Going beyond desktop: Tips on how to use SEO for mobile
What is Mobile SEO?
Mobile search engine optimization includes best practices to optimize your site for users accessing it on a smartphone or tablet. SEO for mobile helps your site achieve better search rankings on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). While there are many search engines, Google accounts for over 90% of the mobile search market. So, businesses naturally consider their mobile SEO best practices most often. The global mobile data traffic stood at 19.01 exabytes per month in 2018. It is estimated to reach 220.8 million terabytes per month by 2026. Evolving from desktop SEO optimization to mobile SEO optimization is guaranteed to benefit businesses.
Why is Mobile SEO Important?
A whopping 63% of organic search engine visits in the US originated from mobile devices in the fourth quarter of 2021. According to a report from 2016, when the mobile market share was 45.9%, nearly 60% of all online searches were made on a mobile device. The mobile market share in 2022 was 59.47%, so we wouldn’t be surprised if significantly more searches were carried out on mobile devices recently. This means businesses who want to get discovered online can no longer afford a poor mobile experience. Google became a 100% mobile-first site in 2021, meaning that Google primarily uses the mobile version of a website to rank and index it. So, mobile SEO isn’t an option for businesses today.
Difference Between Mobile and Desktop Search Results
Several factors create a distinction between mobile and desktop search results:
- Location- People often use mobile devices for local references and recommendations. Mobile devices come with a GPS (global positioning system) to track user location and pass it on to search engines. So, users get different search results on mobile depending on their location.
- Device operating system- Google takes into account the OS of the underlying mobile device and recommends appropriate applications against each search query, which is not the case on a desktop.
- Screen size- While search results can fit into any device, the number of results displayed might vary depending on the screen size, which creates a difference between search results on desktops, smartphones, and tablets.
Benefits of Mobile SEO
There are many benefits to mobile search engine optimization beyond generating more traffic from mobile devices. These include:
- Site speed – Google considers site speed a critical ranking factor. Mobile device SEO involves optimizing a site for quicker load times, which benefits a site’s ranking on both mobile and desktop.
- User experience – Consider how frustrating it is to visit a website on mobile only to constantly zoom in to find buttons and links. Mobile SEO ensures your visitors get what they come for and leave satisfied. Low bounce rates – Complicated websites compel visitors to leave without visiting a second webpage. High bounce rates suggest poor design. Mobile search engine optimization lowers bounce rates and improves conversion.
- Responsiveness – Mobile SEO improves site responsiveness and uplifts user engagement. A mobile-friendly website ranks better on search engines.
- Conversion rates – The ultimate aim for a business is to convert website visitors into paying customers. A mobile-optimized site makes it convenient for visitors to find what they’re looking for and turn into loyal customers.
Mobile SEO Challenges
If mobile SEO were simple, every business would have achieved it. Here are the top mobile SEO challenges:
- Local search optimization – 78% of people who conduct a local Google search on their smartphone visit a place within 24 hours, and 28% of those searches result in a purchase. Yet, many businesses underutilize local search optimization because of its difficulty. The solution is to focus on your business’s relevance to search keywords, distance from user location, and offline credibility.
- Slow load time – Load time affects a website’s overall search performance. It’s tricky to reduce load time for mobile SEO, which is why most sites suffer. The solution for you can be to optimize image sizes, host media files across a wide server network globally, or switch to a better hosting service.
- Reliability and accuracy – Improper redirects and mobile-only errors compromise site reliability and accuracy. They disrupt a workflow. The solution can be to redirect mobile users to an equivalent mobile-optimized page. Here’s more information on smartphone errors and how to avoid them for better SEO.
Is Mobile SEO Different for Mobile Apps, PWAs, and Mobile Web?
Search engine optimization differs slightly between mobile applications, mobile websites, and progressive web applications.
1. Mobile Applications SEO
Mobile app SEO aims to increase app visibility and downloads. Strategies include-
- Performing in-depth keyword research
- Optimizing the name, title, and URL of the app
- Designing a clear and on-brand app icon
- Supplementing the app store listing with clear screenshots and videos
- Implementing app indexing
- Optimizing app store reviews and ratings
2. Mobile Web SEO
Mobile web search optimization strategies include-
- Designing a mobile-friendly and responsive website
- Making it easy to navigate and attractive for mobile
- Ensuring popups don’t block content
- Eliminating 404-page errors and other technical issues
- Optimizing site load time
- Optimizing the site for local and voice search
- Focusing on the overall user experience
- Optimizing how your webpage appears in a search result
3. Progressive web apps SEO
Google has previously accepted that PWAs don’t rank better on search engine results by default. However, if a website moves from a decade-old framework to a PWA, the considerable improvements in its structure, load time, and cleanliness will affect its search performance.
Strategies for PWA SEO include-
- Making content indexable with a hybrid rendering approach to benefit both SEO and user experience
- Keeping URLs clean of ‘#’ and ‘#!’
- Iterative app development that helps spot and fix errors progressively
- Optimizing load time
SEO for Mobile: What Are the Best Practices?
A mobile SEO strategy involves a lot of activities. Here are the best practices that substantially impact mobile SEO.
1. Optimize for Voice Search
Google aims to transform voice search into “an ultimate mobile assistant that helps you with your daily life so that you can focus on the things that matter”. Here are the top voice search optimization strategies-
- Understand customer and device behavior as algorithms use device location and other data points to build context around voice searches.
- Include conversational keywords more than short phrases, as voice searches are often long sentences and questions.
- Provide short and crisp answers to most-asked questions before you detail and contextualize the content to support voice search.
- Use schema to mark up the content and tell search engines the context of your content so it can rank better in relevant searches.
- Users often use voice search to get immediate answers to questions, so build pages on your site to answer FAQs in a concise format.
- Remember that mobile devices and local searches are linked, so optimize your site to respond to hyper-local searches in voice format.
2. Responsive Web Design
Responsive web designing enriches the mobile experience. Here’s how to achieve responsiveness-
- Focus on the primary objective of a mobile visitor (downloading a guide, purchasing a product, etc.) and eliminate any friction in achieving it.
- Accommodate the distinction in user behavior on desktop and mobile. Design for the thumb. Make the necessary components easily reachable.
- Adapt your site to the underlying capabilities of the mobile hardware for functions such as two-factor authentication, voice search, and photo-sharing.
- Use responsive breakpoints to reconfigure a site’s flow, layout, and content for mobile devices using percentage units in the UX design.
- Consider the landscape orientation. Use tiled elements to stack vertically and display them alongside a slider with left and right navigation to prevent the need for scrolling.
- Leverage a headless content management system to ensure your content displays appropriately across channels and devices without the risk of breaking anything.
3. Understand Mobile User Intent
A qualitative factor that underlies mobile SEO is user search intent. Since search engines invest resources in understanding user search intent, it benefits mobile SEO professionals to learn about it too.
Due to the diverse use of language, for instance, Apple can mean a consumer brand or a fruit.
Users typically want to Do (achieve a specific action), Know (get more information) or Go (visit a specific site or location) when performing a mobile search. Understanding user search intent can help design content accordingly.
4. Mobile-Friendly Content
An SEO-optimized site offers mobile-friendly content. Here’s how to achieve it for your site.
- Convey the most compelling information in the introduction and eliminate the need to scroll.
- Engage mobile users with short paragraphs – 4 lines each – and introduce at most two ideas in each paragraph for readability.
- Inform the layout of your mobile site’s content with eye-tracking research that identifies patterns in which mobile users scan site content.
- Mention key highlights before detailed content to allow users to jump to the most relevant part without skimming the entire page.
- Eliminate unnecessary jargon and reduce sentence lengths for readability.
- Use images, videos, and infographics to supplement written content with digestible visuals.
- Design content for accessibility by using high-contrast colors, optimum font size, and spacing.
- Strategically place CTAs front and center to simplify decision-making and boost conversions.
5. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs)
Accelerated mobile pages are an open-source project by Google to ensure mobile web pages function at an optimal speed. Creating mobile webpages using the AMP format:
- Improves performance and engagement as these pages load almost instantly and smoothly.
- Enhances flexibility and results as businesses can choose how to present their content while improving KPIs.
6. Local SEO Strategies
Optimizing a site for mobile and location can boost a website’s visibility, web traffic, and conversions. Here are the top factors that play into local SEO rankings-
- Google My Business – A business’ GMB listing is critical for local search results.
- Citations – An online mention of your business is a citation and may include a link to your website. Citation sources include Yelp! and Yellow Pages.
- NAP – Consistency in your business’s name, address, and phone number impacts local SEO.
- Customer reviews – Diverse and truthful customer reviews provide search engines with feedback about your business and improve local mobile SEO.
- Social signals – Presence on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram enables customer engagement and signals social proof to search engines.
- Backlinks – The authority and relevance of websites that link to your business determine your website’s search performance.