Everything You Need To Know About Mobile SEO

  • December 17, 2018
  • SEO
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Today, if your website isn’t correctly optimised for mobile users, you’re going to be losing out on a lot of traffic. Mobile SEO hit the big time in 2018 and it’s here to stay for good. It’s no exaggeration to say a website not optimised for mobile SEO might as well not exist.

Google has worked hard to understand what works on mobile and given how popular their Android operating system is, they have all the data they need to make intelligent decisions about what is and isn’t a positive mobile experience.

You may or may not agree with Google’s stance, you may think it’s too early or are concerned about the impact on your business, but at the end of the day, Google’s primary concern is selling Ads not providing you with organic traffic, so the best organic experience keeps Google the number one search engine and keeps those advertising dollars rolling in, as people return time and time again to keep ‘Googling’ stuff.

Considering that more than half of all Google searches are now carried out from a device rather than desktop, it should be top of your SEO agenda if it isn’t already. Put it this way: How many times have you turned to your mobile device to help you to answer a question? It’s a rapidly growing trend that, if anything, is only going to continue to increase.

Why is Mobile SEO Important?

It may seem the obvious question but not everyone gets why this is such a big issue.

Accessing a website from a mobile device used to be exhausting. Even now, if a site isn’t built to either be adaptable or doesn’t have a mobile-specific version, there are a lot of functional issues that come along with it.

The internet has come a long way since the days of slow loading times, flash ads, and slow loading web pages. Furthermore, it’s almost as if the faster technology moves, all anyone thinks about is how to make it even faster.

In 2015, Google rolled out its “mobile-friendly” update. This update was responsible for penalising websites that didn’t necessarily cater to smartphones. In 2018 Google has taken it a step further.

In addition to the test lab, I have seen in the wild first-hand the impact of mobile first and have had to recover many a websites traffic on the back of the rollout.

So here are some quick pointers if you are seeing a decrease in organic traffic since July 2018.

Google considers how mobile versions of pages look rather than desktop. (Even if you’re searching from a desktop). Most developers and business owners spend all day looking at their site from the comfort of their office, whereas their potential customers are looking at their site from the comfort of their sofa on a mobile.

Before the mobile-first update, if you were to search for something on your smartphone, you’d be given mobile results, and vice versa for desktop.

After the update, as we mentioned before, Google now shows you results from their mobile index by default.  If your website is already responsive and optimised for mobile users, this shouldn’t be a big deal. However, if your site doesn’t load on all devices and quickly, your rankings may be dropping without you even realising it.

Get into the habit of looking at your website on a mobile device, as this is how Google now views your site.

What’s The Best Way To Perform Mobile SEO?

Long gone are the days when Google will give you a steer on what their guidelines mean in the real world, leaving most SEO’s to figure it out for themselves.

So when Google announced in July 2018 that their index would be ‘mobile first’ it left the typical response from the SEO community as to what this meant. Mostly Twitter and Facebook speculation as no one really knew how Google would implement this latest round of updates.

One thing is sure, with any Google announcement there is always an element of fear and trepidation.

For myself, the last 12 months of my five year SEO career have been the most productive due to being involved in an SEO group that tests rather than reads what is currently working and not working in the world of SEO.

To date over 250 tests have been conducted and the insights gained from these tests has been a genuinely game-changing. I have been able to deliver unprecedented result in the SERPS (Search Engine Results Page) in 2018, more than any other year previously.

Obviously given this announcement from Google, mobile SEO has been tested to death by the group, and you may be slightly disappointed to hear that if truth be told performing mobile SEO and SEO are pretty much the same.

That said there are two significant things to consider on mobile, usability and speed!!

Given the link between user experience and rankings, your website may be suffering as you aren’t paying too much attention as to how people are interacting with your site on mobile.

You are more than likely accessing your website on a high-speed fibre connection in office hours, and therefore you may have ignored the speed of your site on a mobile data connection.

Both of these are mistakes I see time and time again.

Learn To Love Google Search Console

To date, not everyone has been switched to mobile first, if you want to know if you have the easiest way to find out is to check your Google Search Console, as Google will have notified you that you are now part of the mobile-first index.

If you haven’t installed GSC then now is as good a time as any, if you have someone else that looks after your SEO, either an agency or internal SEO, then ask them if GSC is installed on the site and if your site has been switched over to mobile first.

Just because you haven’t been switched over yet doesn’t mean you won’t be, you don’t get a say in this, you can’t complain to Google if you have been, you can’t decline the switchover, so now is a good a time as any to test your site on mobile and bring yourself up to speed.

If there is critical content missing from the mobile version of your website that exists on the desktop version, then when the switchover takes place Google no longer ‘sees’ the desktop content.

There has been a trend to offer cut down versions of a site for mobile users, from July 2018 this will almost certainly result in a decrease in rankings. Rather than have a mobile version of your site, you should strive for a responsive design where the layout changes based on the device, but the content stays the same.

What Is Responsive Website Design?

Responsive design is something that almost every decent website uses. It’s also the default if you are using something like WordPress, thankfully pushing mobile-specific versions out of the window. Ditching mobile versions of sites will free up time as there is no longer a requirement to maintain two versions of the same website.

If your website is responsive, it reacts to whichever device the user is accessing it from, without cutting out key elements of the site.

There’s no need for extra URLs (again, lessening any chance of duplicate content) and it further reduces other technical complexities.

Other plus points to a responsive website:

  • Minimalistic, user-friendly interfaces
  • No redirects which can slow down your site
  • Every bit of your content on one page is on the same URL.

How to Improve SEO on a Mobile Website

As I said before Google Search Console is your friend and if there are any issues with your site on mobile, it will display as an error message in here.

Another great tool inside of it is Mobile Usability where you can check to see whether or not any mobile or smartphone users have had any problems accessing your site.

To check your site’s mobile usability:

  1. Open Google Search Console
  2. Click “Search Traffic”
  3. Then, click “Mobile Usability”

Or just hit up their mobile-friendly test site and punch in your URL. A word of warning, this will give you back a lot of technical data, so you are more than likely going to need a lot of help in fixing this. You will be scored out of 100 and given a colour of green, orange or red. If your page isn’t scored green, then you need to look at what is holding you back and put a plan in place to fix it.

How To Move Forward With Mobile SEO

We all know about keywords, links for some reason seem to cause a lot of division in the world of SEO but they are still a major ranking factor, but mobile SEO revolves around a different, more technical school of thought. Because Google judges how well a page performs on mobile by monitoring how users interact, you need to think more about your users, not just target keywords and acquire links.

Some of the ways you can improve your rankings (notice I said rankings and not mobile rankings as they now mean the same thing) include:

  • Make it speedy! Google likes pages to load fast because its users like them to load fast. If you’re not sure how fast your website loads, run it through Google’s page speed tool. The tool will tell you how quickly your page loads and what you can do to speed it up.
  • Keep it easy to read. Screens are tiny, even if you make your text size bigger. Ensure that even at the default rate, people can read your default font. Keep it at 14px, minimum.
  • Use video wisely and sparingly as it slows down a page. Embed any videos in HTML, and you’re golden.
  • Cut down on the size of your images, if your images are too big in terms of file size, then this will slow down your page and impact your rankings. Remember people are downloading your webpage on mobile data connections and not everyone lives in a superfast 4G connected area.

Mobile SEO isn’t just the future; it’s the present. It’s important to get on board if you stand any chance of improving your website traffic but at the same time understanding that Google has more than ever aligned what a user wants with where a website ranks. Therefore, your goal and Google’s goals are one and the same.

Outline Creative are an SEO and Design Agency. Our main focus is on Search Engine Optimisation or SEO for short. Simply put, SEO is where we use our expert knowledge to get your website to the top of Google, and other major search engines.

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