How to Rank Higher on Mobile
Businesses at the top of mobile search make more money. Right now Americans are using their cell phones to Google your products and services. Implementing mobile SEO best practices must be a priority if you want them to find you.
During the first quarter of 2019, Google accounted for 96 percent of all U.S. organic mobile searches. When people Google on mobile, their intent is often to buy. Plus, mobile first indexing means the mobile version of your website is the
By the end of 2018, more than half of all organic search visits originated from a mobile phone. By 2020, Statista predicts there will be 211 million smartphone searchers in the U.S. alone. In 2016, mobile influence on retail store sales in the U.S. was over 1.4 trillion dollars.
What is Mobile SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization. Mobile SEO, as you probably guessed applies strategies to the mobile version of your website so you appear higher on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Google wants to match user intent with their query. Mobile SEO best practices aim to show up at the top when people search on their smartphone or tablet. Users are the main focus, but mobile SEO also works toward making websites more accessible to search engine spiders or bots.
Mobile SEO vs. Regular SEO – What’s the Difference?
Don’t panic, we’re not about to say you have to keep up with separate strategies for the mobile and desktop versions of your business website. There’s just one index for mobile and desktop versions, but your mobile version is the primary one for ranking.
In the beginning, people could only access the Internet on a regular computer. When search engine optimization became a thing, there was only one version of everyone’s website to optimize.
Then it was as simple as stuffing pages with keywords and arranging for backlinks from outside sources. Any outside source would do, and search engines weren’t evaluating content for meaning. As Google became more sophisticated and users abandoned crappy content, the process got more complex.
Technology Changed Because We Did
SEO has evolved with technology. Now, people search from everywhere. They’re busy, they’re stressed and they don’t have time to waste. Users want instant info, and they don’t have the patience to dig for it. If they can’t use your website easily on their cell phone, they’ll just go to the next result.
There are differences in online behavior depending on what type of device people use to search. On mobile, they don’t want to have to type in a lot of information. Often, they just search using voice. Small text and small buttons cause frustration. All that adds up to different browsing behavior.
Tiny screens only display a small amount of information at a time. When people search on mobile, they don’t see as many choices. Look at this comparison between a mobile and a desktop search. See how much info there is on desktop?
In contrast, there’s only one visible choice when you search on mobile. Think of the implications when users search for your products and services. If you’re not at the top, they may never see you.
For a time, Google provided different results depending on what type of device you used to search. However, Google announced mobile-first indexing in late 2016, and gradually began to transition to evaluating mobile site versions as the primary version of websites. In late May of this year, Google announced starting July 1, mobile-first indexing will be the default for new domains.
Website owners don’t need to focus on one set of standards for desktop and another for mobile. Instead, think of optimizing your site for any device.
Why is Mobile SEO Important?
This is the world we live in. Forrester says 55 percent of the planet currently uses smartphones, and by 2023 that number is forecasted to be 66 percent. People think differently than they did 20 years ago because now they always have information at their fingertips.
They shop differently too. Take a second to think about these statistics:
- Mobile searches for “best” have gone up 80 percent just in the past two years. People turn to their cell phone to find the best vehicle price, best lawyer, best dog toy etc.
- Product reviews searches on mobile have increased by 35 percent.
- During the same time frame, videos with the word “review” in the title had 50,000 more years of watch time on mobile than ones that didn’t.
Picture yourself at the grocery store or the hardware store just ten years ago. If you had a purchasing decision to make and a range of choices, you only had limited information available. You went by information on the packaging, price comparison and the other similar items you could see. You might have asked a store associate for a recommendation. That was all you had.
Now you can reach for your cell phone and get input from literally the entire world. It’s a completely different landscape, and that landscape is viewed through a smartphone screen.
What Google Recommends
It makes sense to get information on mobile search right from the source. First off, Google’s Mobile SEO overview says the goal is to configure sites for multiple devices and help search engines understand it.
Don’t miss that part. Search engines don’t have feelings, likes or dislikes. Bots or spiders don’t set out to pick a winner. They don’t like one website or business better than another. Their job is to understand what your site is about so when a user wants that exact information, they can provide it.
You could set up your website in one of three different ways:
- Responsive web design – Your site uses the same HTML code and the same URL for pages, whether users access it from a desktop, tablet or smartphone.
- Dynamic serving – Your site has the same URL, but generates different HTML versions based on the device type.
- Separate URLs – Here your desktop version is considered the main version. You have separate URLs for each setup. It’s a huge pain to maintain.
Google recommends responsive web design, but it doesn’t favor one type above another. In other words, you don’t get more SEO points for responsive web design, it’s recommended because it just works best.
8 Mobile SEO Best Practices
Googlebots might not pick winners and losers when they assign ranking, but the ones on top come out ahead in terms of traffic and revenue. At Spade Design, when clients ask about mobile SEO best practices, here’s what we recommend.
Speed Things Up
The longer people have to wait for your site to load, the more likely they are to leave. Aim for a website that loads in two seconds or less on mobile. Not sure how fast your site loads? Compare your mobile site speed on Think With Google here. When you do, Google will give you a list of things you can do to improve speed.
This is where people usually call us for SEO. Unless you’re in web design, you might not be comfortable eliminating render-blocking resources, serving static assets with an efficient cache policy, deferring offscreen images and following other recommendations. That’s okay, we excel at that.
You can also run competitor’s sites to see who wins if load speed is a race. If theirs loads faster than yours and everything else is equal, you will lose.
Why does page speed matter so much to Google? As usual, it’s all about the user. Fast loading pages are good UX.
Use Readable Text
Grab your cell phone and pull up your website. Look at typography from a first time visitor’s standpoint. Do you have to zoom in to read it? Do any words, including photo captions disappear off the edge of the screen?
Google estimates webpage reading levels. Anywhere there’s a significant amount of text, write for readability. Here’s what we mean:
- For lists, use bullets. Keep things brief.
- Break paragraphs down into sections. Try to keep them below two or three lines of text.
- Avoid jargon and passive tense.
- Divide long blocks with subheadings.
- Stay away from complex fonts.
Think All Thumbs
While you’re looking at your website from that first-timers perspective, limit yourself to navigating only with your thumbs. Are buttons big enough to press without feeling cramped or clicking something you don’t mean to? Does hyperlink text stand out, and can you access it easily? Also, do forms request only the information you need so users don’t have to do a lot of typing?
Use Negative Space
This goes along with navigating on a small screen with big fingers. Leave plenty of room around all page elements.
It makes navigation simpler and gives your website a clean, airy feel. Not only that, but when readers scroll happily from one page section or item to the next because white space is inviting and relaxing, it improves your page dwell time.
Don’t Hide Content
You shouldn’t display the full version of content on your desktop site but require users to click to see it all on mobile. Some designers advocate this practice to pare down on visual elements, but it’s a bad idea. If you currently have places on your mobile site that say something like, “click to continue reading” or “read more,” fix it.
Also, everything that’s available on the desktop version of your site should also be available on mobile. Eliminate visual clutter on both to make it easier.
Google frowns on popups that keep users from reaching their goals. “Intrusive interstitials” are penalized because they frustrate users. What’s an intrusive interstitial? Here’s what Google says:
- Showing a popup that covers main content at any time the user is on the page.
- Displaying a standalone popup users must dismiss to see the content they were expecting.
- Using layouts where the hero image or above-the-fold portion of the page looks like a popup and the user must scroll down to see the content they’re looking for.
The moral of this story is, avoid popups altogether unless you can keep them from being intrusive. We only use popups when they provide value to the user.
Include Social Sharing Buttons
When people mention you on social media, it helps your search engine ranking. Make it easy for them to share with social sharing buttons on content.
Get an Instant SEO Score
Want to know how your website measures up? Get an instant SEO score for any landing page or blog article when you use our free tool. Then, get in touch to find out what we can do for your mobile SEO in 2019.