If you’re a business owner in 2018, you likely already understand the importance of optimizing your website for search engines – Google search results are often the first place people encounter a business, and if you don’t show up on the first page, you’ll lose customers to your competitors. But is your site designed to be functional for every user?

As of this year, 58 percent of all Google searches are done on a mobile device, according to Hitwise. That means that even if you’ve already optimized your website for SEO, unless you’ve also optimized it for mobile, you could be losing nearly 60 percent of your potential customers!

Why You Should Care About Mobile SEO

Mobile SEO is the process of designing your website to be functional and easy-to-navigate for visitors on mobile devices, and for search engine spiders who index your site for those mobile users. This process takes into account things like page speed, different screen sizes, website structure, and site design to be sure that your website is a pleasant experience for every visitor.

Have you ever been shopping for something on your phone or tablet and been frustrated that the store’s website just didn’t seem to work right? You probably left that site and went to a different one that was better designed. That’s the experience your customers are having every time they visit your site with a mobile device, and since 27.8 billion more searches were performed on mobile versus desktop devices this year, your unresponsive website is likely creating a lot of frustrated customers.

Google’s Switch to Mobile-first Indexing

There’s also another major reason you should care about having a mobile friendly website: in July 2018, Google will be switching to a mobile-first index. This means that from now on, where you show up in Google’s search results will be determined by your site’s mobile experience, rather than desktop. That’s right – in just a few weeks, a new Googlebot will be crawling your site to be sure your mobile performance, content, and user experience are better than those of your competitors, and if they aren’t, you page performance will suffer. And since 95 percent of all mobile searches are done on Google, this change is a big deal for your business.

The Google Webmaster Central blog gives us a bit more info on this new policy:

“To make our results more useful, we’ve begun experiments to make our index mobile-first. Although our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results.”

In short, the future of online retail is mobile, and if you want to compete, you need to be sure your mobile site meets Google’s new standards.

7 Mobile SEO Best Practices to Prepare You for “Mobilegeddon”

How can you tell if your site needs updates before this change to Google’s search algorithm occurs? Unless you specifically designed your site for mobile users in the past, chances are, you’ll need to make some changes. Here’s a quick way to tell if your site is up-to-snuff:

  • Your content and images are easy-to-read on any device
  • The mobile version of your site doesn’t hide content
  • All internal links are functional and up-to-date
  • Content loads quickly on any device
  • Your user experience is designed to be easy for mobile users

If your site meets all of these criteria, you’re good to go. If not, we’re sharing seven ways you can improve your mobile site to be sure you continue to rank highly with Google, and your potential customers have the best experience possible.

  1. Design Your Site for Mobile

    You should be thinking about the mobile experience from the very beginning of your site design. There are a few basic elements you should be aware of as you design a mobile-friendly website:

    –Design for fat fingers: assume all of your potential customers have sausage hands and make buttons, menus, and links big and easy-to-navigate. Don’t make users zoom, squint, or pinch to see anything on your site.
    –Don’t use Flash: most desktop users will have Flash, but you can’t assume all of your customers’ phones and tablets will have this plugin. Avoid using Flash for special effects and use HTML5 instead.
    –Don’t use pop-ups: pop-ups can be useful on desktop sites for capturing visitor information and converting them,  but they can be awkward and difficult to close on mobile sites, which may lead to an increase in your bounce rate.

    Responsive Design Practices

    In general, there are three ways to configure your site for mobile users:

    1. Separate URLs for Mobile vs Desktop – Also called “M. Configuration,” this strategy would serve a user one of two different versions of your site depending on the device the user is on – your desktop version (usually considered the “main” site), and your separate, mobile version (or “M”). This method used to be fairly common, but is much less so today because of all of its accompanying problems.

    For example, M Configuration requires multiple URLs for every piece of content and also requires you to use complicated content tags to be sure your users are getting the correct version. This makes for lots of SEO issues, and since we’re in the business of improving your SEO, we do not recommend using this method.

    2. Dynamic Serving – With this strategy, all of your users will navigate to the same URL, but will see different HTML/CSS depending on what type of device they’re using. This sounds great in theory, but it requires you to constantly update your site for every new mobile device that hits the market. Plus, this strategy is buggy and often shows the desktop version to mobile users by mistake, making it a less-than-ideal strategy for businesses looking to up their mobile user retention.

    3. Responsive Design – The final site configuration option is designing your site’s content and design to be responsive to each type of user. With a responsive website, your pages know to resize photos and text and restructure layouts to fit the size of each user’s screens, and it does so using a single URL, with no buggy redirects or SEO issues. Designing your site to be responsive will save you the headache of having to redesign with every new iPhone release, and to make it even more convincing, Google’s crawlers prefer responsive design over any other type of configuration.
  2. Optimize Page Speed

    Mobile users are searching for your site on-the-go, so they expect your pages to load quickly. And because of the nature of mobile devices, things like connectivity issues and hardware make optimizing your site for mobile even more important than it is for desktop. To improve your mobile speeds you should reduce redirects, minimize unnecessary code, and utilize browser caching.

  3. Avoid blocking CSS, images, or JavaScript

    When cell phones were new, not all of them could support things like CSS, JavaScript, or images, so it was common to block these elements from the mobile version of sites. Technology has made this no longer the case, and Google’s crawlers want to see that you’re showing the same content to your mobile and desktop users. This is also a big way that GoogleBots tell whether your site is responsive, and ranks you accordingly.

  4. Write Content for Mobile Users

    As mentioned earlier, soon Google will start indexing your site based only upon the information your mobile site contains. This means you can’t serve your mobile visitors a paired-down version of your site like you might have in the past. Your site content needs to be identical on both platforms, meaning you need to write specifically for mobile. Mobile users have a higher intent-to-buy than desktop users, and they’re usually only skimming your site to find what they need, so be sure all of your content is clear, concise, and compelling.

  5. Optimize Titles and Metadata

    There are three types of metadata: meta-tags, meta-descriptions, and meta-keywords. You can view all the metadata on your site by selecting the “page source” option under “view” in your browser toolbar on a desktop. These elements are pieces of code that are visible to Google’s crawlers and tell visitors what your pages and content are about. To rank highly in a mobile-first index, be concise in all of your meta descriptions, titles, and URLs.

  6. Optimize for Local Search

    If your business relies on local visitors, don’t forget to optimize your mobile site for local search. For example, if you’re a local dry cleaner, be sure to standardize your name, address (including city and state), and phone number in your site’s metadata so mobile users can find you when they’re on-the-go and looking for your services.
    An example of local search results

  7. Use Schema-Structured Data

    Schema is HTML code that you can include on your website to tell search engines what all of the text on your site is about. One big benefit of this is that it helps improve your search rankings by making it easy for Google to tell if your site is relevant to a search. Another big benefit is the possibility of your site showing up as rich snippets in SERPs (search engine results page).

An example of SERPs.

Schema allows your code to tell Google lots of critical information about your site, including your contact information, events, videos, and reviews. You can see the full list of items available for Schema markup here. Including Schema markup is a great way to be sure the most relevant information about your business shows up first for mobile users.

An Important Key to Ranking in Google’s Mobile Friendly Index

The final step to designing a mobile friendly website is to allow GoogleBots to crawl your entire site. It used to be common to block search engines from accessing JavaScript, CSS, or other parts of your site’s code, but these days, unless Google can crawl your entire site, it can’t tell if your site is mobile friendly or not. And if Google can’t tell, chances are, you won’t rank in those coveted first positions in search results.

So how can you tell if Google can crawl your entire site? First, navigate to your robots.txt file, which gives Google directions for which parts of your site to crawl. You can see inside of your Google Search Console. Next, click “Google Index” > “Blocked Resources.” this will tell you which parts of your site Google can’t crawl, and will allow you to fix those issues.

Big changes are coming to the SEO game, but there’s no need to panic. With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to securing that top spot in Google’s mobile search results.

Want to up your SEO game even further? Let us help you perfect your mobile SEO strategy by booking your free consultation with a Big Leap SEO expert today.

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