As a webmaster, it will come as no surprise to you that search engine optimization, or SEO for short, is crucial to your success as a business. Generally, SEO helps your website be ranked higher in various search results by making it easy for crawlers to find relevant information on your site. If that sounds a little foreign to you, check out our Basics of SEO post.
So if SEO is all about making sure your site is optimized for search crawlers and ranking high in search results, what is mobile SEO? Also known as mobile optimization, mobile SEO is the process of ensuring that visitors who access your site from mobile devices have an experience optimized for their device.
To get a better understanding, think about a time you opened a link on your phone and the text was incredibly small so you couldn’t read anything because the full desktop version was displaying. Or a similar experience of the mobile website’s spacing and alignment being completely out of whack. Those sites are not optimized for mobile and create a frustrating user experience. So many search engines, like Google, have emphasized on mobile optimization and creating a better user experience by providing higher search rankings in return.
In fact, Google specifically will be launching their mobile-first index sometime within the next year; no one is exactly sure on the timing. This index will save mobile-friendly webpages to a database and begin delivering these results to users searching on mobile. This could have huge implications for sites that receive most of their leads from Google’s organic search, especially if they do not have a mobile site.
This sounds like a lot, but don’t worry too much. We have created a guide on mobile SEO best practices which will detail what you need to pay attention to when optimizing your site for mobile.
Let’s start with the heavy stuff first. Just like traditional SEO stategy, mobile optimization requires some technical work and considerations.
Mobile Responsive Site
Most importantly, you will need to ensure your site is responsive. A responsive site will automatically change to fit the device you are using. Check out our web design services page to learn more.
You will also need to consider the load speed of your various pages. As in traditional SEO, your site will be penalized in ranking for slow page speeds. You can monitor the load time of your pages within Google Analytics. If you notice it’s a little slow, think longer than six to ten seconds, you might want to consider some of these things which could be slowing down your site:
- Server Performance When a user attempts to visit your site, the browser (Chrome, Safari, etc.) first has to send a ping to your server to get all the information needed to load the site. Poor server performance means this process is going to take a while.
- Unoptimized Images For image format, browsers can load JPEG images the fastest closely followed by PNG and GIF respectively. Heavy formats like TIFF and BMP will eat up huge chunks of your load time. Make sure you pay attention to the dimensions of the images as well. Standardizing these across the site will help the browser render the images more quickly. Images should be less than 100kb.
- Code Density or Inefficient CSS You can minimize the amount of markup you need by making careful use of HTML tags such as section, article and nav; as well as helpful ids and classes. For CSS specifically, consider the hierarchy of your responsive design so you can make effective use of the cascading nature of the language.
Need more help figuring out why your page load times are dragging? Check out 7 Things That Are Slowing Down Your Site.
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
If you want to take your mobile optimization one step further, and you should, you will need to get familiar with AMP. The AMP Project was developed by Google with the desire to improve user experience across the mobile web by increasing the load speed for mobile webpages.
User Experience & Site Design
Once your site is technically ready for mobile, you will need to confirm that the finer details of your site are also prepared to do their part in enticing users to click into your site. Using accurate and relevant title tags and meta descriptions on all your pages will help searchers know what they are getting when they click onto your site. If this information is incorrect, your visitors won’t stay long and may leave feeling duped or resentful.
On the site specifically, you will want to ensure your navigation is set up in a way that is easy to operate on a mobile device. Consider a slide-out menu from the side or top of the screen. This gives the mobile user space to view the website and easily access the navigation when needed. You may also want to use internal links to connect relevant pages to others. Give your visitors an easy way to get from one page to the other.
You will also need to make a note of the font size you are using on your mobile pages. If the font is too big or small, it will be hard for viewers to read. You can further your formatting using header tags and break up similar information in groups of text. If your pages are too text heavy with no breaks, readers may feel overwhelmed on a smaller device.
In a similar realm, you will need to have a clear call to action (CTA) buttons on your mobile site. Tell your visitors exactly what to expect when clicking a CTA. Use an appropriate size button and concise text to keep things easy to read. CTAs like ‘Buy Now,’ ‘Learn More,’ or ‘Sign Up’ should work for most situations.
Adding social sharing buttons to your mobile site can also help to increase the user experience. These buttons will allow users to quickly and easily share content from your site directly to their social networks.
Finally, you will want to minimize any extras on your site. Carefully scrutinize every pop up on your site and decide if it is absolutely necessary to include in the mobile version of your pages. Not only will the pop-ups be distracting to the viewer, but they will increase your load times as well. Both outcomes are not ideal for mobile optimization and I would recommend eliminating all of your pop-ups on mobile screens.
A survey conducted by Google found that 88% of smartphone users conduct local searches. So if your business has a local component, you will need to ensure that all of your local resources are optimized for mobile as well. Most importantly, you will want to ensure you have a Google My Business page setup that contains accurate information about your business like open hours, address, phone number and more. Making this information easily accessible to local customers is critical to your business’s success.
Finally, adding schema to your site will help increase your click-through rate (CTR) from search results to your mobile-friendly website. The rich snippet data that results from schemas will appear more prominent on mobile search results, giving visitors a better idea of what your site is all about.
As you can see, there are many considerations for mobile optimization, but if you have already been using traditional SEO, hopefully none of these tactics seem too nuanced. Remember that the goal of mobile optimization is to create an easy to use environment for mobile visitors. You will need to review technical factors alongside user experience to create the best possible version of your site which fits on a much smaller screen. It sounds complicated, but when in doubt just test your mobile site on your smartphone.