Mobile SEO is a process of implementing search engine optimization techniques to make it function properly and look great on mobile devices.
It wasn’t too long ago that Google’s indexing technology favoured desktop websites. Even if you were using your smartphone, you would have gotten search results based on Google’s desktop index. But things have changed. Google is also adopting a mobile-first indexing policy, which has paved the way for Mobile SEO and opened a whole new world of business avenues.
What Is Google’s Mobile-first Index?
Google rolled out its Mobile-Friendly Update (Which is also called “Mobilegeddon”). This update was rolled out to penalize the website that wasn’t mobile-friendly. But if your website’s target audience doesn’t search that much from their phone, this update wasn’t a big deal.
Google’s Mobile-First Index ranks the search results based on your mobile version of the page. Even if you are searching from a desktop, the Google index will use a mix of mobile and desktop results to the users before this update.
So if someone searched from an iPhone, Google would show them mobile results. And if someone searched for something on a desktop, they’d get “desktop results.”
But now, if someone searches from mobile devices, Google shows mobile results. And if someone searches from desktop and they would be shown desktop results.
And thus, your current strategy should be to target your website as mobile-friendly sites and ensure it is following the Mobile SEO trends. According to recent studies, almost every 9 out of 10 individuals own a smartphone. Among this group, approx 87% of the users browse search engines at least once a day. Google has been tracking the progressive growth of mobile searches for quite a while now. Based on its observations, Google recommended website owners to make their site mobile-friendly to rank better.
What is the difference between Desktop SEO and Mobile SEO?
The most basic difference between these two optimization strategies lies in what the consumer is doing and what they want.
Desktop SEO focuses on improving consumers’ experience at home in their free time, not in a rush. These websites may focus more on blog content and internal linking to keep those consumers on their site longer.
Mobile SEO focuses on the consumer on the go, in a rush and needs information right away. So, one mobile SEO strategy would be to make your essential information (location, phone number, services) easy to find, easy to understand, and easy to initiate/purchase on the spot.
With more and more searches being done from a mobile phone, it’s beneficial to ensure your website is mobile optimized.
Mobile Search and Local SEO
As per Hubspot’s stats, 58% of mobile users search for local businesses daily, and 72% visit a local business within 5 miles.
The opportunity of a mobile-friendly website for local businesses is significant. Local businesses need to do more than hope someone drives by or advertise in local publications. With this many people performing local searches on their mobile devices daily, local SEO needs to be prioritized.
Only so much can be found online and delivered to your door. What about the shoes that need to be repaired or the well overdue haircut? HubSpot found that 70% of search result information will guide the user to a physical store.
Local SEO is a bit different than general SEO, as there are more location-specific keywords and information that need to be crawled by Google. The Google Local Pack includes a map with relevant local results. The Maps Pack appears in almost 30 percent of all first page SERPs, making it the most frequently displayed SERP feature (along with the Featured Snippet). Focusing on local SEO is a significant part of mobile SEO in 2020.
What Does the Rise in Mobile Search Mean for Businesses?
Responsiveness is everything. This steady incline in mobile search will only continue, and the website must be mobile-friendly. Web developers are incredibly familiar with responsive design, and that isn’t just for mobile. Tablets of all sizes are included in this shift of devices to mobile and also must be responsive.
What is responsive web design?
Responsive web design adapts to the user’s device with a flexible layout and images depending on the screen’s size. The viewpoint of the user is adapted to different image sizes, font sizes, and navigation menus. Sometimes a mobile version of a website is simply a more simplified version of the desktop version. This is an incredibly intuitive and user-friendly approach to make it easier to browse and navigate. Responsiveness is so vital that users are associating it with trustworthiness.
57% of users won’t recommend or complete a purchase with a company that doesn’t have a responsive mobile site. It’s easy to see that a simple mobile-friendly site is vital, and market share can even be gained.
Treat Your Website as Your Storefront
The bounce rate is real, and if a user is having trouble using your site, they will leave instantly and find a more mobile-friendly site. Optimizing for intuitive navigation will help you guide a user through your site to complete a purchase. How the storefront and layout of a physical location are essential is your website for positive user experience (UX).
Google Gives Priority to Mobile-Optimized Sites
Google understands where the trends are going and how to support the user first and foremost. While Google is indeed a business, they depend on the user and ensure that the user’s needs are being met with ease. Mobile-first indexing is what Google is moving towards to prioritize mobile-friendly sites as they are aware that most users are now searching on their devices. This opens the door to optimize the mobile version of a site. Google has provided a check-list on its webmaster blog to create an optimized mobile site.
How mobile-friendly is relatable to the higher rankings?
With increasing mobile searches, Google designed many algorithms to track site searches and other events when requested through mobiles.
A decade ago, IT experts claimed mobile-friendly and responsive sites as the Eldorado. And, now it proved it’s worth it. Website’s that acquired the suggestions from Google and made their sites responsive is certainly attaining an unnamed favour from Google.
So now, first let’s see why we need the mobile site differently from the regular website. Well, so a regular website designed for monitor screens with an average width of 1000 pixels. Mobile sites are designed for an average width of 300 pixels. Indeed a huge difference, isn’t it?
Some responsive websites manage to optimize their mobile devices’ views and other screen sizes like tablets. But not all sites are capable of that. Also, not all sites with responsive designs are optimized for different screen sizes. This was the base reason to come up with the concept of a mobile site that is mobile-friendly.
Now, you know the purpose of why you need to have a mobile site. Next is to know about Mobile SEO.
Meet Mobile SEO!
Mobile SEO is a deliberate method to optimize websites for a perfect display and easy usage on any handheld device with any screen size. The websites falling in the mobile-first indexing category attain a high rise in mobile searches.
Although mobile sites are not the only ranking parameter in the google search engine, it certainly is the most important one.
Getting deeper into the ocean, try to remember whatever you see along. What I mean here is, making a mobile site is of utmost importance, but there are factors that you need to grab along for more significant results. These factors include optimizing your site content to what your visitors are looking for. Results are more relatable if in the local language and so optimization based on your visitor’s location, optimizing the title and meta description to your site and more.
Mobile SEO is straightforward to implement. Analyze how your audience does searches for their queries. And target those local, long-tailed and short-tailed keywords. You may also optimize your content by incorporating those keywords. And, for technical SEO, you can modify the content structure and representation.
The primary purpose of mobile SEO is to improve the website’s ranking by:
# Optimizing the content of your website so it can be appropriately consumed on mobile devices. This is to ensure your audience can get the most valuable and relevant content as possible.
# Optimizing the user experience for all devices, including page speed, mobile-responsiveness, and other factors, ensure your audience can stay as long as possible on the page.
Mobile SEO Best Practices
When optimizing your website for mobile devices, these six issues are the most essential to focus on.
Best Practice #1: Page Speed
Page speed is one of the most important ranking factors in traditional SEO nowadays. However, it is arguably more important when optimizing mobile devices because of mobile connectivity issues and hardware limitations.
Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to check your site’s current performance, optimize images, minify codes, and enable caching, among other optimizations.
Best Practice #2: Mobile-Friendly Design
Here are the common best practices for mobile devices:
# Avoid Flash: Not only is Flash obsolete and unpopular, but the Flash plugin also isn’t available on all phones. Use HTML5 instead.
# Proper size: Mobile navigation can lead to accidental clicks when your buttons are too big or too small. Use fonts that are big enough for mobile.
# Avoid pop-ups: Pop-ups are annoying on mobile devices and can be very hard to close. Pop-ups can lead to a high bounce rate. We’ll talk more about this later in the blog.
It was common in the past to block one or all of these elements on the mobile version of a website simply because mobile devices didn’t support them.
Today, however, most smartphones can adequately display all three. So, don’t hide these elements. They’re essential for the Smartphone GoogleBot to understand you have a responsive site.
Best Practice #4: Optimized Headings and META Descriptions
You have less space to showcase your content on a mobile SERP. Get straight to the point (without sacrificing the quality of information) when optimizing your headings, URLs. And meta descriptions.
Best Practice #5: Structured Data Markup
Structured data (schema.org) allows your site to be eligible as a rich snippet result. Rich snippets are even more likely to stand out on a mobile device, so take time to set it upright.
Best Practice #6: Local SEO
If your business targets a local audience, optimize your website for local search and your Google My Business listing. Google Maps results are very prominent on mobile SERP. This will include standardizing your NAP information and having your physical location in your site’s footer and metadata.
Tips on Implementing Mobile SEO in 2020
1. Keyword Research for Mobile and Voice Keywords
Mobile keyword optimization demands a unique approach compared to traditional SEO.
People tend to type less on their mobile devices than their desktop computers, and nowadays, more and more people use voice searches on their smartphones. It’s simply easier to ask Siri or Google Assistant when you are on a mobile device than it is to type.
So, do your keyword research homework properly and target your customers’ queries when searching on mobile devices, including voice queries.
Generally, you can target mobile and voice keywords by:
# Looking for conversational and question-based search queries
# Answering questions directly in your content
# As discussed above, using structured data markup (Results for voice queries are commonly pulled from featured snippets.)
# Creating a FAQ page and answer various questions
Voice search isn’t going anywhere soon, and in fact, it’s expected to get bigger. So, it’s better to prepare now and optimize your site for mobile-friendly and voice-friendly keywords.
2. Avoid Forced Redirects
Have you ever browsed a website and then click on a link that opens another tab on the browser? Most likely, you did. This is called forced redirects.
This situation is already annoying on desktop devices and sometimes can be categorized as sneaky redirects that are potentially malicious. However, being naturally a desktop-first strategy, they are even more annoying on mobile devices.
Forced redirects can easily lead to a high bounce rate, which can be bad for your site’s SEO performance and your business’s overall credibility.
Instead, use subdomains and subdirectories to fulfill similar purposes while not hurting your site’s UX aspects:
# Subdirectory: A path that leads to other pages, which is a more direct approach to structure a website. This is an approach easily recognized by Google to include your target keywords in the subdirectory address. For example, www.exampleforyou.com/mobile-seo.
# Subdomains: In this approach, you divide different parts of a website into their independent hierarchy. A subdomain allows a whole user experience on a mobile site and is generally the better approach for mobile optimizations. For example, mobileseo.exampleforyou.com is a subdomain.
Include keywords naturally, but remember that your main objective is to help your visitors to have an easier time navigating your website.
3. Mobile-Optimized Menu
In desktop websites, we often use a navigational menu known as the mega menu, filling the screen’s full width when you hover over a navigation tab. The mega menu allows you to improve the user experience by making it easy to find pages on your website. On mobile screens, however, there’s not room for mega menus.
Here are some excellent alternatives that work on a smaller screen:
# Hamburger menu: The three horizontal lines resemble a hamburger; this type of menu displays more items vertically when you click on it.
# Floating hamburger: Like the hamburger menu, the button floats in a more prominent position on the user’s screen. It’s useful to save screen real estate and be positioned to reach with your thumb.
# Tabbed menus: Think of the tabbed buttons on the bottom of Instagram’s mobile app. Click any icon in the tabbed menu, and you can see the core functions for that tab on the screen.
# Top tabbed menus: Like tabbed menus, these menus are placed on the top of the screen. However, since they are located on the upper third of the screen, it’s harder to reach, especially on bigger phones.
# Swipe: Popularized by Tinder, where users can quickly swipe between screens to switch between different functionalities, the swipe lets you quickly navigate the mobile site.
These mobile-optimized menus (and other alternatives) allow for more straightforward navigation, improving users’ dwell time and lower bounce rate — both vital ranking factors. Ensure your website’s navigational menu is adequately optimized for mobile screens, and you are halfway there.
4. Use Mobile-Optimized Pop-Ups
As mentioned above, we’ve traditionally avoided using pop-ups on mobile sites. However, pop-ups can be quite useful. As of today, in 2020, pop-ups still have a relatively high average conversion rate of 3.09%.
Follow these two rules:
- Don’t allow it to cover the entire screen.
- Make it easy to close anytime.
These two characteristics will minimize the chance of users bouncing. Your pop-up should only cover a small area so visitors can still perform necessary actions, like opening the menu or scrolling between pages.
You don’t have to show the same pop-up to returning visitors, which is relatively easy to set up. To avoid having your visitors see the same pop-up, they closed the other day, use the versions that hide them from existing subscribers.
As a rule of thumb, keep this in mind: do not display pop-ups that cover the main content or hamper the user experience.
Based on these guidelines, your mobile pop-ups should complement the user experience rather than restrain it.
Here’s a diagram from Google that summarizes it quite clearly:
Google gives a few examples of acceptable popups
…and popups that can get your site penalized.
5. Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) for Speed
Google has introduced them in 2016 and made them a must for higher ranking only recently. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are HTML copies of web pages with faster loading times compared to HTML5 documents.
Accelerated Mobile Pages, aka AMP, is a joint venture project undertaken by Google and Twitter. It is an open-source project designed to have faster-loading for mobile-friendly pages by layering it down to basics.
The AMP renders pages more quickly by eliminating the HTML codes that are unnecessary and focusing purely on the requested pages.
Image Credit:- https://instapage.com/
How exactly does one implement AMP so the website loads fast?
Essentially, there are three steps you need to take:
# Create the template for the AMP page.
# Roll out the AMP page.
# Track its performance.
Refer to AMP on Google Search Guidelines for more details.
The Bottom Line
2021 is just around the corner and the right time to get started with your SEO strategy accordingly. With the mobile search revolution dominating the search world for some time now, it is bound to reach a peak in the coming years.
For many of you, the mobile optimization concept may not be new because you have already acted on it, and that’s great.
For people who are starting their online journey, we hope this mobile optimization guide helps you a lot and teaches you how to do SEO for mobile websites. And if you need experts to handle this for you, well! You know we are just a click or call away!