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Mobile SEO: A Beginner’s Guide

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There are an estimated 6.6 billion smartphone owners across the globe in 2022.

This is an increase of 79% on 2016 figures, a huge jump and a trend that is set to continue.

In fact, it is predicted that by 2023 that 85% of the global population will have a smartphone.

Smartphone Stats

Needless to say, smartphones are prolific.

It is strange to think that many website owners still think of their websites as being accessed via desktop devices.

This means that they tend not to apply much effort into optimizing their site for mobile viewing.

In this article, you will discover why this is a huge mistake. You will also find detailed insights into the best ways to optimize your website for mobile.

Helping you boost search engine ranking and drive positive actions from visitors.

What is Mobile SEO? Why is it Important?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is all about improving the position of your website on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). This includes search engines such as Google and Bing. SEO is achieved by making your website more attractive to search engine algorithms.

Mobile SEO focuses specifically on the application of best practices to make your website work better on mobile devices.

This is done to improve its appeal to search engines that consider mobile an important viewing platform.

 Definition
Mobile SEO is the process of improving your website for mobile users including Google Smartphone crawler so that it can rank higher in mobile searches.

Mobile is important due to the explosive growth in mobile device use. It is now predicted that a massive 59% of global web traffic comes from mobile devices.

Mobile SEO

Or to put this another way. When a website owner fails to optimize their website for mobile devices, they miss out on 59% of the traffic.

This is especially worrying for website owners who use their websites to drive profits such as ecommerce stores.

However you look at it, if a potential customer visits your website on a mobile device, only to be faced with poor responsiveness – this will negatively impact their perception of your website and your business.

This approach was a total u-turn on their old approach.

Where desktop versions of a website are used to determine the relevance of the website to a search query. This change marked a widespread acceptance that mobile is now essential to SEO.

Google made it very clear that they now see mobile devices as the most important platform for website viewing. Since July 2019, Google has used mobile-first indexing.

This means that they place more weight on mobile content when deciding how well a website will rank.

This shift has encouraged developers and designers to change to a mobile-first approach to creating websites. Websites used to be built for desktop viewing first.

Then they would be edited to work ‘as well as possible’ on mobile devices. Mobile-first design flips this on its head. Ensuring that websites are fully functional and easy to navigate on any device.

How to Optimize Your Website for Mobile?

The last section made it clear. Optimizing your website for mobile devices is very important.

Not just to boost your position on SERPs, but also to ensure that a huge percentage of potential website visitors receive a great experience.

But how do you actually optimize your website for mobile? We explore the various elements to consider below.

Page Speed

One important difference between mobile devices and desktops is how they connect to the internet.

Although most mobile devices can connect to wifi, they are also often used when connected to mobile internet.

As mobile internet can vary widely in speed, it can impact how quickly your website loads.

Statistics suggest that for every additional second your website takes to load, conversion rates drop by an average of 4.42%.

So, speed kills. Or at least a lack of speed kills your success.

You should also consider intent when thinking about mobile page speed.

A desktop user may be sat down, doing deeper research into an interest or topic.

On the other hand, a mobile user is more likely to be looking for a quick answer to a query – making mobile page speed even more important.

 Pro Tip

So, how do you improve your mobile page speed?

  • Optimize page images:
    • Convert to WebP or PNG format
    • Resize images
    • Compress images
  • Consider browser caching
    • Minimize the amount of time you want website information to be cached
  • Minimize redirects
    • Every redirect adds time to loading, so remove redirects where possible

Minify Js, CSS and Images

Minifying is the process of removing unnecessary characters within your source code.

These could include characters such as spaces, comments, line breaks, commas, and block delimiters.

Typically these characters are used to make it easier for humans to read the code, which can be beneficial for future editing.

But these unnecessary characters are not at all useful to mobile browsers.

So, when you minify the code, you make it easier and quicker for these browsers to read your code. This makes it quicker for your website to load.

 Pro Tip

How do you minify code?

  • Open your Js, CSS, and image code
  • Remove unnecessary code such as:
    • Spaces
    • Comments
    • Line breaks
    • Commas
    • Block delimiters
  • Review your code to ensure it still works

In the past, some mobile website browsers weren’t able to support elements such as Js, CSS, and image code. This meant that website owners had to block some or all these elements for their site to work on mobile.

Luckily, advancements in mobile devices mean that this is no longer true in most cases.

Search engines now use advanced tools such as the Smartphone GoogleBot. This tool finds and categorizes content based on the best user experience. This includes Js, CSS, and images.

In fact, search engines now use these elements to decipher whether your website is truly mobile-responsive.

So – don’t block them.

Disable Popups on Mobile

Website popups need to be carefully considered, as they can have a negative impact on user experience.

They break the expected flow of a user’s journey through a website and can often be spam-like and unwelcome.

Important

Popups can be beneficial on a desktop site (a subject for another time). But they are always a bad idea when it comes to mobile website sites.

With smaller screens, using pop-ups on mobile devices can be extremely intrusive.

They can be difficult and frustrating to try and close. In some cases, where mobile responsiveness has not been at all considered – pop-ups on mobile devices can actually be impossible to close.

Popups on mobile sites are likely to lead to high bounce rates. If you use them on the desktop version of your website, it is worthwhile blocking them on your mobile site.

Improve Your Mobile UX

 Definition

UX stands for User Experience. Adobe defines UX as:

“[…] how people interact with a product. For example, when we want to turn on a light in our room, we interact with a light switch. The design of the switch—including the color, material, and physical appearance—may impact how we feel about the interaction.”

Mobile UX is all about the experience that your website visitors have when they visit your mobile site.

Google makes it clear that they want to serve searchers with websites that offer the best experience. So, it is no surprise that mobile UX will impact your SERP rankings.

When someone visits your mobile site it should be easy for them to find what they are looking for. This means having a clean design and clear links to relevant content.

 Pro Tip

You can use Google’s free tool ‘Google Search Console’ to identify potential issues with your mobile site. Assuming you have already set up your website to sync with Google Search Console, you can follow these simple steps:

  1. Login to Google Search Console
  2. Navigate to the ‘Experience’ section
  3. Click the ‘Mobile Usability’ tab
  4. Review the data

The data you find here will tell you which of your pages are or aren’t optimized for use on mobile devices.

When issues occur, it will also indicate what may be causing them, making them easier to remedy.

 Pro Tip

Here are some tips to improve mobile website usability:

  • Use a clear menu and search bar
  • Only use short forms
  • Minimize content as much as possible
  • Don’t use pop-ups
  • Continually test your mobile site
  • Use big touch targets
  • Serve smaller images

Use HTML5

Do you remember this?

You conduct a search on Google. You select the site that appears to best match your search. The website loads and…BAM…you are told you have to download a piece of software (usually Adobe Flash) to view the content.

It didn’t make for the best user experience.

HTML is a markup language that is widely used for structuring and presenting content online.

Many websites online today use a version of this language called HTML4. This was an improvement on earlier versions of HTML. Yet it still required plug-ins like Adobe Flash to display some content such as animations and videos.

HTML5 is the latest version of HTML. It allows websites to use all types of content without the need to download software.

Websites that use HTML5 can create seamless visitor journeys. They do this by using a combination of content types to communicate information and compel action.

I know we risk sounding like a broken record here. But the point is important to make:

Creating a better user experience (using HTML5) = better rankings on SERPs

Google themselves stipulates, in their guidance surrounding the creation of mobile websites:

“Use HTML5 standards for animations to provide a good experience to all your users”.

Use Schema or Structured Data

Search engines typically use schema or structured data in order to gain a better understanding of what your webpage is all about.

By providing search engines with easy-to-read schema and structured data it makes it easier for them to know what to rank your mobile website for.

Website schemas can be described as words or tags that are used in the website code to indicate the content that is included on that page.

Schema is a “shared vocabulary” that was created in collaboration between all the major search engines (Google, Bing, Yandex, and Yahoo!). It makes it easy for websites to easily and clearly communicate with them.

For example, the schema for this guide could include key information such as the title of the guide and a description of what is included. It may look like this:


"@context": "https://schema.org/",
"@type": "HowTo",
"name": "Mobile SEO: A Beginners Guide",
"description": "How to optimize your website for mobile SEO"

When you use the correct schema you can become eligible for special search result features and enhancements. This includes Events, FAQs, How-Tos, Carousels, and Articles.

So, how do you create the schema for your website?

 Pro Tip

We walk you through the steps below:

  1. Visit Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper 
  2. Select the type of content you are creating from the list
  3. Input the URL you want to markup (or input the HTML)
  4. You will be directed to a page that displays your webpage and data items
  5. Select the elements you want to markup
  6. Hit ‘CREATE HTML’
  7. Add the markup to your website

Use Mobile-Friendly Toolkit (Mobile Design Best Practices)

Our final tip for ensuring that your website is mobile-friendly is to use a simple tool provided by Google. This tool will tell you if your site is usable on a mobile device.

The best thing about this tool is the fact that it tells you whether Google considers your site mobile-friendly.

In contrast to other approaches, this is a very powerful method to ensure you are well set up for mobile SEO.

 Pro Tip

To use the tool:

  1. Visit Google’s Mobile Friendly Test 
  2. Input the URL of the webpage you want to test
  3. Hit ‘TEST URL’
  4. Inspect your results

Mobile SEO: Summary

It is clear that taking a mobile-first approach is crucial to website success.

More than half of search engine traffic comes from mobile devices.

So, failing to optimize your site creates poor experiences and negatively impacts your SERP rankings.

Use the tips we have highlighted in this guide to help you drastically improve your mobile website SEO.

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