Mobile Marketing / SEO & Search Marketing

Mastering Mobile SEO: Optimizing Your Website for Mobile Devices

Author:  Debra Murphy


Reading Time: 9 minutes
Mastering Mobile SEO: Optimizing Your Website for Mobile Devices

With many people using their mobile devices to search, being found in the mobile index is important to your business. Mobile SEO is an important process that ensures your website provides a great mobile user experience and appears in the search engine results.

Since 2020, mobile traffic accounts for more than 50% of total website traffic worldwide. That fact doesn’t seem surprising. It appears that people are tethered to their smartphones as if it is an extra appendage.

Mobile search also influences our buying habits more than we realize. Almost half of all consumers begin their research with search engines on mobile devices.

Now more than ever, mobile search will impact your business and your marketing activities. What can you do to prevent visitors from clicking away to your competition because your site is not the user experience they have come to expect?

What is mobile SEO?

Mobile SEO is optimizing your website for mobile devices. Doing this ensures your audience has a quality user experience when they visit your site from a mobile device. A mobile-friendly website incorporates easy-to-use navigation, easy-to-read text, and visuals that fit properly. Plus, it loads quickly so you don’t lose visitors due to it being difficult to find what they are looking for.

Why is mobile SEO important?

Many companies don’t realize how important having a mobile-friendly site is to your SEO and the perception of your business. If your website doesn’t provide a quality user experience for those on their smartphones, you risk losing their business to your competitors.

As far as optimizing your website for mobile devices, there are several reasons why implementing mobile SEO is important to your online visibility.

Use of mobile devices has overtaken desktop

People prefer to search on their mobile devices because of its convenience. The convenience of having a mobile device that can obtain information at anytime, anywhere, encourages people to search for what they need well, anytime, anywhere.

The increase of people relying on their mobile devices has impacted the search market. If you look at the market share of mobile vs. desktop vs. tablets, you can easily see that your target customer is most likely using their mobile devices to find content and identify products and services that can help them.

Statcounter - Mobile, Desktop, Tablet Market Share
Statcounter – Mobile, Desktop, Tablet Market Share

In addition, over half of global internet traffic now comes from mobile devices. This should be a signal that you need to optimize your website for mobile devices to gain visitors who are searching for your business while out and about.

Mobile content determines your webpage ranking

In addition to the increase in mobile devices, Google has switched to providing search results using the mobile-first index. Websites that provide a seamless experience for mobile devices will rank higher. Google uses the mobile version of the webpage to determine indexing and ranking for your website.

If you have a mobile responsive website, the content should be pretty much the same. You can create a different mobile navigation for a better user experience. And you should eliminate content that affects the mobile user experience negatively (like popups). But responsive design helps the content remain consistent with the desktop version of the website.

Users have embraced voice search

About 40% of users in the United States are taking advantage of voice search on mobile devices and home assistance devices. Your customers may be trying to find your store, your product or information about you via voice search. This is because it is easier to speak into your smartphone than it is to type for many. Also make sure your phone numbers are click to call.

How is mobile SEO different from regular SEO?

For the most part, optimizing your website affects how the various pages appear in the search results for both mobile and desktop environments. So start with keyword research and on-page SEO tactics for your website.

Now pay attention to the following factors that affect where your website appears in the search results when searching from your mobile device:

  • Location: Mobile SEO also has more of a local focus, which is the main difference between desktop and mobile SEO. When people are looking for local results, they mainly use their mobile devices.
  • Phone operating system: Because you are searching on a mobile device, if the search is more app-oriented, the results will show the “app pack”—the colorful grids of app icons that link directly to an app in the app store. Since most apps don’t work on the desktop, app packs typically don’t display in the desktop search results.
  • Screen size: When you submit a search query on your mobile device, what gets displayed is driven by the screen size. The results you get on your desktop for the same search query may be different than the results you see on your mobile device. This also means that what content ranks on the desktop may not necessarily be displayed in the mobile search results.

How to Optimize Your Website for Mobile

Perform keyword research for mobile

You would think that your keyword research for your business would apply to mobile as well. But unfortunately, those using their phones to search will have typos, be spoken rather than typed, and be more localized. So, although most of your keyword research will apply, you need to take these factors into consideration.

Ensure the content is the same for desktop and mobile

The value of using responsive design for your website is that you can ensure your content is the same for both the desktop and the mobile device. You can use WordPress plugins to hide some content on a mobile device when it makes sense, but you are consciously doing it rather than mistakenly eliminating the important information that is needed to rank properly.

Optimize your content for mobile

First make sure your website uses mobile responsive design. Most WordPress themes are responsive so there is no excuse. Benefits include

  • Lower website costs. Developing one website that works across all devices lowers your development time and costs. Make sure you design for the mobile device at the same time rather than designing for the desktop and retrofitting the design to the smartphone. Plus updates and changes are applied across all devices.
  • Improved user experience. When someone visits your website from various devices, they get a consistent user experience. This gives them a positive impression of your business and help you convert more visitors.
  • Better visibility. Google indexes websites based on the mobile version of the website. Therefore, your visibility will be dependent on the mobile experience.

In addition, your website content needs to be optimized for mobile. It not only needs to be easy to read, it also needs to logically make sense. This is why mobile first design is so important.

When the responsive design collapses to fit the smaller screen, check to see if it flows properly. Grids by default collapse left over right. But sometimes, you may want the grid to collapse right over left.

For example, if you have images on the left and content on the right, you may want the content to appear on the mobile device before the images so the visitor sees the more valuable content.

So if your content looks like the following for the desktop:

Content Layout Desktop
Page Layout Desktop

When this page responds to the mobile device, you may want the content to appear before the images so the visitor gets your message sooner than later.

Content Layout Mobile
Page Layout Mobile

Test your website on mobile devices

Even if your website is responsive, it may not provide a good user experience to those on mobile devices. What you are able to do on a desktop with design may not necessarily work well on the mobile device.

Although responsive design is a great start for providing a mobile-friendly website, you still need to pay attention to mobile-specific requirements to provide a great experience. These include larger fonts, calls to action that are easy to find and a design that caters to a touchscreen device.

Test the performance for both desktop and mobile

This is the biggest challenge to most of us. There is a tradeoff between features and performance that you need to make. With WordPress, plugins can be our friend and our enemy at the same time. What we need to make our website functional may also negatively affect the page load time.

Here is the mobile page speed for my homepage. Paying attention to technical SEO issues can make the difference between a good user experience on the mobile device and a great experience.

Page Speed Test Results

To get the best performance possible, don’t overlook these best practices:

  • Run cache and minification plugins to make your site perform better. Minifying HTML and CSS helps pages load faster. Using a caching plugin stores content for faster access.
  • Load your fonts locally rather than calling them from Google Fonts.
  • Check out the plugins Flying Scripts and Flying Images. These increased the speed of my website quite substantially.
  • Eliminate any unnecessary pop-ups, chats, ads, or anything else that can cause a loading issue. If you need to have these features, load them at the bottom of the page for mobile.
  • Compress your images. WP-Optimize WordPress plugin includes image compression and also supports creating a WebP version of your image. There are other plugins that do image compression, but WP-Optimize has other performance features that are worth checking out.

Optimize for local search

Most people searching using their mobile device are most likely looking for businesses within their local community. People often search with phrases like “near me” to find these local businesses. In fact, 57% of local search queries are submitted using a mobile device or tablet.

Other ways to improve your local SEO is to:

  • Create content that caters to your local audience.
  • Get reviews and display them on your website.
  • Optimize your Google Business Profile.
  • Add original, local images to your website.
  • Ensure your contact information is correct and easy to find.
  • Get links from local Facebook groups and other local directories.

Understand mobile needs of your users

  • Add more visual content to your marketing as mobile users are more likely to watch a video or share a picture.
  • Ensure your email marketing campaigns are readable on a mobile device. Check to see if your email service provider has templates that support both browser and mobile devices and can send the correctly formatted email to those who choose mobile.
  • If you have a shopping cart, make sure it works on a mobile device. You don’t want the visitor getting all the way through the purchase process only to discover they can’t finalize the purchase.

Mobile is now a critical factor in your marketing strategy decisions and not an afterthought. Understand your customer and ensure you are able to satisfy their needs. Make sure no matter what device they are using, your business appeals to them.

Should You Invest in Mobile SEO?

With the widespread use of smartphones, supporting the best user experience for your potential customers is critical. And with Google indexing all websites using the mobile-first index, you should design your website for your mobile users first. So although mobile SEO and regular SEO have a lot in common, incorporating the additional technical and design considerations into your website will help your website gain visibility.

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