Mobile SEO refers to the practice of optimising your web pages and content to achieve a higher ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs) when people search on mobile devices.
Why is mobile SEO important?
To say mobile SEO is important is a massive understatement.
Look at the numbers: 58% of all searches in Google are now done from a mobile device.
In real numbers, 27.8 billion MORE queries are performed on mobile than desktop in the United States alone.
So it’s no wonder that, in 2018, Google launched the Mobile-First Index which overhauls its ENTIRE algorithm to focus on mobile.
For SEO pros and webmasters, this wasn't a real surprise – it had been coming for a while.
In 2015, Google announced that mobile searches surpassed desktop searches for the first time.
A year later, Google unveiled its Mobile-Friendly Update (which many people called “Mobilegeddon”).
Here’s what Google said about it at the time:
“We’re boosting the ranking of mobile-friendly pages on mobile search results.
Now searchers can more easily find high-quality and relevant results where text is readable without tapping or zooming, tap targets are spaced appropriately, and the page avoids unplayable content or horizontal scrolling.”
Last year with the Mobile-First Index, Google left nothing in question. EVERY search is now a mobile search.
What does that mean? It means they rank search results based on the mobile version of the page ONLY – even if you’re searching via a desktop.
What Google is telling us here is crystal clear:
The future of search is mobile.
So if you’re not focusing on mobile SEO, now is the time to start.
Hold up – what is a mobile?
This is a valid question. Most people think of a mobile device as being a smartphone or tablet.
But Google does things differently, stating that: “when we speak of mobile devices, we generally do not include tablets in the definition”.
So, for Google, mobile means smartphones.
Not that you should get hung up on this, because mobile SEO is really about optimising your site for any device.
Best practices for mobile SEO
What does good mobile SEO look like? How can you optimise your site for mobile search?
Let’s start by looking at some of the mobile SEO best practices and tactics. If you are not ticking off these best practices with your site, you have probably already noticed your rankings drop on Google.
Take a look:
1. Create a seamless user experience on mobile
This starts with a responsive website design, which means your site will adapt to the user's device and screen size automatically.
But there are other elements too, like the menu design and calls to action, which all contribute to the user experience.
2. Mobile content
No more hiding content from mobile users. Google wants you to show the same content from your desktop on your mobile site.
Google bots should be able to crawl and index all content formats, whether text, images or video, on mobile.
This means you should be using image alt tags and meta tags to their full potential.
4. Voice search
People perform voice search from their mobiles, so as voice search grows, you need to optimise your mobile site for voice search.
This means rethinking your keyword strategy to better focus on long-form keywords and questions.
5. Fast load speeds
Page speed is a ranking factor for mobile sites, as Google made official in its Speed Update.
Page speed was already a ranking factor for desktop sites, so this is just bringing mobile to the same playing field. The faster, the better. Google recommends under 3 seconds.
Image credit: Think With Google
6. All internal links and redirects work
This comes back to making sure your site is crawlable and creating a flawless user experience. Mobile SEO means making sure your links and redirects are up to scratch.
7. No interstitials
Interstitials are features like pop-ups and other interruptive advertising. For mobile users, these are annoying, frustrating and can disrupt the user experience causing visitors to exit without converting.
Google has started to disregard mobile pages with intrusive pop-ups that don’t add value to the page’s content.
What this all boils down to is creating a seamless and valuable user experience for your visitors on mobile.
Isn’t this just the same as SEO best practice?
Yes and no. If you’re familiar with SEO and how it works, you may have noticed a few familiar items on the best practice list.
That’s because mobile SEO is very similar to regular SEO. There’s an emphasis on links, page load speeds and user experience.
But there are some significant differences.
One of these is voice search.
As voice search grows, the implications for mobile SEO will become more significant. But right now, it's worth considering this for your mobile SEO strategy.
Another is location.
Google’s research shows that mobile searchers are increasingly using their location to perform “near me” searches.
Over two years, these searches grew a massive 500%.
This presents a massive opportunity for businesses to tap into mobile SEO and get in front of local audiences.
Mobile SEO tools
To find out if your site is mobile-friendly, there are a few tools you can use:
Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test – this is a great place to start as it gives you a report on your site’s mobile friendliness, which you can use to make essential changes.
Test My Site (another one from Google)
Google’s PageSpeed Insights– See how fast your site loads, plus any fixes you can make to speed it up.
Google Search Console– Check whether Google can successfully crawl your mobile site. If it can’t, your content won’t appear in SERPs.
SEMrush– An alternative way to check crawlability of your site.
Image credit: Optin Monster
Mobile SEO is a must for today’s businesses. It’s imperative for website owners and marketers to put mobile SEO first if they want to rank higher, boost traffic and increase conversions.
Without mobile SEO, your website won’t find the traction it needs for online success.