Here’s the thing: your site should be mobile-friendly. This should be your number one priority. If you want to optimize your mobile site, you have to improve your site’s performance, plus you have to make sure that it offers users an excellent user experience. In this SEO basics article, you’ll find an overview of what you could do to improve your mobile site.
When is a site mobile-friendly?
A site is mobile-friendly when it:
- helps users get their tasks done quickly and joyfully,
- loads correctly on a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet,
- loads lightning-fast,
- presents content in a readable fashion, without users having to pinch and zoom,
- offers ample room to navigate by touch,
- offers added value for mobile users,
- is instantly understandable for search engines.
Why is mobile SEO important?
Mobile SEO makes sure your mobile site offers the best possible presentation of your content to a mobile device user. Since our world is increasingly mobile-oriented, it has become imperative that your site is mobile-friendly. If your site is not, or not properly, available for mobile users, you will miss out on a decent ranking in the search engines and thus miss the income. Therefore, you should do everything in your power to optimize the mobile view of your site and make it as good as possible. In fact, it should be excellent!
For a while, Google uses the mobile version of the site to determine its rankings. If your site is not up to scratch or presents less content on your mobile site, you will have difficulty getting good rankings. If you don’t have an adequate mobile view of your site yet, you best make a fully functioning one, preferably as a responsive design. Google has a great getting started guide to get you going.
Don’t forget to see your site as being a single thing. You shouldn’t have a ‘mobile site,’ as distinct from a ‘desktop site.’ You should have one site that adapts to whatever screen it’s being viewed on. That also means that the contents of your different views should always be the same.
How to improve your mobile website
To improve your mobile SEO, you need to focus on a couple of things:
- Make a joyful user experience
- Make sure your site is responsive
- Improve your site speed
- Use structured data
- Don’t use interstitials or pop-ups
- Don’t use too many redirects
- Choose the correct viewport
- Verify mobile-friendliness
- Tell Google about your site
Focus on making it easy and joyful to use
Offer a great user experience to your users, and you’ll notice that Google will enjoy that as well. Figure out what your visitors come for and which tasks they mostly do on your site. Want people to call you? Make sure you put your phone number front and center and let people click on it. Want to enhance conversions? Make that buy button stand out and function properly! Use these tasks to bring focus to your site and guide your visitors helpfully and enjoyably. If something frustrates your user, it hurts you and your results. Test, improve and fully optimize your mobile site.
There are multiple ways to make your site available for mobile users. The most important one is responsive design, and this is the technology Google advocates. With a responsive design, your site lives on one URL, making it easier for Google to understand and index it.
If you use WordPress, chances are your theme is already responsive and can adapt to all screens. Be sure to check how your site scales in Google Chrome’s Developer Tools. If it doesn’t scale correctly, you should talk to your web developer about fixing it – or choose a different theme.
Improve your site speed
One of the most important things you can do to improve your site’s mobile SEO is to improve the site’s loading speed. Time and time again, studies show that people leave sites that load slowly, often never returning. Speed has been a ranking factor for years, and Google is increasingly focusing on fixing this common issue. See the Page Experience update and the Core Web Vitals metrics’ introduction for more proof of that. We have more on how to improve your site speed and which tools can help you do that.
Get better web hosting for your site
The number one tip to optimize the speed of your mobile site is to invest in better web hosting. Many sites run on budget hosts that share a lot of the server space with other websites. It really is essential to stay away from cheap hosting and get a good plan at a renowned host — this truly pays for itself! We have a page with WordPress web hosting companies that we can vouch for as we vetted them personally.
If there is one quick win to improve your site speed, it is this: optimize your images. Don’t load those 3000 x 2000 pixel HD images on your site. Scale them to the correct size and make them smaller with tools like ImageOptim, Squoosh, or WordPress plugins like WP Smush. You can also look into serving those images in next-gen image formats like WebP.
By using browser caching, you’re telling the browser that page elements that don’t change often can be saved inside its cache. This way, the browser only has to download new and dynamic content whenever it visits again. Again, this is something a plugin like WP Rocket can help you with. Or you can also do it yourself if you like.
A redirect leads a visitor from one requested page to another because it was moved or deleted. While this leads to a good user experience if done well, the more redirects you use, the slower your site will be. Don’t make endless redirects. Also, try not to keep links around that point to deleted posts redirected to new ones. Always make direct links.
Use structured data
Structured data is essential for every site. With structured data, you can describe your content in a way that search engines can understand. This way, you get a direct line of communication with the search engine, so to say. In return, search engines might reward you with awesome rich results. Your mobile site needs to have the same structured data as your desktop variant — otherwise, Google might get confused. Yoast SEO automatically adds structured data for the most important parts of your site, and you can finetune it to your liking.
Make sure that your mobile site is perfectly readable on mobile devices. Use different devices to check if your typography is in order and, when necessary, make changes. Typography can make or break the user experience of your site.
Improve tap target sizes
People hate it when their finger can’t hit a button, link, or menu item without fault. Sometimes designers haven’t given enough thought about the size of the buttons. Mobile users get frustrated when navigation is hard or unnatural. Please fix it.
Choose the correct viewport
The viewport determines the width of the page for the device used to view it. By specifying a correct viewport, you make sure that visitors with specific devices get the right version of your site. Fail to do this, and you might show your desktop site to a small-screen smartphone user – a big no-no.
Don’t use interstitials or pop-ups
Google will penalize sites that use large pop-ups or interstitials to promote newsletters, sign-up forms, or ads. These often get in the way of the user quickly accessing the content they requested. Don’t use these, but if you must, make sure you abide by Google’s rules.
Test your site and tell Google about it
Before you start working on your mobile SEO, you should run a mobile usability test on Google to see where you should start. During your work, you should keep testing to see if you make progress. If your mobile site is optimized, you need to tell Google about it to be checked and indexed. Use Search Console to stay on top of the performance of your site.
Investigate Google AMP
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is an initiative by Google and others to get web pages to load super fast on mobile devices. By wrapping your content in special HTML code, you can optimize the pages in a way that Google can use to give them special treatment. Pages are cached by Google and presented with a stripped-down presentation to ensure it gets delivered at light speed.
AMP is a good addition to your toolkit, and many sites can benefit from incorporating this technology. If you have a WordPress site, it’s not hard to get started; install the official plugin. This takes care of most of the setup. You can find more information on Google’s guidelines.
Mobile is the new baseline, the new default. Do everything you can to fix your mobile site and make it perfect, not just in Google’s eyes, but, more importantly, your visitors. Mobile SEO is not just about great content and a flawless technical presentation but more about creating a user experience to die for. Once you’ve achieved that, you’re on your way to the top!
Read more: Mobile SEO: the ultimate guide »