
Sometimes, pop-ups on mobile devices can’t even be closed. Your users may find it irritating and frustrating.
And there’s every chance that they’ll leave your site leading to a rise in bounce rate.
In 2016, Google rolled out an update that intensive pop-ups provide a poorer user experience and all the pages using such pop-ups may not rank as highly.
Google penalizes the sites using intrusive pop-ups by lowering their rankings in search results.
In that case, should you avoid using pop-ups altogether?
No, my dear friends!
You can use them but use them sparingly. Avoid using too many of them on mobile devices.
If you design your pop-ups keeping in mind the mobile user experience, they can even improve your conversion rates.
Google presented some examples of intrusive pop-ups and interstitials that cause issues in accessing the content of your site and some examples of those pop-ups that are acceptable and cause no hindrance.
Examples of intrusive pop-ups and interstitials:
- A pop-up that displays either immediately or while the user is looking through the page.
- Standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss so that he can access the main content.
- The layout of the interstitial is similar to a standalone interstitial but it covers the entire screen of the device.
Examples of pop-ups and interstitials that cause no hindrance, if used responsibly:
- Such kind of pop-ups whose content isn’t publicly indexable. For example, an email or unindexable content that is behind a paywall.
- Using pop-ups in the form of banners such as app install banners by Safari and Chrome. Such banners take a reasonable amount of screen space and are easy to dismiss.
So, be responsible while using pop-ups on your site. And always use mobile-friendly pop-ups.
#4. Create Mobile-Friendly Content
The screens of mobile devices are smaller than regular computer or laptop screens.
So, while creating or editing your content, it’s important to keep in mind the restrictions of the small screen.
The mobile content should always be easy to scroll through for your readers.
If your readers find your mobile content unreadable, then how can you expect them to read your 1000 or 2000-word article.
They are not going to read even your 100-word summary.
So, how to make your content mobile-friendly?
Here are some important tips:
- Don’t use long sentences and keep your paragraphs shorter. There shouldn’t be more than 2-3 sentences in a paragraph.
- The font size should be at least 14 px. (15 or 16 px is preferable.)
- Use bullet points, lists, and headings.
- Add some clickable buttons so that your users can easily browse your mobile site.
- There must be maximum contrast between text and background. Low-contrast text is always harder to read when users use their phones outside.
- Add photos and videos to your content to make it more interesting and engaging.
IMPORTANT! The content should be the same for both the mobile and the desktop. This will enable your users to perform every possible action in the same manner, no matter what devices they are using.
Page titles and Meta descriptions should also be the same even if you’re using separate URLs.
#5. Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
Title tags and Meta Descriptions play a very important role in mobile SEO. Your users will click on your page in the search results only if they find these two elements compelling enough.
So, how to optimize your title tags and meta descriptions for mobile SEO?
Here are some important points you need to keep in mind:
I) Title Tags: It’s the title tags that tell your audience what exactly your page is all about. A properly optimized title tag can drive more relevant traffic to your site.
Tips to optimize your title tag:
- Include your main keywords.
- It should be brief and informative. Your title tag should inform your readers that your page is relevant to their search query and it contains all the required information they’re looking for.
II) Meta Descriptions: It’s a short description of your page that appears just after your title tag in the search results. Optimize your meta description in such a way that your audience may find it easy to determine if your site is relevant to their search query.
Tips to optimize your meta description:
- Use the main keywords.
- Keep it short, descriptive, and informative.
IMPORTANT! Sometimes, title tags in the search results could be very similar to one another. It’s the meta description that can make the difference. It’s important that your meta description is compelling enough to make your audience click on your page in the listings.
#6. Keep your mobile site simple and your navigation bar clean and easy-to-use
Mobile-friendly navigation is another important way to optimize your site for mobile SEO.
If your users don’t find it challenging to find and access the information on your site, it helps you create a positive experience for them. And they’d love to stay longer on your site.
Here are some important tips to make your navigation mobile-friendly:
- Make sure that the clickable area isn’t compact and the menu buttons are neatly arranged.
- There should be enough space between clickable elements.
- Use a hamburger menu. This makes your navigation well-organized and keeps your site clean. This menu has three lines appearing at the top of a page. Once your users click on this button, there appears a drop-down menu with your site’s different pages. And they find it so easy to navigate your site.
#7. Optimize your site for voice search
Voice search optimization is also one of the vital strategies for your mobile SEO since the majority of voice searches are done using mobile devices (smartphones).
The best strategy to optimize for voice search will be to include more long-tail question keywords.
People’s queries in voice search are question-based and they generally ask conversational or complete questions.
But make sure your answers are short, clear, and concise.
You can check out my post on voice search optimization to learn more about voice search and how to optimize your content for the same.
I hope this ultimate guide to mobile SEO helps you greatly in improving the performance of your mobile site and give the best experience to your audiences.
Mobile devices have become the first choice for many of us whenever we want to search for an answer to a question or information on any topic, product, or service.
It’s crucial that you improve the visibility of your site in mobile searches.
So, just get started. Try to find if your website has any mobile usability issues and fix them.
Follow the above-mentioned mobile SEO tips to optimize your site and do share the results in the comments section.