In recent years, search engine optimisation (SEO) has become a fundamental building block for digital marketing. Today, nearly all online businesses implement an SEO strategy to boost their online visibility, improve their search engine results page (SERP) rankings, and drive more organic traffic.
However, more recently mobile SEO is starting to take over. Given that approximately half of worldwide web traffic comes from mobile devices, mobile-friendly SEO is taking precedence over “normal” SEO. For a number of years now, Google has been emphasising the importance of mobile-first indexing – the use of the mobile version of content for indexing and ranking. More recently, though, the search engine introduced mobile-first indexing for the entire web!
An increasing number of online businesses and SEO professionals are shifting their focus towards the all-important domain of mobile optimisation. So, if your website isn’t mobile-friendly, it’s about time that you did something about it. Websites that still aren’t properly optimised for mobile SEO are inevitably wasting marketing efforts and losing much-needed sales.
In this beginner’s guide to mobile-friendly SEO, we’ll help you understand what SEO for mobile sites is, how it differs from normal SEO and how you can optimise your website for it. Let’s get started.
What is mobile SEO?
Mobile SEO refers to improving the experience of visitors who navigate to your website from a mobile device, such as a tablet or smartphone. To do this, website owners must take steps to optimise their sites to make them more mobile-friendly.
In return, Google will reward such efforts with better rankings, visibility and, ultimately, more traffic to their sites.
Why is mobile SEO important in 2022?
We’re all aware that the world is becoming more and more mobile-centric by the day. So much so in fact, that, in 2022, the number of worldwide smartphone users is estimated at 6.6 billion – a 4.9% annual increase.
So, without a doubt, SEO for mobile sites is important to ensure all smartphone users have a great experience on your website. Mobile-friendly SEO ensures that your site presents your content in the best possible way for mobile searchers to understand.
If your website isn’t properly optimised for mobile SEO, you’ll almost certainly miss out on ranking improvements in the SERPs. To avoid this, you should do everything in your power to optimise SEO for your mobile site.
How is mobile SEO different to normal SEO?
If you haven’t shifted your focus to targeting mobile users, then it’s clear that you need to do so – and pretty sharpish. But what actually is the difference between mobile SEO and normal SEO?
Mobile-first indexing was introduced by Google in 2018 and, as a result, search results for mobile and desktop are fairly similar – but definitely not the same. It’s crucial to understand the difference between desktop and mobile in search so that you have the best foundation upon which to build different strategies for desktop and mobile SEO.
The biggest difference between mobile and desktop search results is how text results appear in the SERPs. For example, mobile text results tend to be larger because Google places more emphasis on visuals when it comes to mobile. And, in many cases, images or videos will appear alongside mobile listings.
As such, only two to three mobile listings will fit on a screen at any one time, forcing mobile users to swipe multiple times to go through the results, taking longer to reach the bottom of the SERP. This means mobile users are more likely to click on the first few results rather than endlessly scrolling.
By contrast, up to five desktop listings can usually fit on a screen at once, making it easier for users to scroll through the results and get to the bottom much quicker. This suggests that it’s even more important to be at the top of the SERPs on mobile devices – otherwise, your listing might not even be seen.
The second factor that tends to vary between desktop and mobile search is click-through rate (CTR). When you look at the CTR for mobile it drops less than that for desktop. On mobile, the CTR for the first-ranking position is 24%, compared to just 14% for the second-ranking position.
There are a number of potential reasons why CTR drops less for mobile than desktop:
- Mobile features individual cards for each listing, making it easier to look at individual listings
- Having photos on mobile listings further down the results page might be more visually appealing to mobile users
- The desktop’s wider screen means search results have more space to have multiple listings visible at a time, as well as sponsored ads and search features
Image source: Unsplash.com
How to optimise a website for mobile SEO?
Now we know how important it is to optimise your website for mobile-friendly SEO, how do you go about doing it? To improve your mobile SEO, there are some best practices you need to follow:
Improve your page speed
Any SEO knows how important page speed is to their efforts. The faster your web pages load, the better the user experience, and the better your search engine rankings will be. However, take that level of importance and multiply it by 10 for mobile SEO; because of hardware and connectivity issues, page speed is even more crucial for mobile users compared to desktop users.
Some ways you can improve your page speed include:
- Optimise images
- Minify code
- Reduce redirects
- Leverage browser caching
- Invest in better web hosting
Take advantage of structured data
Again, structured data is essential for any site, but especially for mobile site SEO. Structured data allows you to describe your website content in a way that search engines will understand. If your site is properly optimised using structured data, in return, search engines might reward you with rich results – enhanced results in the Google SERP with extra visual or interactive features, such as carousels and images.
Given that you have a smaller screen space on a mobile device, a search result with rich snippets is even more likely to stand out than on a desktop.
Optimise for local search
Users worldwide perform many “near me” searches on their mobile devices, for which Google returns more localised results compared to on desktops. Therefore, optimising your mobile site for local SEO is critical to gaining a competitive advantage in your industry.
There are a number of steps you can take to optimise your website for local search:
- Add schema markup to your site
- Update name, address, and phone number (NAP) citations
- Add your business to local directories
- Get reviews and add them to your site
- Identify local search terms and insert them into your content
- Claim your Google My Business Page
Responsive or dynamic?
Perhaps the most important decision you’ll make when it comes to mobile-friendly SEO optimisation is the type of mobile site configuration you use when setting up your site. You can choose between a dynamic serving or a responsive web design. Although Google tends to favour a responsive design, both options come with their pros and cons.
Responsive web design
The commonly recommended way of implementing a mobile-friendly website is the responsive web design setup. In this configuration, the web server sends the same HTML code to all users, irrespective of whether they’re using a desktop, tablet, or smartphone.
The code and content respond to each individual user, for example, adjusting to different screen sizes.
The main advantages of using a responsive web design setup include:
- Crawling of your website is more efficient, which improves the overall SEO of the site
- Your website loads quicker as there is no redirection for users on different devices
- Less chance of errors and mistakes resulting from poor device detection, URL redirection and displaying content, resulting in improved user experience
Dynamic web design
In the dynamic serving configuration, the URL remains the same for different devices, but the HTML/CSS file changes. This means that mobile and desktop users are presented with different content from the same URL.
The issue with this option is that device detection is dependent on a number of factors, some of which are often flawed and can lead to errors. As a result, it can cause the wrong versions of the web page to be displayed, ruining the user experience and sabotaging your mobile SEO efforts.
With this in mind, nowadays, most websites are configured using the responsive design setup. So, if you’re still using a dynamic web design, we’d recommend switching to improve your mobile-friendly SEO.
It should be super easy for visitors to explore your website, even if they’re searching on a mobile device. They should feel no difference whether they’re accessing your site on desktop, mobile or tablet.
For example, there should be adequate screen-tapping space for fingers. Two clickable elements should be separated by enough space to avoid confusion or incorrect clicking. Also, all buttons on your site menus must be neatly arranged, corresponding to the device screen size.
Optimise titles and meta descriptions
It’s important to remember that you’re working with a lot less space when optimising mobile sites for SEO. So, to show off your best work in the SERPs, be as concise as possible when creating titles, URLs and meta descriptions.
Image source: Unsplash.com
How to check if your site is mobile-friendly
To check the mobile-friendliness of your site, either before or after you start optimising, you can use a variety of useful tools to gain useful insights. Some of the most effective include:
Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test
Using Google’s mobile-friendly test, you can either paste in your website’s URL or a specific code snippet, and Google will let you know whether the input is mobile-friendly or not.
If there are issues with your site’s mobile SEO, it will also highlight some of these, so you know which areas you need to focus on optimising.
Google’s Mobile Usability Tool
Another free tool from Google, the mobile usability tool can be found in your Google Search Console account.
Simply log into your GSC account and select “Mobile Usability”. If your website does have any errors, it will be shown under “Details”. The type of errors and the number of pages affected will also be shown.
Also, find out how to measure SEO success.
Mobile is the new normal – it is the baseline by which Google judges your website and assesses its suitability for search query rankings. So, if you’re trying to improve the visibility and ranking of your website, do NOT ignore the power of mobile SEO.
Do everything you can to fix the SEO for your mobile site and make it perfect, not just in Google’s eyes, but, more importantly, your visitors. After all, mobile SEO is not just about great content and a flawless technical profile but more about creating a killer user experience. By following our mobile SEO best practices, you’re sure to be on your way to the top!