Search engine optimization (SEO) is an integral part of any brand’s digital marketing strategy. With the rise of search on smartphones, mobile SEO optimization is more crucial than ever, but often overlooked.
If you don’t have a dedicated mobile SEO strategy — or want to know more — we’ve put together some best practices and tips to make your site mobile-friendly and generate more traffic.
Mobile SEO consists of optimizing your site and its content to be mobile-friendly for smartphone users. Doing so satisfies the goals of search engine algorithms and increases important metrics that will help raise keyword rankings that lead to more traffic and conversions for your site.
Search engine optimization for mobile is important to satisfy both users and search engines as it will directly correlate to your traffic and conversions.
According to data aggregator Statista, 56% of all organic search engine queries came from a mobile device. The statistic was published in late April, in a time when most people were at home during a pandemic with access to laptops and personal computers.
Plus, Google has made it clear it’s committed to mobile-first indexing, meaning the search giant expects and rewards sites that are built for mobile search optimization with higher rankings on search engine result pages (SERPs).
When you think about how there are billions of searches made per year on Google alone, it’s fair to say mobile-friendly SEO is more important than simply optimizing for desktop devices.
Whether you’re just starting to focus on optimizing for mobile or want to double down on your efforts, following these 9 mobile SEO best practices will help you increase rankings, traffic and conversions for your website.
The first tip on our mobile SEO checklist involves configuring your site with mobile devices in mind. The way your site is configured determines what users see when they click through to your page, so it’s important to optimize it to keep click-through rate (CTR), dwell time and rankings high.
There are a few things to consider when designing a site for mobile use. If you’re setting up a new site, you have the option to make it a responsive or device-specific design.
Responsive sites will change according to the device and screen size of the user. This means design elements will render differently from a desktop monitor to a large or small phone screen.
Setting up a site with a responsive configuration has become highly recommended because it ensures users a uniform experience across all devices.
A dynamic serving setup will give users different hypertext markup language (HTML) and Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) based on which device they’re accessing a uniform resource locator (URL) from.
This site configuration is good for sites that have a reason to limit what mobile users see, but other than that, it’s recommended to use a responsive configuration if possible.
Using “parallel” URLs allows you to create a separate site for mobile users. This can be an effective mobile SEO strategy for sites that want to tailor their content to different mobile and desktop demographics.
This site configuration commonly uses an “m.example.com” subdomain to avoid confusion.
Tip: If using a parallel URL site configuration, make sure that all redirects are properly implemented and canonical tags are present to avoid duplicate content.
Making the overall design of your site mobile-friendly allows SEO strategies to work across all devices. Thinking about what users will see and how they interact with a page before making content ensures your mobile SEO marketing efforts don’t go to waste.
This includes removing Adobe Flash, which may still be on older sites but isn’t supported by many devices.
Another common issue on mobile is the use of large interstitials and pop-ups. These can cause users to get frustrated trying to click off of them to get back to the content they came to your site for. Also, Google has made it clear it will be devaluing sites that offer these clunky, aggravating design features in their “Core Web Vitals,” which we’ll talk about later.
Speaking of clunky and aggravating, don’t you hate when you’re on your phone and a site has either size 4 font or CTA buttons that take up half of the screen? It annoys me, it annoys you and it annoys your users. Don’t do it.
Once your site is set up, page speed has to be a priority. Faster load times reduce bounce rates and increase dwell time, keeping users on your site and happy.
With Google’s focus on user experience and the upcoming rollout of their Core Web Vitals as a ranking factor, loading speed and overall site performance is more important to your mobile SEO strategy than ever.
The issue with loading speed is that it’s almost always slower on mobile devices because of the hardware and connectivity gap between a phone and, say, a laptop.
Some of the most common ways to improve your performance include:
Implementing Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) into your website allows you to give users faster, stripped-down versions of your pages. Although it’s a bit murky, some believe that AMP gives sites a boost with Google’s mobile-first indexing. However, one drawback is that it gives your team more to optimize and care for, taking up time and resources your team may not have.
Google’s mobile SEO best practices are all about transparency. Allowing smartphone crawlers to index every part of your site enables them to categorize your page and rank it accordingly, and can tell Google if you have a responsive site design.
OK, this one isn’t specifically a mobile SEO strategy. But it’s the most important one. Make sense? It doesn’t have to.
The No. 1 thing any SEO team can do is ensure their site provides engaging, high-quality content. You can perfectly optimize a mobile site, but search engines won’t rank you unless you have the content users want.
Outside of matching search intent and the actual words on the page, you can optimize blogs and landing pages for mobile-friendly SEO in a few ways:
Keeping mobile users in mind will ensure your page ranks well because of its great content and stays on top of SERPs because users are engaged by the look and feel of your site.
A big thing to consider when performing mobile search engine optimization is the difference between desktop and mobile SERP results.
Let’s take an example for the query “black leather jacket.”
The desktop SERP result includes shopping results, an ad and images before showing two organic results “above the fold.”
Every pixel that a user has to look through to get to your result makes a difference, but it can be even more difficult to get clicks on mobile.
On mobile, users have to scroll through each individual section until they reach the organic results. That means scrolling through engaging images that limit what organic links can expect in CTR.
To combat this, you have to make the most out of your SERPs results. Introduce schema markup that can add related links, product details and more to takes up more real estate on SERPs. The more of the page that you cover, the longer users are able to see and click through to your site.
Titles, meta descriptions and (to a smaller extent) URLs can make a big difference in mobile CTR. Make sure your titles and meta descriptions let users know what to expect from your page and give them a reason to click.
Make sure not to make them too long, as mobile titles and descriptions are often cut off.
Most mobile SEO best practices are universal, but localized businesses have some extra things to think about.
Mobile users are often on the go, leading them to search local— think “near me” and “best coffee shop in town” — type searches.
Mobile SEO strategy on the local level starts with creating a solid Google My Business listing complete with matching name, address and phone information from your site’s metadata. This allows Google to understand where your site is and if it’s relevant to a specific user by geolocation.
On the content side, use your favorite tool to perform keyword research that gives you attainable long-tail keywords to optimize for that are specific to locations your business serves.
According to a 2019 survey from Perficient Digital, voice search was the No. 2 choice for mobile searches, with nearly 25% of respondents saying it’s their preferred option. But it can be often overlooked in favor of focusing strictly on SERP results and grabbing one of the top 10 links.
The truth is, voice searches lend themselves very well to mobile SEO strategies that focus on long-tail keywords. “How to”, “what is” and similar questions are the most common types of queries asked to mobile assistants, which can generate a lot of top-funnel users to your site.
Here are a few ways to optimize for voice search:
Taking these steps to optimize for voice search is similar to how sites get the coveted Featured Snippet on Google SERPs, which many voice search results take their answers from. It’s a win-win, no-brainer move that you should implement immediately into your mobile SEO marketing strategy.
As with most SEO practices, being mobile-friendly isn’t a one-time project. You have to continue to look at data to see what is and isn’t working, finding opportunities to reach the results you want.
Set up mobile views on Google Analytics, Google Search Console and any other tools you use so the results don’t get lost in your desktop data. Take a close look at whether keywords, CTR, bounce rates, dwell time and other metrics are higher or lower than on desktop.
Keep an eye on search trends and determine whether to put more resources into mobile search optimization as more and more ditch their laptops in favor of their smartphones.
The process of implementing mobile SEO best practices isn’t a quick or easy one. But the importance of creating a responsive, mobile-friendly website with high-quality content in 2020 and beyond can’t be understated.
If you’re starting from scratch, make sure to follow every step from site configuration to small details like meta descriptions. You won’t regret it.
If you’re tweaking an older site or just need to improve your mobile SEO optimization, look for some quick wins. Is there a simple change you can make to improve your site speed? Can a refresh of page titles improve your mobile CTR? Will a focus on long-tail, bottom-funnel keywords get you more traffic from voice search? Sometimes a small change can make a huge difference.
Whatever your situation, follow what search engines tell us and focus on the user. The goal is to get users to the best info and create a conversion. Start with the user, tailor your site and content accordingly and reap the rewards of a successful mobile seo strategy.