Mobile SEO used to be less of a concern for companies when searching the web on a phone was a relatively new phenomenon for a small group of enthusiasts. Today it’s no longer the case due to the fact that even on low-end smartphones you can easily search the web and open any website. And more than a third of the world’s population now owns a smartphone.
Mobile SEO is now an essential ingredient of SEO
In the past we published a number of mobile SEO guides on mobiForge, such as 11 tips on how to drive more traffic to your mobile site. While these tips are still relevant, we talked about mobile SEO as a set of activities specifically aimed at making sure that your mobile website gets found via search on mobile devices.
Today “mobile SEO” is not really separate from SEO due to the fact that you can’t make assumptions on what particular devices your customers may use to access your website via search. Maximizing search traffic from all types of web-enabled devices is now an essential ingredient of any SEO strategy.
5 tips to improve mobile SEO
That being said, you can still make a checklist of relevant SEO techniques which can help you boost your search rankings on mobile. Here are some selected mobile SEO tips which are particularly important in 2016.
1. Make your website mobile-friendly
You must have heard of the term “mobilegeddon” which revolutionized the mobile web back in 2015. Since the mobile-friendly algorithm update, all websites which aren’t mobile-friendly may experience a drop in search rankings on mobile devices.
There are many factors that make a website mobile-friendly including touch-optimized links and menus, large fonts, no horizontal scrolling and panning, and short loading times regardless of the connectivity level. In this article you can learn more about the mobile-friendly algorithm update. To check if your website meets the mobile-friendly requirements you can use the mobile-friendliness test tool.
You may also want to look at mobiReady which gives you the ability to quickly see how a site looks to visitors across a range of different devices from desktop, to high, mid and low-end mobile devices. It also includes the ability to benchmark your site against a basket of the top 1000 websites as measured by Alexa.
2. Make your website fast and lightweight
Given that the average size of a website is now over 2MB, you need to pay particular attention to the size of files you send to mobile and tablet users. What loads quickly on a laptop connected to a fast broadband may be extremely sluggish to load on a phone, even on high-end devices, using a mobile network.
To limit the payload size you can use server-side device detection to select the right website components that work and look great on the user’s device. At the same time those that won’t work or look great may not be loaded at all. Here are some more tips on how to address web performance issues.
3. Signal the relationship between different versions of your website
It is a myth that Responsive Web Design (RWD) addresses SEO better than other website setups. While RWD helps to display your website on smaller screens without horizontal scrolling, responsive sites are often awfully slow on mobile. All of the top 10 Alexa websites use device detection and content adaptation instead of the ‘classic RWD,’ including Google.
Using dynamic serving or separate URLs, which are two alternative mobile setups, you can send users to an optimized version of your website. Contrary to popular belief, separate URLs don’t harm your SEO if you signal this to Google to avoid duplicate content. All desktop pages need one-to-one equivalents on other device types and include ‘rel=canonical’ links on mobile pages and ‘rel=alternate’ links on desktop pages.
Making sure that your desktop website and mobile website are 100% equal may become a key consideration when Google makes its mobile and desktop index separate. It was announced recently at the Pubcon conference.
4. Avoid app install interstitial banners obscuring content
Companies investing in mobile apps may feel the need to push app downloads as much as possible but according to Google it may harm search rankings. Google pays attention to those search results which use app install interstitial banners covering a significant part of content which forces the user to dismiss the banner to actually view the relevant search result. This is particularly harmful if the interstitial ad is triggered on each subsequent visit.
5. Use Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
Google has recently started displaying AMP versions of websites in search results for all websites that support them. It makes sense to jump on the AMP bandwagon for a number of reasons. Your pages will be lighter and faster to load on all devices. And you’ll also get a more prominent look and feel in the search results which may drive more traffic.
Using AMP may feel like “sleepwalking into a walled garden” run by Google as Ronan Cremin recently put it. But in terms of mobile SEO it may be a plausible choice. That said, bear in mind that AMP can be displayed for all mobile visitors, not just those coming from Google, which you can easily set up by using DeviceAtlas.