15 Best Tips to Mobile Search Engine Optimization

It’s no secret that the use of mobile devices is growing at a staggering rate. Mobile SEO is on the ...

It’s no secret that the use of mobile devices is growing at a staggering rate. Mobile SEO is on the mind of many businesses and website owners. Search Engine Mobile optimization is the process of ensuring that visitors who access your site from mobile devices have an experience optimized for the device. Google’s latest focus on mobile-friendly search should really come as no surprise, as every year people spend more and more time glued to their smartphones, tablets, and now their wearable devices. What’s more of a surprise, is that many businesses waited until now to begin optimizing their online practices, content, and websites for the mobile explosion.

What is Mobile Optimization?

Every year people spend more and more time on their mobile devices and tablets, but many websites still aren't designed to account for different screen sizes and load times. Mobile optimization takes a look at site design, site structure, page speed, and more to make sure you're not inadvertently turning mobile visitors away. (source: Moz.com)

Why Is Mobile SEO Important for my Business?

Before you decide how important mobile is to your business you’ll want to take a step back and do a little research using Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools to answer the following questions: (read google mobile seo ranking factors)
  • What % of traffic to the website on a mobile device, and how much of that is from organic search?
  • What pages are being served for mobile searches?
  • What are the engagement statistics for mobile visitors?
  • How do the engagement metrics for mobile compare to the desktop visits?
You may have a low volume of mobile traffic because your demographic doesn’t use mobile devices to search or it could be that your products and services aren’t something people conduct mobile searches for.

Don’t jump to conclusions about the traffic and write off the need to optimize your mobile web presence, take a look at the mobile experience. If it’s bad, you may have simply trained your customers not to visit you on a smart phone or tablet. If your download speeds are slow or Google sees a lot of pogo sticking (clicking on a search result and coming right back to the search page) your site may be downgraded and not showing up in mobile search results.

Mobile-Friendly Website SEO Best Practices

The following are mobile-friendly SEO best practices and considerations to keep in mind while optimizing your website and content for mobile. Take note that not all of these elements are correct for every business; you should focus on the tactics that best align with the current state of your mobile efforts.

Page Speed matters 

Download speed is a ranking factor. More importantly, if your pages don’t download quickly (especially on mobile) no one is going sit around and wait for them. They will quickly move on to the next link in the search results.

Go Responsive and Don’t Look Back

I have been a major proponent of building all websites as mobile responsive for several years now. What does this mean? A mobile responsive website senses the screen dimensions of the device fetching the content and adjusts how the website is displayed based on those dimensions. Check out the Return On Now website on a standard browser and see how it morphs when you change the view within the browser window. This is how responsive websites typically operate.

There are really only two other viable options for mobile sites – dynamic websites that serve up different content on different platforms, or separate mobile websites that require you to manage multiple web properties. Both of these are problematic for various reasons.

Dynamic websites, while good for user experience, can become a problem if they serve up different content to search engine spiders than they do for other users. Any good SEO will tell you that this is a ticket to being labeled a spammer. No one wants that label placed on their website.

As for separate mobile websites, those come with a great deal of overhead. Basically, it is the equivalent of signing up for twice the work in areas such as design, UX, SEO, and copy-writing. 

It’s hard enough building and ranking a single website, so why in the world would you voluntarily opt to double that work? The easy, and smart answer, is to simply go to responsive and move on.

Don't block CSS, JavaScript, or images

In the old days, some mobile devices couldn't support all of these elements, so webmasters of mobile sites blocked one or all three. But for the most part that's no longer true, and the Smartphone GoogleBot wants to be able to see and categorize the same content that users do. So don't hide it. These elements are also critical to helping Google understand if you have a responsive site or a different mobile solution.

Limit choices 

When it comes to mobile, less is more. Show people only what they need to know and give them the ability to look at the main website if needed.

Don't use Flash

The plugin may not be available on your user's phone, which means they'll miss out on all the fun. If you want to create special effects, use HTML5 instead. Flash is becoming more and more outdated as we speak and still cannot be rendered on many mobile devices. Any elements that disregard the needs of your visitors or alienate a particular mobile device should be removed.

Don't use pop-ups either

It can be difficult and frustrating to try and close these on a mobile device. This might lead to a high bounce rate. These can be a nightmare for a mobile user. Some pop-ups can be very difficult to close on a small screen which can cause frustration for the visitor, not to mention, slow them down when they are trying to find their answers. Proceed with caution when using these elements on mobile.

Track Mobile Keywords

Track your mobile SEO keywords by adjusting the search query settings in Google Webmaster Tools and documenting the keywords that are trending for your site. If it’s your first time using Webmaster Tools, note that it can take a few days to incorporate your website’s data and begin tracking your keywords.

Focus on User Experience across Platforms

User Experience (UX) has become an accepted piece of website design and development in recent years. But the UX is completely different on different platforms.
When building your responsive website, always keep in mind that mobile users are on smaller phones and must interact with it via a touchscreen. This is completely different than using a mouse on a desktop or laptop computer.
Spacing matters, as does layout, flow and several other factors. If you aren’t familiar with best of breed cross-platform UX, bring in someone who is. You’ll be glad you did in the end.

Optimize for local search

If your business has a local element, remember to optimize your mobile content for local search. When optimizing for mobile, local should factor in heavily on your approach. Local Mobile SEO impacts the seven pack and other off-site listings, but those listings are in turn impacted by how you represent your location both on the website and on the search engine local directories (e.g. Google MyBusiness).
Mobile users are shown results that are geographically close to the location where they search. Be sure your mobile site is indexed at the proper location. You can influence this heavily in several ways, including semantic markup for location.

Ultimate Tools Checklist for Mobile SEO

When determining which mobile SEO strategies will work best for your business, it is important to research a variety of sources and gather as much information as possible prior to creating any new initiatives. The following is a checklist of some top-notch resources to help you further dive into the mobile SEO strategies presented in this article.

Mobile Testing Tools

Read This Guide: 10 Best Free Mobile SEO Tools For Small Business
  • Google Mobile-Friendly Checker — This quick test allows you to gain insight into how Google views your mobile content and offers suggestions on how to improve any errors.
  • FeedTheBot SEO Test — This comprehensive guide offers an in-depth tool to diagnosis any mobile-friendly issues that you may have and includes actionable how-to articles on correcting your mobile SEO issues. In addition, the site includes detailed analysis on a variety of mobile SEO functions.
  • Google SEO Test — Google has compiled this guide to help you understand how to configure your site for multiple devices, inform the search engines of your mobile presence, and help you avoid some common mistakes while implementing.

Tips for Successful Mobile SEO Strategy in Brief:

  • Successful mobile SEO strategy involves re-purposing your site, not simply making it smaller. Allow your user to find their desired information as quick as possible (and think about what that information is!), without having to sift through unnecessary information.
  • It is generally accepted that mobile users type shorter key phrases into Google. Keep your meta-tags short and relevant to match the request. (Read this Simple guide to use perfect Meta Tags for mobile SEO)
  • Understand the intent of your users – mobiles are ideal for information searches, though apps may be more beneficial for repeat-use products.
  • Most mobile users are directed to, or on their way to, social sites. Keep your social links prominent on your mobile front page for potential engagement with new users.
  • Avoid a reliance on outdated content modes like Adobe Flash and pop-up ads - the data reliance and sheer frustration these can bring will drive away customers quickly.
  • Keep in mind the average fingerprint is 11mm wide, so design your buttons accordingly
There’s a lot to mobile SEO, but hopefully this list of tips has given you some good ideas about how to get started and how to apply it to your website even if you’re not trying to drive International and local traffic. If you follow these simple five strategies, you will be on top of your mobile traffic in short order.
Good luck to mobile-optimization!

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