If you only have a vague understanding about mobile SEO, then this article will give you a clear understanding of it. First, I'll illustrate to you why mobile optimization is so important. Then, I'll guide you through in preparing your website for Google's mobile-first index.
Mobile SEO is the optimization of websites mixed with seamless viewing on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. This also allows the search engine spiders to access and crawl your site easily.
Mobile SEO is important because most of today's searches are done on mobile. In fact, more than half of Google searches are made from a mobile device. And this trend is increasing rapidly. It goes without saying that mobile is THE trend in SEO, which is why Google is rebuilding their whole algorithm to concentrate on mobile search.
What Is The Mobile-First Index?
SEO has always been about optimizing your website for Google. Today, almost all of the mobile searches are made on Google. That's why Google has revamped their algorithm to keep its dominance among mobile users.
First, Google introduced its Mobile-Friendly Update, which sanctions websites that weren't mobile-friendly. Next, they rolled out the Mobile-First Index, which ranks search results based on your page's mobile-version. And yes, this happens even if you're using a desktop.
Is this a big deal?
You should be good if your website….
Loads resources on all devices
Shows all content on mobile versions of your website
Loads as fast as what your mobile users expect
Has functioning redirects and internal links
Impresses an optimized user experience (UX) to any device
If not, your rankings might actually drop when Google starts to unveil it.
How To Implement A Mobile Version Of Your Site
With the popularity of mobile SEO, your website should at least be mobile-friendly. You're likely to frustrate your visitors if they get to see a mini version of your desktop site. Fortunately, configuring a mobile website is easy.
Here three ways to setup your site for mobile.
With this configuration, you have two versions of your site: one for desktop and another for mobile. In short, your site responds to any device your visitor use and then leads them to an optimized URL for that device.
This type of setup used to be popular but today it is not anymore. Why? Because they're difficult to manage and have a lot of SEO issues, like using multiple URLs for each piece of content. In other words, I don't suggest a separate URL for your mobile site.
With this setup, all of your content is placed on one URL. However, different HTML/CSS will be shown to every user depending on the device used.
For example, if you visit a particular site on a desktop, you'd be directed to the desktop version of the site. But if you visit the site from your iPhone X, you'd still be on the same page but would be displayed with its mobile version.
Dynamic serving is absolutely better than having two separate URLs. But it's not perfect.
For example, dynamic serving sites are known to have issues with displaying desktop versions to mobile users. You also need to constantly develop various versions of your content for any new device that comes available. If you don't, your site may show a terrible version of that new device.
In other words, this is still not recommended. Instead, I suggest…
With this design, the layout and content of your page respond accordingly to every user. Unlike the other two strategies, a responsive design doesn't need separate URLs or various HTMLs for every device. It's so good that Google even recommends it itself.
Responsive design is the best option for SEO because…
All your content will be on one URL, which means easy to share and get links
There are fewer SEO issues
It's very user-friendly
There are no redirects to slow down your site and cause technical problems
Now that your site is setup and configured for mobile users, it's time to optimize your site for mobile. Here are six ways to ensure that search engines consider your site mobile optimized.
Use Mobile Usability Test
This practical tool found in the Google Search Console (GSC) allows you to determine any mobile usability issues of your site. Here are the steps on how to use it.
Go to your GSC account
Click "Search Traffic"
Click "Mobile Usability"
After that, Google will inform you if mobile users have any difficulty utilizing your site. For instance, the tool may tell you that the font is too tiny to read or you use Flash which slows down your site.
Another option is to utilize Google's Mobile-Friendly test. Just copy the URL of your site and paste it into the tool. The mobile Googlebot will give you a full report about any issues in loading your page. If the Googlebot has issues crawling the resources on your mobile site, then you're in big trouble now that Google's Mobile-first index comes into play.
Let Google Crawl Your Page
How do you learn if this is a problem?
First, look at your robots.txt file whether it tells Googlebot not to crawl or index some portions of your site. You can find this file at site.com/robots.txt or inside the Google Search Console.
In there, click "Google Index" then "Blocked Resources." You'll find out if Googlebot is blocked from crawling specific parts of your site. If you blocked nothing important, you're good.
Put A Stop To Giant Popups
Everyone despises popups, including Google, especially for mobile users. Keep in mind that Google's top priority is to display amazing content to users. And it discourages them if the content is concealed behind a large popup.
In fact, Google introduced an update that particularly targets annoying popups. So if you have a large pop-up on your site this could hurt your rankings.
Know The Look Of Your Responsive Site
Nothing beats actually looking at your site on various devices, such as smartphones and tablets. If you want to see how responsive your site is on different devices. There are loads of free tools that let you do this. Just type the URL of your site, then press enter.
Use The "Fetch As Google" Feature
While other tools list the potential issues of your site, the "Fetch As Google" feature lets you show Google sees your actual page. Spot test a few pages on your site by entering the URL, then select "Mobile" from the drop-down box.
When you see the result, scroll down to determine if Google checked everything from videos to menus and images.
Show It All To The Users
The previous practice was to block particular resources from mobile users. For example, hiding certain content by letting you hit "Read More" to view all the content. This might help load the page faster on any device but it might be an issue with Google's Mobile-first index.
You know that Google sees your mobile page as the main version. If your content is concealed to mobile users, they may not crawl or index that content. Google has always encouraged to website owners to show all relevant information on the page.
Bottom line? Test your site on a few different devices. If desktop users see something different from mobile users, then get that fixed immediately.
How To Optimize Your Mobile Site For A Better User Experience
Today, SEO is more about having an amazing site and less about playing with meta tags. As a matter of fact, Google's RankBrain algorithm is specially made to evaluate how Google users interact with your website. If RankBrain sees your site as something frustrating to mobile users, they'll drop you from the rankings.
Here are five easy ways to ensure that mobile users enjoy your site.
Use Mobile Sitespeed Tools
Speed is important for user experience. Nothing is more frustrating than a slow loading page. Likewise, Google cares about the loading speed of your mobile site. In fact, they suggest that your site should load under a second for a good mobile user experience.
That's difficult guideline to achieve but with some free tools, you can make it happen. Here are three tools to help improve your mobile site speed.
Google's PageSpeed Insights: This tool tells you how fast your site loads on mobile devices. It also offers some recommendations to improve speed.
WebPageTest.org: Make sure that you select a mobile browser from the menu because this tool loads your site on a desktop browser by default. This tool will give you a list of recommendations particularly adapted for mobile browsers.
PageSpeed Insights: This guide is great if you want to get more technical with page speed. It will help you modify your site so it loads very fast.
Make Your Content Easy To Read On Mobile
Mobile users often get frustrated if they have to scroll or squint when reading your mobile content. You don't want this happen because surely, they'll hit the back button right away. You want your font to be large, bold, and legible.
Here are the guidelines on how to make your mobile content more readable.
Use a minimum of 14px font
Use short paragraphs
Use a line length between 50 to 60 characters
Create a lot of contrast between background and text
Use HTML5 For Video And Animation
If you use Flash to embed videos and animation in your content, then it's not going to work on mobile. It's just going to slow down the loading speed. Use HTML5 instead.
Set Up The "Viewport Content" Tag
Make sure that you don't ignore the viewport meta tag if you use a responsive design for your site. This tag modifies the size of your page according to the device of the user. If you missed this tag, or if it's not setup properly, your site could look funny on mobile.
Mobile Google users want a quick answer. This means avoiding giant header images that will take away the space for the answer. You can either delete them or reduce the size to show the whole content.
Use "Negative" Space Generously
The space between buttons, text, and design components is what you call the negative space. This negative space is crucial for mobile sites because it helps your content rank in Google.
If a Google user has a difficulty reading your content, they'll leave your page right away. Using a lot of negative space is a quick way to enhance your site's bounce rate.
Display Social Share Buttons As A Tab Bar
A good way to increase the number of shares your page receives is to use social sharing buttons. That said, these buttons should be visible and easy to click. The best way to display your social share buttons it to put them on a tab bar below the page.
Advanced SEO Tips And Practices For Mobile
Now that your site is optimized for mobile, it's time to go to the next level. Here are 5 advanced tips and strategies for mobile SEO.
Improve Your Mobile CTR
One of the biggest Google ranking factors is your organic click-through-rate (CTR). If a few people only click on your search result, then it will hurt your rankings.
But how you do know if your CTR is meeting the required standard? Here are the steps:
Go to Google Search Console's Search Analytics section
Click "Compare Devices"
Select "Desktop" vs "Mobile", then click "Compare"
At this point, you'll see the results of your desktop and mobile CTRs, side by side. It's normal to have different mobile and desktop CTRs. But if you find that your desktop CTR squashes your mobile CTR for a particular keyword, search for that keyword on mobile.
It could be that the title tag is incomplete or more ads are hovering the organic results. Either way, you'll basically get an insight on how to improve your mobile CTR.
Compare UX Signals On Desktop And Mobile
With the Mobile-first index, Google is now putting more importance on mobile UX signals. This means a negative effect on your rankings if mobile users bounce from your site always. So I suggest that you use Google Analytics to compare your desktop and mobile bounce rates and dwell time.
It's actually simple. Here are the steps:
Login to your Google Analytics account
Click "Site Content", then "Landing Pages"
Once your site's most popular pages are shown, click on a page that you like to get more traffic
Click "Secondary Dimension" then "Device Category"
You'll then be shown with the UX signal comparison of your desktop and mobile. Let's say you have almost the same dwell time and bounce rate. This means your page is greatly optimized for mobile users.
But if you notice a large difference between desktop and mobile visitors, try visiting the site on your mobile device. There might be something wrong that's causing visitors to bounce on your page, which brings me to the next tip.
Increase Your Mobile Page Speed
With Google's Mobile-first update, mobile page speed now matters. Here's how you can improve the loading speed of your mobile site.
Check your mobile speed at ThinkWithGoogle.com and consider the top fixes on how to eliminate load speed hurdles.
Reduce the size of your images
Implement browser cache
Boost with a CDN to make page elements load twice faster
Optimize Title And Description Tags
If the majority of your organic traffic comes from mobile, then you should optimize your title and description tags, particularly for mobile search results. How?
Interestingly, Google offers more title tag characters to use with on mobile than on desktop. While desktop can work with approximately 70 characters, mobile can work with approximately 78 characters for the title. Both allow a description of approximately 300 characters.
That said, your title has a high chance of not getting cut off on both desktop or mobile if you use a title tag of 69 or fewer characters. Since mobile allows more characters for the title, you can expand the title tag if you get most of your traffic from mobile.
Utilize Schema Structured Data
Mobile search engine research pages (SERPs) show the results as cards, which makes Schema.org structured data very effective. It can link you up with recipe pictures, review stars, and event dates in the SERPs.
All of these links can help raise your organic CTR. In other words, consider using structured data if you want to gain more clicks from mobile users.
Should You Apply Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs)?
AMPs are simple versions of web pages made to load fast on mobile devices. Actually, AMP pages have a loading speed which is four times faster than their counterparts.
If you don't know yet, Google is the pioneer of AMP, hence a lot of SEOs implement it for their customer's sites. Many assume that Google will rank AMP-friendly sites higher.
Should you implement AMP? Well, you decide. But for me, probably not because it puts serious restrictions on the functionality of your page. First, you don't have full control over the ads and you can't have any lightbox or popup. While AMP loads your site faster, it makes your content looks ordinary.
Second, AMP can be detrimental to your link building attempts. Usually, the link will direct someone to your site when users link to your content. However, the link will direct to the Google.com domain when users link to your AMP page. In short, the AMP page links promote Google's domain authority, not your site.
Third, AMP may not endure with the super fast LTE and forthcoming 5G. While it may offer a small increase in loading speed today, it may not be the same case in the future. So, I don't suggest AMP unless you have an irresistible reason to do it.
Now You Decide!
With this guide to mobile optimization, it's your turn now to decide on what strategies to implement. Doing it alone may be difficult, so if you need help, you can ask assistance from us at Cloud LGS. Our SEO and Mobile SEO packages are designed to help you get the most out of Google. As always, you can make use of a free consultation with our team before you commit to anything!