A Beginner’s Guide to Mobile SEO

It might sound like a cliché if I say that the world is shifting towards mobile. That would have been pretty correct three years ago. But today, it is evident that we have already shifted towards mobile.

One in every four searches happens on mobile, with 50 percent of mobile searchers using their device at the start of the search process and 88 percent using smartphones to conduct local searches.

As mobile is growing, marketers need be smart enough to optimize their mobile site by doing the right mobile SEO.

Yes, mobile SEO is slightly different from what is done for desktop, and it is important to understand that the way people search on mobile is different from how they search on desktop. In fact, Google recently announced separate changes for mobile and desktop in its search quality updates. Including:

More Localized Results: For mobile search results, Google places listings – now known as Google My Business – tend to appear more numerously than desktop search results. And it means results for mobile searches are more likely to be localized. Moreover, there is a greater chance of websites with local intent to have higher rankings than those with non-local intent.

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Different Levels of Engagement: Mobile users have different levels of engagement compared with desktop users. A drop from first to fourth position on a mobile phone can mean a CTR drop-off of up to 90 percent.

Ranking Algorithms Are Different: Mobile search uses different ranking algorithms from desktop searches. Location is one of the key factors that can change the mobile search results for different users.

Different Search Behavior: Mobile users have different search intent as compared to desktop users. There is more urgency of action.

Here is a list of some best practices in ensuring mobile SEO success for your site.

1. Redirects That Work on Mobiles:

Make sure you are redirecting your users to the correct URL when they are trying to access your site from a mobile. To serve users the correct version of your website, I advise redirects based on user agent. Use server-side redirects (301s or 302s) instead of JavaScript redirects. Google also recently updated its Site Move Help documentation, recommending the use of 301 for mobile redirects.

Use a crawler like Screaming Frog to check how Googlebot mobile crawls your site. It gives the Redirects Chains report showing the chains of redirects, the number of hops, as well as identifying the source and whether there is a loop.

2. Optimize Embedded Videos and Images

Make sure your visual content is optimized for mobile devices. Keep them responsive. Make sure that no elements on your site rely on Flash. While iPhones can’t render Flash at all, it is also very slow on Android devices. Instead of using Flash for videos, use HTML5. Test all video content after uploading to ensure the best user experience. Use a mobile emulator like the Opera Mobile Emulator to check how your web content is displayed and executed. You can check your text, menu, images and videos.

3. Test Page Load Speed

74 percent of users leave the site if it is taking more than five seconds for a page to load. Make sure your site loads quickly on mobile. Use Google’s PageSpeed Insight tools to check your page load time. The PageSpeed Insights mobile filter will not only verify your mobile site speed but also give you recommendations on how to improve it.

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If your page speed is slow, you can try compressing large images and check whether other on-page elements like JavaScript and videos are optimized for mobile or not.

4. Mobile Sitemaps

Create an XML sitemap for your mobile site, and submit it to Google and Bing. Keep mobile pages separate from desktop pages. By keeping the two separate, you can find out whether there is any indexation issue in mobile pages as compared to the desktop pages. You should also check if Googlebot is encountering any possible issues crawling your site by using Google Webmaster Tools.

Click on Crawl > Crawl Errors and choose the Smartphone tab. On the Webmaster Tools dashboard click on Fetch as Google, enter the URL and click on Fetch.

This will give you a report on how Googlebot fetched your page. Verify the HTTP status code and HTML you are providing to Googlebot.

5. Don’t Forget Local

According to Google, around 50 percent of mobile search happens with a local intent.
So don’t forget to optimize your mobile site for local search and use appropriate structured data markup wherever possible. Make sure your site is submitted on Google My Business if you are a local business and keep the following information clearly visible on your site: physical address, hours of operation and contact information.

6. Optimize Your Content

Optimize your web content with relevant keywords and strategically place them throughout your pages. Use the Google Keyword tool to verify the keywords mobile search volume.

You can also use other keyword tools like Ubbersuggest and Keywordtool.io and to identify relevant keywords to your website. Apart from this, try to avoid using ads and pop up windows and remove unnecessary images as they slow the page load time.

7. Conversational Tone and Voice Search

As more and more people are using voice search, an SEO strategy that promotes your specific location and uses conversational search terms in the content is becoming crucial.

8. Mobile Friendly Meta Tags

Make sure your meta tags are formatted in a mobile friendly style. I would recommend keeping your title tags within 40-60 characters and meta descriptions within 90 characters. Use User-Agent Switcher Add-On for Chrome to check your mobile search results. Compare the titles, descriptions, URLs, snippets from mobile and desktop search results.

9. Clear Design Focused on Usability

Keep your mobile site design intuitive and easy to navigate. Use clear call to actions to increase your site’s ability to engage and convert visitors into prospects. Avoid unnecessary design elements and make sure that all-important information is clearly visible and easy to find. Once you have optimized your pages, you can use Google Analytics to track your mobile traffic data.

Click on: Acquisition>All Traffic>Medium>Organic Search Traffic>Add a Segment>Mobile Traffic and Tablet Traffic, and click on apply.

This will give you a graph showing your mobile traffic. Via “Select Dimensions” you can choose different devices or models to compare traffic and find out your best landing pages.

This report will be helpful to understanding how your mobile site is performing and how much traffic it is driving.

With the growing use of smartphones, designing a website that is friendly to the smartphone users has become important. If your SEO strategy does not cover mobile search, you still have a lot to do. Once you have launched your mobile optimized website, make sure you have got all the above mentioned points ticked to ensure mobile SEO success for your website.

Do you have further tips for the list? Leave your comments below.

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