2 weeks ago, Google started the mobile-first indexing of the Web. This means it will now look at mobile versions of websites to rank them in both mobile and desktop search results.
This – and the fact that over half of Google searches now come from smartphones – leaves you no excuse to ignore mobile UX and SEO. In today’s article on mobile SEO success, I’m sharing my top tips to help you grow mobile ranks – and double organic traffic.
Here are some of the the things you’ll learn in this post:
• How to fully crawl and audit the mobile version of your site;
• The pros and cons of AMP;
• How to get mobile keyword research right;
• Common mobile SEO mistakes to avoid.
Lets jump to the article to learn how to get mobile SEO right – and don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comments!
With Google’s mobile-first indexing of the Web and 60% of searches coming from smartphones, an error-free mobile site is a must. In today’s article, I’m sharing my top tips for getting mobile right and growing your mobile rankings.
Two weeks ago, the news broke that Google’s starting the “mobile-first indexing of the Web”, meaning that they are beginning to index the mobile version of websites, when available, as opposed to the desktop version. The less obvious — but perhaps even more important — implication of this change is that Google will now also analyze mobile pages against the ranking signals to determine how a site should rank in both mobile and desktop search results.
That literally means that the information about your mobile site (such as page speed, content, meta tags, structured data, etc.) will determine both your mobile and desktop rankings in Google.
If you think about it, it makes sense. Google’s previously said that over half of search queries globally come from mobile devices; a report from Hitwise suggests that mobile searches in the US amount to 58% of all queries. The research is based on 11 key categories and covers hundreds of millions of online search queries across PCs, smartphones, and tablets. Interestingly, the ratio of desktop to mobile searches can vary significantly for different categories. Here’s the percentage of mobile searches Hitwise found in every category they looked at:
And — hang on — it looks like even more than half of all search traffic is at stake. Strikingly, if you don’t rank in mobile search, you may be missing out on a disproportionately large share of sales — studies show that mobile searchers have higher buying intent, with over 50% of them reaching for their smartphones to make a purchase decision. With local mobile searches, the numbers are even more staggering — 78% of consumers who run a mobile search for a local business end up making a purchase.
So it’s only fair that you should focus on mobile SEO no less, if not more, than desktop. But how exactly do you get to the mobile top, and how’s the optimization process different from the desktop SEO we’re used to? While a lot of attention has been paid to choosing a mobile-friendly solution (see Google’s tips here), there doesn’t seem to be a significant ranking difference between websites that use responsive design vs. some other mobile configuration.
Regardless of which configuration you use, let’s see how you can make your mobile site error-free and get to the top in mobile results.
1. Take the mobile-friendly test.
First off, you need to check if your site’s pages are mobile-friendly. Google’s mobile-friendly test includes a selection of usability criteria, such as viewport configuration, use of plugins, and the size of text and clickable elements. It’s also important to remember that mobile friendliness is assessed on a page basis, so you’d need to check each of your landing pages for mobile friendliness separately, one at a time.
2. Run a comprehensive audit of your mobile site.
Having all your important pages pass Google’s mobile test is a good start — but there’s a lot more analysis to do. A full site audit of your mobile site is a great way to make sure that all your important pages and resources are accessible to Googlebot and your mobile pages are free from errors.
3. Do mobile keyword research.
The keywords people use to search on mobile devices are different from desktop queries. This has to do with a number of factors; first, over 20% of mobile queries are voice searches. Second, mobile searchers typically have different, more urgent needs in mind.
Google calls these needs micro-moments of 4 types:
- I-want-to-know moments
- I-want-to-go moments
- I-want-to-do moments
- I-want-to-buy moments
A great starting point to see the nature of mobile queries in practice is looking at your Search Console stats. Go to your account and navigate to Search Traffic > Search Analytics. Check Clicks, Impressions, and Positions to be displayed, choose Comparison under Devices, and click on Queries.
This report is great on so many levels. First, it gives you a great idea on your keywords’ search volume ratio on desktop and mobile, and helps you find keywords with lots of mobile searches to target. Second, it will show you the keywords that you rank for in Google Mobile but not on desktop (to do that, click on the Desktop Position column twice to sort it in descending order).
Use this report to compile a list of seed keywords you’ll base your mobile keyword research upon.
4. Consider AMP.
Accelerated Mobile Pages is a Google initiative to build a faster version of the mobile Web. AMP is a new way of building web content for mobile devices that results in a simpler, much lighter version of HTML. Apart from a mobile ranking boost, there’s a number of other reasons for going AMP:
- Ultimate user experience. It’s no secret that speed matters. Multiple research has shown slow loading time correlates with higher bounce rates. AMP pages were designed for lightning fast speed — their median load time is 0.7 seconds, while non-AMP pages have a median load time of 22 seconds. Yup, that’s not just faster; that’s 30 times faster.
The impressive load time of AMP pages is not just due to the lighter HTML and CSS. It’s also due to the fact that AMP content is cached in the cloud and delivered not from your server, but from the Google-hosted cached version.
- More clicks from search results. In his presentation at this year’s SMX East, John Shehata shared the results of his AMP research. He found that AMP pages tend to perform better in search not only in terms of rankings, but also in terms of their CTR.
So is there a catch? Currently, AMP is mainly for publishers, so if you (at the very least) don’t have a frequently updated blog or news section on your site, it likely won’t give you a significant SEO benefit right away, so you might want to let the dust settle before getting AMPed yourself.
However, if you feel like getting your hands dirty with AMP right now, the easiest way is to implement it on a WordPress website — all you need to do is install the official AMP plugin. With the plugin active, all posts on your site will have dynamically generated AMP versions, accessible by appending /amp/ to the end of the posts’ URLs.
4. Focus on location.
The impact of the searcher’s location on the search results they get has been growing in the last few years. Not surprisingly, mobile searches are even more location-focused than desktop queries: Google says 80% of “near me” searches come from mobile.
Search engines want to show results located near the mobile searcher for queries with local search intent, such as “takeaway restaurants” or “bike repair”.
This means that setting up your site correctly for local search is crucial for mobile SEO, especially if you run a local business. Here are some of the main factors to pay attention to.
- Google My Business page. Register with Google My Business and make sure all details are correct and up-to-date. Put up a long, unique description for your business, choose the right categories, and upload at least 5 photos.
- Reviews. The number of reviews is perhaps the most important ranking signal in Google’s local search algorithm. Try encouraging customers to leave reviews by offering incentives to get reviewed. Consider setting up a reviews landing page. Never ignore negative reviews: on the contrary, respond to unhappy customers as fast as you can. Here’s an example from Search Engine People of a customer who took the time to change their review because of the feedback they received from the manager:
- Photos. The number of photos on your business page also matters to Google a lot. Take the time to take the pictures, or even hire a photographer to do it for you.
- NAP consistency. The consistency of your business’ NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) information is also essential for mobile local search. Make sure that you include these details into your mobile content, along with the type of business you run and its location. That way, when someone types the keywords “business” (read: restaurant, hotel, car dealer, etc.) + “location” (read: Los Angeles, New York, Detroit, etc.) you will likely show up in searches without having been directly named.
- Schema markup. Utilizing microdata can give your site a local ranking boost for non-branded keywords. Make sure to list your business’ geographic and contact information. The local section of Schema.org has a variety of categories you can use, including address, phone, fax, operating hours, and even accepted payment types.
5. Track mobile rankings regularly.
Finally, to see the effect of your mobile SEO efforts, it’s only logical that you should be tracking your mobile ranks alongside your desktop positions.
6. Avoid common mobile SEO mistakes.
As you work on your site’s mobile version, there are certain mistakes to avoid. Here’s my list of the most common mobile SEO mistakes you should do your best to stay away from.
- Unplayable content. Some web pages include video or audio files that are unplayable on smartphones, e.g. if they require Flash (which is not supported by most mobile browsers). Avoid Flash and keep your media playable across devices to ensure a great user experience for all visitors.
- Hard-to-dismiss pop-ups. If you use pop-ups on your mobile site, remember to keep them unobtrusive. A few months ago, Google announced that in January 2017, they’ll start punishing mobile pages that show intrusive interstitials when a user first opens a page, pushing the page down in search results.
- Slow mobile pages. Page load speed is one of the major user experience factors, especially for mobile users. Remember to always test your pages’ load time and always compress your images and other resources.
- Faulty redirects (applicable if you have a separate URL for the mobile version of your site). Some mobile sites do not have the redirects from the desktop version of the site to the mobile version set up correctly — the redirects may be always taking the visitor to the mobile homepage, for example. Redirects from each desktop URL must be taking your mobile users to the respective mobile URL.
- Mobile-only 404s (applicable if you have a separate URL for the mobile version of your site). Sometimes websites may have a valid version of a certain page for desktop users, but throw a 404 for visitors accessing the mobile version of the same URL. Google strongly recommends redirecting mobile users to an equivalent mobile page instead.
- Irrelevant cross-links (applicable if you have a separate URL for the mobile version of your site). The recommended practice here is that all internal links within the mobile version of the site should lead to mobile URLs and not to desktop-optimized pages — especially when mobile versions of these pages are available.
With mobile-first indexing and over half of searches coming from mobile devices worldwide, mobile SEO is not something you can dismiss anymore, regardless of the type of business you run. Done right, mobile SEO can help you double your organic search traffic and result in an even more dramatic increase in sales.
What are your thoughts on the future of mobile search? Which mobile SEO tactics are working best in your niche?
As always, I’m looking forward to your questions and thoughts in the comments below.