Your Kick-start Guide to Mobile SEO

Mobile SEO is the need of the hour, especially with Google calling mobile-friendly websites the future of digital marketing. They’ve put their money where their mouth is too, tweaking their algorithm to favour websites optimised for mobile devices over those that aren’t. Studies suggest that over 58% of internet users prefer using their mobile to browse the web, not a laptop or computer. It’s easy and convenient! And the wave has already begun.

It all started back in 2015 with  ‘Mobilegeddon’; the mobile-friendly update that Google rolled out back in 2015. The update penalised every website which was not mobile-friendly, known as the ‘Mobile-First Index’. Thus, by favouring the websites optimized for mobile devices, Google once again retained its insane level of dominance over search engines.

So, we all agree: Optimising your websites to suit the convenience of your target audience is pretty darn important. Making sure your site is mobile friendly also means optimising your website to suit the preferences of the search engine spiders — a win-win situation for all!

What is Google’s Mobile-First Index?

The Mobile-First Index update was Google’s way of ranking search results based on websites that are optimised for mobiles. Before this, Google used to show mobile-optimised sites to those searching on mobiles, and desktop-optimised websites for those using desktops

Is Google’s Mobile-First Index Important?

Pretty much, yeah.

Especially if you’re planning to optimise your site for Google.

If you think your website is;

  1. Responsive over all devices
  2. Doesn’t hide data on mobile devices
  3. Doesn’t take too much time to load on a mobile device
  4. Has working internal links and redirects

Then you should be fine.

However, your site ranking can drop if you fail to optimise your website to comply with the aforementioned criteria.

How can you optimise your website for smartphones, tablets, or any other device Elon Musk might invent in the future?

        1. Optimise the search URL to match your smartphone
          It’s not just the website layout that you are allowed to optimise. The mobile version, commonly known as the ‘M.’ version, allows you to optimise your search URL for your smartphone. The website detects your device and directs the URL optimised for that particular device.
        1. Dynamic Serving
          For those who find keeping two separate URLs for each piece of content a hideous task, dynamic serving might be something to consider. When you serve the contents dynamically, different HTML or CSS is shown to the user depending on the device they are using, retaining your website content within the same URL
      1. Responsive Design
        In the technical community, the majority of us prefer responsive design over dynamic serving or developing a separate M. version. If M. version forces us to create ‘n’ number of links, with dynamic serving, you need to constantly create content for new devices that come out. Otherwise, your website may not recognise your new device! A responsive design however will optimise itself to the device you’re using. You don’t have to create separate URLs or HTML for each device. It’s a lot easier and Google supports responsive websites.

So how do you make your website mobile-friendly?

        1. Use Google’s mobile-friendly test
          Google’s mobile-friendly test lets you know if mobile users are having trouble viewing your website. All you’ve got to do is enter your site’s URL into the tool, then read the report to find out how your site is working on a smartphone.

          However, as you can see, the report says that the mobile Googlebot is having trouble loading the entire page. The desktop Googlebot would’ve crawled this easily, and I wouldn’t have known this without  Google’s mobile-friendly tool.
        2. Unblocking Your Site’s Code
          It didn’t create much trouble in the past when you blocked the Googlebot from accessing your site’s Javascript, CSS, or any other important part. However, today this can be an important issue and can affect your mobile-first index score. Unless you allow Google to scroll through your entire page, it won’t be able to recognize if your site is mobile-friendly or not.Google Search Console is a great tool for finding blocked resources. To use it, head over to your GSC page and click on ‘Blocked Resources’ under ‘Google Index’. This will help you to know if you’re blocking Googlebot from scrolling your website.
        3. Google hates intrusive Pop-ups!
          You hate ‘em, we hate ‘em, Google hates ‘em (especially on smartphones.) Google is striving to make the mobile browsing experience smooth and hassle-free for its users: imagine how it’s going to look when you hide all your content behind a giant pop-up?  In fact, Google specifically mentioned this as a big no-no in one of its updates from 2016.

4.  Fetch as Google
How cool would it be to actually see how Google looks at your page? You can spot test your website pages using the ‘Fetch as Google’ feature in GSC. Enter the URL of a page from your site to see how Googlebot scrolls through your page and what it missed.

5. Let everyone see your content
It used to be common practice to hide certain resources from mobile users in order to increase the page loading speed. Most of the time, almost half of the content on the homepage will be hidden on a mobile screen and the user has to click ‘read more’ to read the rest of the content. But as Google’s John Mueller said, “if it’s critical content, it should be visible.”

How can you optimise your site for UX signals?

Today, SEO is all about optimising your site to the needs of your users, rather than playing around with meta-tags. It’s all about how you create a website that’s fast and comfortable for your audience.

      1. Page loading speed
        According to Google, a mobile user-friendly page should open in less than a second. This might seem a bit insane, but Google’s PageSpeed Insight tool can help you with that. Enter your page URL and the tool will let you know how fast your website loads on a smartphone. You’ll also get recommendations on how to improve your page loading speed.
      2. Make the contents visible
        Is your site mobile optimised, but the content is too small to see comfortably? What if your audience has to pinch and zoom to read your mobile content? Well, basically it means bad SEO. Choose a font that is easy to read (at least 14px font), and make sure there is enough contrast between the text and the background. Use short paragraphs with line-lengths of up to 50-60 characters.
      3. Use HTML5 instead of Flash for your video or animated contents.
        It’s as simple as it sounds. Using Flash to load your video or animated contents won’t work on your smartphone. Instead use HTML5 to code.
      4. Viewport content
        If you’re using a responsive design for your website, don’t forget the viewport meta tag. The tag helps your website to optimise its size based on the user’s device. Without a viewport meta tag, your site can look funky and confusing for a mobile user.

     

    *An example of viewport tag code.

    5.  Smaller header images
    Make the header image smaller or avoid using header images while optimising your site for mobile devices.

    6. Declutter with negative space
    Negative spaces are the empty spaces between texts, buttons, and design elements. Increasing the negative space declutters your site and makes it easier for the user to understand your business. A cluttered website might work on a desktop, but on a phone, it will be impossible to navigate.

So there you have it! Any questions or comments? Feel free to get in touch with our expert team at hello@planetmedia.com.au

Have a great day!

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