People have a tight knit relationship with their phones. It’s the first thing they check in the morning and the last thing they put down before heading to bed. Chances are, it’s also the first thing they use when searching for a product or service online. In fact, 3 out of 4 smartphone users rely on mobile search first to tackle their immediate needs and around 51% of searchers will purchase from a mobile-friendly website.
This is why it’s crucial for businesses to consider implementing mobile SEO in their optimization strategy. Traditional SEO tactics aren’t enough, seeing that you’re dealing with these portable, internet-enabled devices. If you want to dominate the search rankings, you need to infuse mobile SEO tactics in your arsenal.
Google and other search engines require websites to follow best practices for mobile optimizations. Just a quick recap, Google traditionally crawled, indexes, and ranks sites based on their desktop page content. This caused issues for mobile searchers since desktop versions are significantly different from mobile versions.
And that’s when mobile-first indexing emerged.
Essentially, mobile-first indexing is the process of creating a mobile version of a desktop page optimized for indexing and ranking, which vastly helps mobile searchers. Plus, it brings your website content in front of this mobile-heavy demographic.
We now live in a mobile-first world. It’s not enough that your desktop page is ranking on search engine results pages and loads on mobile screens, it needs to be built for mobile.
Mobile SEO vs. Desktop SEO
A desktop copy doesn’t mirror well on mobile devices, and even when a desktop site is accessible on mobile, it’s a pain to look at on a small screen. Bad formatting and crowded design overwhelm users. Here are the differences between mobile and desktop you need to bear in mind to help you shape your mobile SEO tactics.
By device – Mobile and desktop screens are vastly different in size, and the former doesn’t have a keyboard as opposed to the latter. Mobile users can just command their voice assistant to search queries for them. Meanwhile, desktop users are encouraged to type their search keywords. They also tend to scroll further down the SERPs and the pieces of content they view.
By intent – Users perform searches based on intent—to find information, to go to a specific location or website, or to perform transactions. Consumers can simply whip out their phones to look up reviews or other product information before making a purchase, even when they’re already inside the store. They’re also more of a click-to-call type than desktop users, who are likely to type out an email when looking up “how to contact” businesses.
By user behavior or levels of engagement – Mobile devices are a lot smarter today than 15 years ago. Users can now perform mobile searches from keyword search to voice search. Consumers who use their phone to perform queries are likely in a hurry and in need of immediate answers. With desktop search, users are likely sitting down in front of a desk for longer periods of time.
By quality signals – Mobile search supports different quality signals compared to desktop to deliver a seamless mobile search experience. For example, social signals and links from QR codes and text messages can improve mobile rankings.
By ranking algorithms – Ranking in the top SERPs is even more important on mobile than desktop search since space is more limited on a mobile screen. Finding your content on the fourth position on mobile results can see a CTR dip of more than 90%.
Mobile searchers are more engaged when browsing on their mobile devices compared to desktop users, but they’re also more impartial to scrolling or viewing more results than the latter.
Mobile SEO Best Practices
A lot of desktop SEO techniques apply to mobile SEO, with just a bit of modification to align with mobile searches. Below are the best practices you should follow for effective mobile SEO.
1. Test for mobile usability
Checking your site’s mobile usability can inform you whether mobile users find trouble accessing or browsing your website. This is a vital part of mobile SEO; it helps you identify and fix issues that may have negative implications for users and your search ranking.
You can use Google’s Search Console and Mobile-Friendly test tool to check your site’s mobile usability. See if your page content is responsive and fares smoothly on mobile screens. These tools deliver reports and state if any critical errors need immediate fixing, such as the following:
Partially loaded pages – The page could not load all page resources. This can impact how Google reads and understands your page.
Small font size – A scaling issue where the page demands mobile users to pinch the screen for better readability (but calls for a bad UX).
Closely placed touch elements – A usability issue where the tap buttons are too close to one another, making it difficult to tap the right links or buttons.
2. Optimize titles and meta descriptions
This SEO technique is common practice in traditional SEO. But it bears more weight when it comes to mobile optimization. Here are the character limits for mobile and desktop tags:
Desktop: Approximately 70 characters for the title, 155 characters for descriptions.
Mobile: Approximately 78 characters for the title, 155 characters for descriptions.
Since you’re working with limited screen space, you want to present the best results in the most concise way (without compromising the crucial bits of information) when creating titles, subheadings, URLs, and meta descriptions.
3. Optimize your content
While we’re at it, observe proper formatting and better readability of your content for smaller screens and search engines alike. Regardless of the type of content, you must ensure that it translates and fits fluidly on mobile devices. Here are a couple of tips:
- Break your content into readable paragraphs
- Keep titles and headings short and simple
- Use bullet points, bold, or italics to highlight important information
- Use media that are compatible with smartphones
- Optimize tap buttons
- Limit the number of images in a page
- Choose readable font style and size
- Utilize white space
4. Improve page speed
How fast your page loads determines whether your visitor will leave your site in five seconds or stay ‘til it completely loads. Speed is revenue, especially in mobile where users expect immediate answers to their queries. Around 53% of mobile site visitors abandon pages that take longer than three seconds to load. With this, you see how page speed is more important for mobile optimization than desktop.
You can enhance your page speed by:
- Enabling compression
- Minimizing the number of redirects
- Using browser caching
- Optimizing your images (save in smallest size while retaining image integrity)
5. Design for the mobile experience
A mobile-friendly site focuses on user experience. It doesn’t demand users to zoom for better readability. Moreover, it considers the physical challenges of browsing on mobile. For instance, users with fat fingers can likely find it difficult to select the right buttons without hitting the wrong one. Instead, an excellent mobile designed optimized for search makes users achieve their goals seamlessly.
You can conduct user testing to see how well your site performs to actual mobile users. This should give you honest and valuable feedback that can help you understand how users interact with your website.
6. Keep your CTAs front and center
Mobile phone screens have less space compared to desktop screens. An overwhelming amount of text, images, and other design elements will call the user’s attention for negative reasons. For mobile call-to-action, it’s best practice to keep your CTA brief and direct, including the descriptive text around it.
Most importantly, place it on zones that have the most “touch” activity and the easiest for thumbs to reach (i.e., the center part and bottom area of the screen). It was found that 75% of mobile users swipe or touch the screen only with one thumb. So, keep your CTA buttons and conversion-related copy where users can easily tap and see.
7. Improve navigability and site search
Mobile users have specific intent when searching online. They expect to accomplish these goals quickly and easily with little to no trouble. A confusing web design and interface can hinder a visitor’s experience. No matter how good your services are, if your site gives them a headache just to navigate around, they’ll leave your page in favor of the competition.
Make sure that users can easily find your contact details, the enter button in site forms, and the search bar, among others. Remember: You have a narrow display, so maximize the space you have.
8. Scale your images
Find the best format for your images and scale them to an appropriate size for a more intuitive and functional mobile browsing experience. Ditch the giant image headers. Make the header smaller or remove unnecessary images for your site’s mobile version. Users want to scan the content they’re looking for and you can fulfill that by certifying that the text loads first and isn’t interfered by images.
Don’t block these elements since Google’s Smartphone GoogleBot wants to view and categorize all site content. These can help the bot assess if your site has a responsive mobile version.
10. Avoid Flash
Flash usage can do more harm than good for your mobile website version. Browsers on modern smartphones do not support Flash plugin, which means mobile visitors will most likely miss out a lot of elements and fun features your site has. If you want to inject some special effects like animations on your website, use HTML5 instead. This is guaranteed to work on mobile devices.
11. Stay clear of disturbing popups
Back in August 2016, Google declared that from January 10, 2017 onwards, websites with intrusive window popups or interstitials visually obscuring the content underneath will affect ranking signals. A popup that requests you to sign up to a newsletter is annoying enough on desktops. Imagine seeing that on a small smartphone screen when users only expect to view the content.
The update aims to improve the user experience and make content easily accessible on smart devices. Popups or interstitials aren’t useful on mobile; they’re disruptive. You can opt to use information bars or simple banners as an alternative for your campaigns.
12. Use Schema.org structured data
Structured data, also known as a schema markup language, is a construction of organized micro-data that you can inject into your site’s HTML code. This bunch of codes highlights your contents’ most essential details to help search engines better understand your page content to contextualize and index it accordingly.
Since mobiles have small displays, results with rich snippets get served up quick on the SERPs. Structured data can also help your page rank in position 0 at the top of the first results page. This stands out on mobile better (because of the limited screen) than on desktop.
13. Optimize for local search
Roughly 50% of consumers who perform mobile searches to look for a local business are likely to visit the store within a day. If you’re a local business, you need to align your strategies with local search tactics in mind to target your market.
Create separate URLs for better web design and display on the respective devices (i.e., website.com and m.website.com). You should also standardize your business details across all platforms. This pertains to your name, address, phone number, city and state name, etc. in your mobile site’s metadata.
14. Mobile site configuration
The most critical strategy you’ll come around when establishing your website is determining what matters most: responsive web design, dynamic serving, or a separate site configuration. These three methods can adjust to all screen types and sizes but each has its advantages and disadvantages.
- Responsive web design – The server is consistent in sending the same HTML code across all user devices (i.e., desktop, mobile, non-visual browser). However, it translates the display differently depending on the screen size. (Google prefers this design pattern)
- Dynamic serving – Utilizes the same URL no matter the type of device, but responds with a distinct version of HTML and CSS as per the device type.
- Separate site configuration – Generates different codes for every device and uses separate URLs for desktop and mobile.
15. Make web design fully responsive
While there are technically responsive websites, they can still have issues in terms of usability for mobile users. Google recommends adopting an all-around responsive web design approach to building a mobile-friendly website. Sites that utilize this method use CSS3 media queries to layout the content display on screen width, orientation, and resolution. This way, the content appears seamlessly regardless of the mobile device’s screen size.
Wrapping it up
Updating your SEO strategies with mobile-first methods boost your business’ web presence. Effective and well-executed mobile SEO tactics help you get in front of your target audience while giving them a pleasant experience when interacting with your website.
Interested in adding mobile SEO to your optimization strategies? SEO Company offers mobile SEO services that can help your website rise in this always-on world, pushing your brand at the top of search rankings and driving customer satisfaction. Get in touch with SEO Company now to start driving more mobile traffic, conversions, and revenue!
Need a hand with mobile SEO? Contact us today!