Here’s the thing: your site should be mobile-friendly. In fact, this might just be your number one priority. If you want to improve your mobile SEO, you have to improve the performance of your site, plus you have to make sure that it offers users an excellent mobile experience. In this SEO basics article, you’ll find an overview of what you should do to improve your mobile site.
When is a site mobile-friendly?
A site is mobile-friendly when it:
- loads properly on a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet,
- loads lightning fast,
- presents content in a readable fashion, without users having to pinch and zoom,
- offers ample room to navigate by touch,
- offers added value for mobile users,
- is instantly understandable for search engines.
Why is mobile SEO important?
Mobile SEO makes sure your mobile site offers the best possible presentation of your content to a mobile device user. Since our world is increasingly mobile-oriented, it has become imperative that your site is mobile-friendly. If your site is not, or not properly, available for mobile users, you are going to miss out on a decent ranking in the search engines and thus miss income. Therefore, you should do everything in your power to make the mobile version of your site as good as possible. In fact, it should be excellent!
Since the beginning of this year, Google uses the mobile version of the site to determine its rankings. If your site is not up to scratch, or if you present less content on your mobile site, you will have a difficult time getting a good ranking. If you don’t have an adequate mobile version of your site yet, you best make a fully functioning one, preferably as a responsive design. Google has a great getting started guide to get you going.
How to improve your mobile website
To improve your mobile SEO, you need to focus on a couple of things:
- Make sure your site is responsive
- Improve your site speed
- Don’t use interstitials or pop-ups
- Don’t use too many redirects
- Choose the correct viewport
- Verify mobile-friendliness
- Tell Google about your site
There are multiple ways to make your site available for mobile users. The most important one is responsive design, and this is the technology Google advocates. With a responsive design, your site lives on one URL, making it easier for Google to understand and index it.
If you use WordPress, chances are your theme is already responsive and can adapt to all screens. Be sure to check how your site scales in Google Chrome’s Developer Tools. If it doesn’t scale correctly, you should talk to your web developer about fixing it – or choose a different theme.
Improve your site speed
One of the most important things you can do to improve the mobile SEO of your site is to improve the loading speed of the site. Time and time again, studies show that people leave sites that load slowly, often never to return again. Speed has been a ranking factor for years, and Google is increasingly focusing on fixing this common issue.
If there is one quick win to improve your site speed, it is this: optimize your images. Don’t load those 3000 x 2000 pixel HD images on your site. Scale them to the correct size and make them smaller with a tool like ImageOptim or WordPress plugins like WP Smush.
By using browser caching, you’re telling the browser that page elements that don’t change often can be saved inside its cache. This way, the browser only has to download new and dynamic content whenever it visits again. Again, this is something a plugin like WP Rocket can help you with. Or you can also do it yourself if you like.
A redirect leads a visitor from one requested page to another, because the requested page was moved or deleted. While this leads to a good user experience if done well, the more redirects you use, the slower your site will be. Don’t make endless redirects. Also, try not to keep links around that point to deleted posts that are redirected to new ones. Always make direct links.
Make sure that your mobile site is perfectly readable on mobile devices. Use different devices to check if your typography is in order and, when necessary, make changes. Typography can make or break the user experience of your site.
Improve tap target sizes
People hate it when their finger can’t hit a button, link or menu item without fault. Sometimes designers haven’t given enough thought about the size of the buttons. Mobile users get frustrated when navigation is hard or unnatural. Fix it.
Choose the correct viewport
The viewport determines the width of the page for the device used to view it. By specifying a correct viewport, you make sure that visitors with specific devices get the right version of your site. Fail to do this, and you might just show your desktop site to a small-screen smartphone user – a big no-no.
Don’t use interstitials or pop-ups
Starting this year, Google will penalize sites that use large pop-ups or interstitials to promote newsletters, sign-up forms or ads. These often get in the way of the user quickly accessing the content they requested. Don’t use these, but if you must, make sure you abide by Google’s rules.
Test your site and tell Google about it
Before you start working on your mobile SEO, you should run a mobile usability test on Google to see where you should start. During your work, you should keep testing to see if you make progress. If your site is optimized, you need to tell Google about it so that it can be checked and indexed. Use Search Console to stay on top of the performance of your site.
Investigate Google AMP
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is a new initiative by Google and others to get web pages to load super fast on mobile devices. By wrapping your content in special HTML code, you can optimize the pages in a way that Google can use to give them special treatment. Pages are cached by Google and presented with a stripped down presentation to make sure it gets delivered at light speed.
AMP is still relatively new, but growing rapidly. Nearly every site can benefit from incorporating this technique. If you have a WordPress site, it’s not hard to get started; just install the official plugin. This takes care of most of the setup. You can find more information on Google’s guidelines.
Mobile is the future, but that future is now. Do everything you can to fix your mobile site and make it perfect, not just in Google’s eyes, but, more importantly, your visitor’s. Mobile SEO is not just about great content and a flawless technical presentation, but more about creating a user experience to die for. Once you’ve achieved that, you’re on your way to the top!
Read more: Mobile SEO: the ultimate guide »