How do you optimize your site for mobile users? In this guide, you’ll learn what mobile SEO is, why it’s important, mobile SEO best practices, and tips for doing it right.
What Is Mobile SEO
Mobile SEO is a strategy for optimizing your website so users on mobile devices (mainly smartphones and tablets) can easily navigate your website and enjoy a good user experience.
How does mobile SEO differ from traditional SEO?
The main difference lies in mobile optimization. Mobile optimization focuses primarily on the user experience — through site structure, design, page speed, and so on — to ensure users can get the information they typically search for on their mobile devices.
The main purpose of mobile SEO is to improve the website’s ranking in three ways:
1. Ensuring Google can properly crawl and index the website and understand all the elements included in the website’s content. This includes optimizations that support Google’s priority on mobile-first indexing.
2. Optimizing the content of your website so it can be consumed properly on mobile devices. This is to ensure your audience can get the most valuable and relevant content as possible.
3. Optimizing the user experience for all devices, including page speed, mobile-responsiveness, and other factors to ensure your audience can stay as long as possible on the page.
Why Is Mobile SEO Optimization Important?
To answer this question, we need to look at a few statistics.
- There are more than 6.5 billion smart phone users worldwide.
- 60% of smartphone users have contacted a business directly using the search results.
- Google processes more than 3.5 billion searches every day, and 63% of those searches come from mobile devices.
- The average U.S. adult spends 5.4 hours on their phones every day.
- 75% of every dollar spent on online purchases is done so via mobile devices.
- 51% of smartphone users have discovered a new product or company while conducting a search on their mobile devices.
- 79% of smartphone users have made a purchase online via their mobile device.
- 80% of shoppers use a mobile device inside a physical store to comparison shop.
- More than half of mobile users will leave your site if it loads in more than 3 seconds.
Clearly, mobile SEO is not only essential to improving your SERP ranking and generating more organic traffic, it also ensures the best possible user experience for your mobile users, which will, in turn, help with conversions.
Mobile SEO Best Practices
When optimizing your website for mobile devices, these six issues are the most important areas to focus on.
Best Practice #1: Page Speed
Page speed is one of the most important ranking factors in traditional SEO. However, it is arguably more important when optimizing for mobile devices, because of mobile connectivity issues and hardware limitations.
Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to check your site’s current performance, optimize images, minify codes, and enable caching, among other optimizations.
Best Practice #2: Mobile-Friendly Design
Here are the common best practices according to today’s standards of mobile devices:
Mobile first: Build your site for mobile first. And make sure your pages are responsive, so users don’t have to pinch and zoom.
Proper size: Mobile navigation can lead to accidental clicks when your buttons are too big or too small. Use fonts that are big enough for mobile.
Avoid popups: Popups are annoying on mobile devices and can be very hard to close. Popups can lead to a high bounce rate. We’ll talk more about this in a moment.
Keep it simple: The rule of thumb when designing for mobile is simplicity. Make it easy to see what matters and to navigate the site. Keep menus short. Put buttons and calls to action in prominent locations. Make it easy to search your site.
Best Practice #3: Use Responsive Images and SVGs
Your users will visit your site from a wide variety of screens, all of them a different size. Your images need to fit the device your users are using.
Make sure your site is responsive, meaning it resizes the pages to fit any screen. Or use SVGs (scalable vector graphics) instead of PNGs. SVGs can scale to any size without becoming pixelated.
Best Practice #4: Optimized Headings and Meta Descriptions
On mobile, searchers are often doing local searches, product searches, and quick answers to their questions. So optimize your meta data to suit their search intent.
Use appropriate search terms. Get straight to the point. And limit the length of your headlines and meta descriptions:
- Headlines: less than 60 characters
- Meta description: less than 150 characters
Best Practice #5: Structured Data Markup
Structured data (schema.org) allows your site to be eligible as a rich snippet result. Rich snippets are even more likely to stand out on a mobile device, so take time to set it up right.
Best Practice #6: Local SEO
If your business is targeting a local audience, optimize your website for local search and your Google My Business listing. Google Maps results are very prominent on mobile SERP. This will include standardizing your NAP information and including your physical location in your site’s footer and metadata.
Tips on Implementing Mobile SEO
1. Keyword Research for Mobile and Voice Keywords
Mobile keyword optimization demands a unique approach compared to traditional SEO.
People tend to type less on their mobile devices, as compared to their desktop computer, and 40.2% of people in the US use voice search on mobile. It’s simply easier to ask Siri or Google Assistant when you are on a mobile device than it is to type.
So, do your keyword research homework properly and try to target queries your customers use when searching on mobile devices, including voice queries.
Generally, you can target mobile and voice keywords by:
- Looking for conversational and question-based search queries
- Answering questions directly in your content
- Using structured data markup, as discussed above (Results for voice queries are commonly pulled from featured snippets.)
- Creating a FAQ page and answer various questions
Voice search isn’t going anywhere soon, and in fact, it’s expected to get bigger. So, it’s better to prepare now and optimize your site for mobile-friendly and voice-friendly keywords.
2. Avoid Opening Links in a New Tab
Do you open links in a new tab? While this used to be acceptable, today, it’s considered inaccessible. It’s also challenging for mobile users since it’s hard to return to the previous tab.
The only time you should set links to open in another tab is if it would interrupt a process (say, filling out a form) to open another screen.
3. Mobile-Optimized Menu
In desktop websites, we often use a navigational menu known as the mega menu, which fills the full width of the screen when you hover over a navigation tab. The mega menu allows you to improve the user experience by making it easy to find pages on your website.
On mobile screens, however, there’s not room for mega menus. Here are some good alternatives that work on a smaller screen:
Hamburger menu: The three horizontal lines that resemble a hamburger, this type of menu displays more items vertically when you click on it.
Floating hamburger: Similar to hamburger menu, the button floats in a more prominent position on the user’s screen. It’s useful to save screen real estate and can be positioned to be easy to reach with your thumb.
Tabbed menus: Think of the tabbed buttons on the bottom of Instagram’s mobile app. Click any icon in the tabbed menu, and you can see the core functions for that tab on the screen.
Top tabbed menus: Similar to tabbed menus, these menus are placed on the top of the screen. However, since they are located on the upper third of the screen, it’s harder to reach, especially on bigger phones.
Swipe: Popularized by Tinder, where users can easily swipe between screens to switch between different functionalities, the swipe let’s you quickly navigate the mobile site.
These mobile-optimized menus (and other alternatives) allow for easier navigation, which can improve users’ dwell time and lower bounce rate — both important ranking factors. Make sure your website’s navigational menu is properly optimized for mobile screens, and you are halfway there.
4. Use Mobile-Optimized PopUps
As I mentioned above, we’ve traditionally avoided using popups on mobile sites. However, popups can be quite effective. Popups have a conversion rate of 11.09%, according to OptiMonk.
But you need to optimize your popup for mobile devices.
- Don’t allow it to cover the entire screen.
- Make it easy to close anytime.
These two characteristics will minimize the chance of users bouncing. Your popup should only cover a small area so visitors can still perform necessary actions, like opening the menu or scrolling between pages.
Also, you don’t have to show the same popup to returning visitors, which is fairly easy to set up.
With Google’s mobile-first indexing, mobile SEO isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity. I’ve just given you some important best practices to follow in implementing mobile SEO, as well as some tips and techniques you can follow.
Hopefully, this guide can help you set a foundation of your mobile SEO strategy, so you can start optimizing your site to generate more organic traffic.
About the Author: Mike Khorev is a growth consultant from the Toronto, Canada, area. He helps B2B and SaaS brands grow with SEO and content.