Last Updated on January 14, 2021 by David Bryan
What is mobile SEO?
Table of Contents
In this post we will explore the following topics:
- 1 What is mobile SEO?
- 2 Does mobile usage impact SEO?
- 3 Building a mobile SEO strategy
- 4 Mobile SEO best practices
- 5 Tools to help you along the way
- 6 Conclusion: Don’t overlook the importance of mobile SEO
- 7 References and further reading
Mobile SEO, as the name suggests, involves tailoring your search engine optimisation (SEO) practices for modern users who browse on mobile devices, such as smartphone and tablets.
But does this really matter if your website has great content? Superior content is one of the best things you can do to improve you SEO but this means little if your website is not mobile-friendly. A dissatisfactory user-experience for mobile users will lead to high bounce rates and this is likely to impact your page ranking.
Follow our mobile SEO tips and best practices to ensure your site meets the needs of smartphone users.
Does mobile usage impact SEO?
Google has long been concerned with creating the best mobile-friendly experiences for search engine users. As far back as 2013, Google began penalising websites for mobile-centric configuration errors2. This proved to be well-timed, as smartphone traffic outranked that of desktop browsing for the first time in 20143.
In the intervening years, smartphone technology has continued to go from strength to strength and it’s more important in 2020 than ever. This makes following mobile SEO best practice essential for any website owner, with 52% of users claiming they will cease engagement with a company that provides a substandard mobile experience4.
Any website with ambitions to rank highly on Google simply must have an appropriate mobile SEO strategy.
We first blogged about Google’s mobile-friendly ranking algorithm in 2015. This update had such a seismic impact on the industry that the algorithm was quickly nicknamed, “Mobilegeddon”5. As a result, many businesses now embrace a mobile-first SEO strategy. For more information on algorithm updates, please see here.
If your website is not optimised for mobile use, your SEO – and, by extension, page ranking – will suffer. Users will not tolerate a substandard user-experience when competing sites offer a superior alternative. Low traffic and high bounce rates will combine to banish your site from the first page of Google.
Building a mobile SEO strategy
To build an effective SEO strategy you must create a positive user-experience. Factors to contemplate for mobile include:
- Clarity of content. Is to the text too small, or covered by images?
- Length of content. Large swathes of block text can look intimidating on a small screen
- Speed. Is the page load time of your website adequate on mobile devices which may have slow internet connections? Users will not be happy to wait long for content to appear in instalments
- Frustrating UX. Pop-up adverts and redirects to irrelevant external sites can be exasperating for a mobile user
- Backlinks. It’s great that your site is optimised for mobile SEO, but can you say the same of any backlinks? To build a strong reputation, you need backlinks
- Browser compatibility. iOS users will likely use Safari to browse the internet. Android users will use Chrome or Opera. Microsoft devices will use Edge. These operating systems are at a stalemate in their battle for marketplace dominance. Ensure your website caters to all users
Mobile SEO best practices
With all of this in mind, Opace recommend the following mobile SEO best practices to ensure the best possible results:
- Stay up-to-date – Keep on top of Google’s latest metrics and expectations regarding mobile. This is Google’s world and we’re just living in it. Check in regularly on Google Search Central for new videos
- Compress your images – Keep your images small without compromising on quality and clarity. This will ensure that your content loads quickly while remaining aesthetically pleasing
- Master your meta tags – ensure that content is designed to fit within the confines of a smaller screen. A quick tip for this is to use the following code
- <meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1″>
- Cut out the fluff – Anything unnecessary on your site slows down the mobile browsing experience for a user. Images are just one piece of the puzzle
- Keep your text clear – Avoid a font any smaller than 14 pt, as this can be tough to read on a cellular screen.
- Stick to basic, popular fonts – A specialist font may look great on paper, but if it is not supported by the portable device’s operating system it will be illegible
- Keep paragraphs short – Break up your text with bullets, images and sub-headings. Mobile users will quickly bounce if faced with a sizable block of prose they need to squint to read. Bite-sized is best
- Code your content with mobile devices in mind – Menus, for example, could be accessed by swiping to the left or right when needed. This avoids unnecessary clutter on the screen
- Test, test and test again – Trial your website on a range of mobile devices, using an array of different browsers. Ensure you’re confident that all users can enjoy your website
By following our mobile SEO tips and best practices, you’ll start to see tangible results in your page ranking. However, you do not need to work all of this out for yourself, you can use tools to help you along the way.
Tools to help you along the way
Persuasive Web Design (PWD)
As discussed, there are tools a website can utilise to improve the mobile optimisation of your website. Persuasive Web Design, or PWD, is key. A good example of PWD is the government website. This site will not win any awards for aesthetic splendour. It achieves what it sets out to do, though.
The layout enables users to quickly and efficiently find what they need, whether on mobile or desktop, and does not spring any surprises.
When it comes to mobile SEO, simplicity is not a dirty word.
Active Server Pages (AMP)
Another potential tool in your arsenal is accelerated web pages, or AMP6. This is a controversial practice though, and unpopular with many webmasters7. In essence, utilising AMP involves handing Google control of your content. We have put together a handy guide on AMP here.
Users will visit an AMP-optimised site through Google’s server, not your own. You’ll also need to code a separate AMP design manually, which can be laborious. Perhaps most importantly, AMP allows Google to decide how (or if!) your content appears on the screen. Speed is important but it can be heartbreaking to see a meticulously designed website stripped down to the bare bones. Sites that utilise AMP look very similar and lack functionality. If you wish to use your website to stand apart from your competitors, this can be a fatal move.
An alternative to AMP is creating a mobile-specific website. This allows you to provide a tailored experience to the end user. This technique is still used but quite dated now as it means you need to maintain two separate websites, and two lots of SEO, one for mobile and another for desktop.
Responsive Web Design (RWD)
Responsive Web Design is generally considered to be the preferred approach when creating mobile-friendly websites. In this scenario, there is only one website which uses CSS style sheets to adapt the design based on the screen resolution or device. This means there is only a single website to manage, maintain and optimise, but it also means you’re not restricted to two options – Desktop or Mobile. Following a responsive approach means you will be future-proofing your website by ensuring it can work correctly on new devices. For more information, you can visit our RWD infographic here.
Conclusion: Don’t overlook the importance of mobile SEO
Regardless of which approach and tools you use, your biggest challenge when creating a mobile-first SEO strategy is getting the user-experience right. This is the key to attracting and maintaining good quality organic traffic. Once you have this in place, you can focus on populating a site with compelling and relevant content. Get this right and business will flourish.
References and further reading