What is SEO for Mobile?

The process of improving the experience of visitors who access your website from mobile devices —smartphones and tablets. Mobile SEO is all about offering an exceptional experience to visitors to your mobile site. That means it loads quickly and without issues, has stellar content that matches user intent, and has a good page experience.

Why is SEO for Mobile Important? Why make a website mobile-friendly?

If not mobile-friendly, a site can be difficult to view and use on a mobile device.

For example, it might require users to pinch and zoom in order to read content, which leads to a frustrating user experience. It should be readable and easily usable.

The mobile-first index does not affect your ranking position, but mobile-friendliness is a ranking factor so your user experience on these devices is still important and mobile-friendliness is viewed page by page so focus on your money pages first. Results based on a mobile version of the page, even if you are searching from a desktop. 

The majority of web traffic worldwide comes from mobile searches.

Google has been stressing the importance of mobile SEO in recent years in its Google algorithm updates.

Google rolled out their "mobile-friendliness" update in 2015, their mobile-first index in 2018 (which focused on mobile page speed), and mobile-first indexing for all websites in September 2020. All sites should be indexed mobile-first by march 2021. 

Websites that are fully optimized for mobile search are preferred. Google will determine rankings based on the quality of the mobile version of the site instead of the desktop version.

Reach Your Customers At The Right Place and Time with Mobile Search

Ranking in mobile search enables you to reach your customers at the right time in the right place with the right experience. More and more people are getting their information off of their phones and mobile devices — whether they are on public transportation or laying in bed, the need to have information readily available at a user's fingertips is only increasing.

The data shows that mobile searches have exceeded desktop searches in recent years and this is only going to increase.

The experience you offer your visitors on mobile can be the biggest determining factor for your brand image and future relationships

Mobile Sales are on The Rise

People feel more comfortable buying on their phones or mobile device. Our whole lives are in these devices. They are an extension of ourselves. Mobile doesn’t always mean on-the-go. It's just people grabbing the most convenient device near them in many cases. 

Local SEO is huge for mobile search results. Users perform a lot of nearby searches on mobile devices for which Google returns a lot of localized results compared to desktop — mobile SEO helps you get found. 

Google says smartphone users have a higher buyer intent than desktop users. They are focused and ready to buy and it's your job to be there for them when they looking for associated products and services.

Make it easy for people to become your customers. 

Mobile User Experience is a Reflection of Your Brand

It's very much a user experience and branding thing in addition to technical issues. Getting a bad experience on mobile can scare people away for good, and can reflect poorly on your brand as a whole.

Should I Invest in Mobile SEO?

In terms of investing in mobile SEO, it depends on your business and the percentage of mobile traffic you get. If you are an e-commerce store owner, it's a big deal. If you don’t get a lot of mobile traffic, maybe optimization isn’t a priority, but it will likely catch up. Either way, mobile searches play a big role in deterring the purchase decision in the buyer journey. They may search on a mobile device one day and convert from their desktop another day. 

What is the difference between mobile SEO and desktop SEO? Which URL Does Google index?

Understand how Google perceives searches made on mobile and desktop. 

It used to be the case that most of the desktop and mobile version of any web page’s content was used by Google’s index to show results for a query — with desktop being the primary source. Now, only the mobile version is displayed.

With mobile-first indexing, they index the mobile version. Neither mobile-friendliness nor a mobile-responsive layout are requirements for mobile-first indexing. Pages without a mobile version that still work on mobile are usable for indexing. 

How's Mobile SEO different from desktop SEO?

Desktop SEO has a general focus, while mobile has a more local focus.

You might get different results on desktop and mobile — location is a big influence on rankings in some queries.

Think about the importance of rich results here — searching for flights, events, jobs, movies, music, products, etc. Rich results are important in mobile searches where you likely want an answer even faster than when searching on a desktop.

If your site already loads resources across all devices, doesn’t hide content on mobile versions, loads quickly, has working internal links and redirects, and has a good user experience — then you are already good.

How do I check if my website is mobile-friendly?

There are a variety of tools that you can use to see how mobile-friendly your website is.

Google’s mobile-friendly test

  1. Paste your websites URL or a specific code snippet.
  2. Google will let you know whether it is mobile-friendly or not.
  3. Google will also indicate and provide details of any issues, like page loading, if there are any. 

Google's mobile usability tool

  1. Log into Google Search Console
  2. Select "mobile usability" on the left-hand side.
  3. If the site has any errors, they will be shown under details and the types of errors and number of pages affected will also be shown.

How to build a site that ranks well in the mobile index?

Google allows us to implement a mobile-friendly site in 3 ways: separate URLs, responsive design, and dynamic serving. 

Separate URLs

This configuration works on the principle of first detecting the user's device and then serving the optimized URL for that device. In other words, there is a mobile and desktop version of your site and a different code on different URLs is served to the mobile and desktop. 

It can get hectic — add a rel = alternate tag on your desktop page to point to the corresponding mobile URL.  And add rel = canonical on your mobile page to point to the corresponding desktop URL 

Google does not recommend this option.

Dynamic Serving

The URL doesn’t change, but different versions of the HTML and CSS are served for mobile and desktop. The server detects the user's device and requests the corresponding user agent to crawl the page and present it. 

There are some issues with this. Detection can be flawed and lead to errors — like a Google user agent for desktop won’t be able to Crawl mobile content. Also, a detection error could occur or the desktop version could be presented to the mobile user and ruin their experience.

Google does not recommend this option either.

Responsive Design

The same HTML code is served on the same URL, regardless of the user's device. The code and content respond to each individual user and adjust to different screen sizes. 

Google recommends responsive design — the crawlability of your site is highly efficient, and there is no redirection for users so load time is improved. There are also fewer chances of errors and mistakes in device detection, URL redirection, and the display of content. 

With responsive design, you have one site that adapts to the device it's used on, and there is only one code base — so maintenance is easy.

Responsive Design Mobile SEO Tips:

Page Experience Update

For the first time ever, Google is taking into account how users experience a site. Does it load quickly? Can you interact with it seamlessly? Do elements move while you are trying to navigate?

Page speed now looks at three core web vitals. What can you do to improve page speed and these new metrics? Read our page on the page experience update.

How do you design for mobile SEO performance? 

Mobile SEO is designing for performance — which boils down to site speed. The faster your site is, the happier users will be. Otherwise, they give up and go elsewhere. And optimizing for performance is a continuous process. 

Check Google Crawlability

Choosing to incorporate a responsive web design setup doesn’t automatically make it mobile-friendly

You need to make sure Google can crawl and access everything. To do this, check the URL inspection tool in Google Search Console. This is the replacement tool for "fetch as Google."

Here are the steps:

  1. Go to the URL Inspection Tool in Google Search Console
  2. Enter any URL here and it will tell you how Google renders the content.
  3. Expand the menu to check and fix issues. 
  4. Also, check if Google is blocked from indexing any important URLs in your robots.txt file.

Avoid using interstitial popups

User experience always trumps other factors in determining a web pages ranking and importance. Content accessibility on mobile is priority. Google has expressed concern over the use of hindering popups since 2016.  Now a ranking signal as of 2017 - mobile popup penalty. Some are OK - ones that don’t compel a click or hide the background completely.

Present same content on desktop and mobile

As mentioned before, if there is a difference in content between mobile and desktop versions of your site, you have a problem. The whole idea of a mobile-first index is for users to do everything they could on a desktop on mobile. The text, the headings, the images, the page titles, the meta descriptions — they should all look relatively the same.

Improve mobile site speed

There is a lot of work to be done on mobile site speeds and page load times are a ranking factor. Your server response time should be minimal.

To accomplish fast mobile speed:

Offer a seamless mobile experience

People often remember great experiences with a website. That's why page experience is now a ranking factor. It's critical that they have the best possible user experience.

Improve these things:

Prepare for voice search

Many voice searches are performed on mobile devices. Try to include more conversational and question keywords and implement structured data. The majority of voice searches are longer in query length and in the form of questions and structured data helps you qualify for voice search.

Top Best practices for Mobile SEO