In 2018, Google announced that it will be moving towards a mobile-first future. The search engine giant’s decision to go all-out mobile has set several changes in motion, particularly in the way businesses market their services online. Brushing off Google’s mobile-first direction would mean missing out on a lot of big marketing opportunities.
Consider the statistics: more than 50 percent of search queries globally now come from smartphones and other mobile devices. In the United States, mobile search is roughly 58 percent of overall search query volume. Another interesting fact is that queries on mobile devices are slightly longer compared to queries on desktops.What does this tell us? One thing is for sure: mobile is here to stay. As a business, you can’t afford to ignore mobile search engine optimization (SEO) much longer. Here’s why you need to take it seriously, and why you’ll need an SEO expert in Virginia to help you out.
Understanding Mobile Optimization: What It Is and Why It Matters
Every year, more people spend more time on their mobile phones and tablets, but many businesses fail to design websites that account for different loading times and screen sizes. This is a serious misstep in light of Google’s trajectory.
Mobile optimization takes site structure, design, page speed, and more into account so frustrated mobile users won’t bounce from your website. Mobile SEO also makes your site resources accessible to search engine spiders.
As mentioned, the number of mobile searches is exploding, and it is showing no signs of stopping. Since mobile is the clear future of search, Google took one step ahead of the marketing game by overhauling its algorithm to focus on mobile search, forcing businesses to do the same.
A Different Kind of Optimization
“So, is SEO now about optimizing for mobile?” you might ask.
Yes, at least if you are optimizing your website for Google.
The search engine company’s mobile-first index ranks search results based on the website page’s mobile version. Prior to this update, Google’s index used a mix of mobile and desktop results. If someone searched from an Android or iPhone, they would get mobile search results. And if you searched for something on your desktop, you’d get desktop results.
Now, no matter what device you use, Google will always show results from its mobile index.
This means that if your site meets these four things, you're good to go:
- 1Loads resources across all devices;
- 2Has a quick page loading speed;
- 3Does not hide content on mobile versions of your website, and
- 4Has working redirects and internal links
Then your website is good to go. If not, then you’ll notice a significant drop in search engine rankings.
What Does Google Consider as “Mobile?”
Most people think that “mobile device” includes smartphones AND tablets.
Google, however, categorizes tablets under “their own class.” According to the company, mobile devices do not include tablets because they have larger screens. This means that unless you offer tablet-optimized content, users will see your website as it would look on a desktop browser, not on a smartphone browser.
Pro Tip: This might not impact your mobile SEO that much, but if you want your website to be fully effective, optimize it for ANY device.
How Can You Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly?
According to Google, you have three mobile configuration options to choose from (each with their own considerations for both SEO and users).
- 1Separate URLs.
- 2Dynamic Serving.
- 3Responsive Web Design.
Also known as a standalone mobile site, this configuration typically involves an m.subdomain or /m/ subdirectory. This setup uses different URLs for your website to successfully display the content on different mobile devices. With this configuration, you have the main version of your site (aka the desktop version), as well as the mobile version (“M.”).
Simply put, your website figures out which type of device the visitor is using and directs them to a URL optimized for their device.
Separate URLs are helpful but can be difficult to manage. Also, “M.” sites experience a host of SEO issues, such as needing multiple URLs for every piece of content your site.
In order to show the relationship between mobile and desktop sites, search engines depend on the use of rel=” alternate” and rel=” canonical”.
For every accessible page on the mobile site, add rel=” canonical” to point back to the equivalent page on the desktop site. For every page on the desktop site, add rel=” alternate” to reference the equivalent page on the mobile site.
Pro Tip: Also, only deploy redirects for URLs where a near/direct equivalent is available to avoid “faulty redirect” classifications. Search engines view this type of behavior as a poor user experience.
Dynamic serving configurations have all of your content on the same URL but show each user different HTML/CSS depending on the device they use. This setup requires the proper use of the Vary HTTP header to signal changes based on the user’s page requests. Valid headers direct how the browsers will display the content, as well as help Googlebot discover your mobile-optimized content sooner.
While dynamic serving is better for SEO, it still has its issues.
First, dynamic serving websites are notorious for displaying desktop versions to mobile users. Second, it forces you to create different versions of web content for new devices. If your site is not configured for the latest mobile devices, your website will look terrible on these devices.
A key consideration with dynamic serving is to make search engines aware of this configuration. As mentioned, use the Vary HTTP server header response to inform search engines that the content of your web page will change according to the visitor’s type of request.
Responsive Web Design
This is Google’s recommended configuration since the HTML stays the same regardless of the device at the same location. With responsive design, your web page’s content and layout respond to each individual user.
The website still has the same HTML code for the same URL regardless of the user’s chosen device. All you have to do is use the meta name=” viewport” tag within the website’s source to help browsers adjust the content properly.
Responsive web design is popular among SEO experts because Google can easily index single URLs for higher rankings on the search engine results pages (SERPs).
This configuration avoids common SEO and formatting mistakes like the ones mentioned with the methods above, which makes it convenient to maintain multiple pages for the same content.
Pro Tip: Also, users don’t have to deal with redirects, which shortens their download times — a huge plus for both your potential customers and your website.
Best Practices for Mobile SEO
The primary goal of mobile optimization is to make sure your website will appear in Google’s search results. To make this happen, user experience should be a priority; otherwise, mobile pages that provide poor searcher experience will either have a warning displayed in the mobile SERPs or lower search rankings.
Don’t let this be the case for your website.
Take advantage of mobile SEO by following these best practices:
Focus on Page Load Speed
Mobile users aren’t big fans of waiting. The point in fact: they have little patience for websites that take more than three seconds to load; 53 percent of visitors will leave, and 80 percent of them will never return.
If you want to improve user experience and rank better in the SERPs, improve your website’s page loading speed ASAP.
Start by checking your page’s average download time through Google’s Page Speed tool. Once you’ve determined your average speed, optimize your codes (which includes removing commas, spaces, and other unnecessary characters). Also, remove code comments, unused code, and formatting. Google recommends using UglifyJS and CSSNano.
Prioritize Responsive Web Design
Web design is crucial to your mobile SEO’s success. If you want to rank well, your website needs to give visitors the best user experience possible — and that starts with a responsive design.
As mentioned, websites with responsive designs show their content according to the device’s screen size. Having a responsive web design ensures great user experience and makes the crawling process easier for Google.
There are two ways to give your visitors the best experience possible:
- 1Optimize content layout. Don’t be afraid to move some elements around. Make some images bigger and don’t have plenty of columns.
- 2Device Adaptation. The content should look good on different viewing screens; otherwise, users will immediately exit your website.
Disable Pop-up Ads
Besides slow page load speeds, visitors actively dislike pop-up ads. These annoying interruptions (which can be difficult to close when you are on a mobile device with a tiny screen) compromise user experience and lead to high bounce rates. Also, Google hates them just as much as your visitors.
While these ads might work on your desktop site, don’t devalue your amazing SEO content with intrusive ads. Disable them to make users and search engines happy.
Fix URL Errors and Faulty Redirects
Prioritize removing crawl errors found in the Google webmaster tool. Also, schedule regular website health checks to ensure your site’s mobile-friendly design always operates efficiently. Well-maintained websites perform better on the SERPs compared to those with faulty redirects and cross links.
Clear and Concise Titles and Meta Descriptions
Since smartphones have smaller screens, it’s important to keep your web page’s information as meaningful and direct-to-the-point as possible. The same principle applies to your titles and meta-descriptions. Use concise, keyword-rich content for the best mobile SEO results.
Avoid Mobile-only 404s
Some websites display content to desktop users but serve unsightly 404 error pages for mobile users trying to access the same page with the same URL.
Don’t put your mobile visitors in an awkward situation; redirect them to a mobile version of the page at a different URL instead. Configure your web page properly to avoid showing error 404 messages that will turn visitors away.
Take Advantage of Local Searches
GPS has made local mobile SEO one of the biggest money spinners in digital marketing. Thanks to its capabilities, local businesses receive more mobile traffic that transforms into desktop traffic and sales
Thus, it is important that you optimize your website for local searches by adding the basic information of your business (e.g., name, address, phone number, and emails) on local listings.
Key principles remain the same when it comes to mobile SEO: allow web crawlers to read, access, and understand your content, ensure users get the best web experience, and have your website working well across all devices.
Continuous testing and improvement guarantee better results. Yes, it takes time, but the results will be worth it.
“But what if I don’t have time?” you might ask.
Taking advantage of business opportunities and SEO opportunities need not be an “and-or” situation as long as you have the right help. This is where you’ll require assistance from a professional SEO company — specifically our SEO company.
Alkries LLC at Your Service
We take mobile SEO off your hands so you can focus on other business matters.
Our SEO experts in Roanoke, VA practices an all-around approach for your mobile SEO campaign. We integrate on-page with off-page strategies and give your website the full support of our professional SEO team.
We implement an optimization plan and see if it works on Google and other major search engines. Our team uses custom webmaster tools to build citations, implement custom on-page SEO strategies, and fix ongoing optimization issues.
When you invest in our SEO strategies, you can look forward to:
- Improved user experiences.
- Faster page loading times.
- More customer engagement.
- Better search engine performance.
- Increased time spent on your website.
- Higher conversion rates and lower bounce rates.
Trust our client-centric internet marketing agency to harness the power of mobile SEO to your advantage. Let us know about your goals so we can customize our solutions. Our services are the result of a collaboration between our expertise and your ideas.Unleash your website’s potential on both mobile and desktop with an expert by your side. Get in touch with Alkries LLC to schedule your consultation today.