Mobile SEO: The ultimate guide

Do you want to learn the basics of mobile SEO and learn how use it to your benefit? This article provides all the information you need. Simply put, mobile SEO is Search Engine Optimization adapted for mobile devices.

Read through the following sections to learn why this practice is increasingly important – and why it will likely become even more important in the future.

Why is mobile SEO important?

There are two main reasons why mobile SEO doesn’t just matter – it’s actually a crucial consideration in present day digital marketing.

First and foremost, it matters because mobile traffic is already bigger than desktop traffic. Mobile devices are so tremendously widespread already, so deeply integrated into our daily routines, that many people don’t even notice how their mobile gadgets are their preferred Internet-enabled devices.

Second: with great traffic comes great potential. Knowing this, Google has for years been making announcements about the increasing importance of optimizing all websites for mobile. In case anyone was still wondering about it, in 2018 they outright spelled out that mobile usability is a major ranking factor that includes but is not limited to page loading speed and design responsiveness. In fact, sometime this year their search engine will start relying on a mobile-first index – meaning they will start basing search rankings on how well a website performs on mobile devices.

Keeping this in mind, there is little room for doubting that mobile SEO is now key to the future for this industry. Luckily, mobile SEO is not drastically different from regular SEO… it actually just calls for some specific considerations that you will learn about in the next sections.

What Is Google’s Mobile-First Index?

There is actually a shiny brand new Googlebot crawling the web, and it checks first and foremost the mobile version of any website it comes across – hence the concept of “mobile-first indexing”.

If you want your website to stay competitive and rank high in the future, creating excellent content that draws viewers in remains the most important element. But now it’s nearly as important to also host a responsive website that loads promptly and displays all content adequately when viewed from a mobile device. This is arguably the major implication of mobile-first for webmasters.

The shift to mobile-first indexing puts some real pressure on website developers towards ensuring a positive experience for visitors browsing in from a mobile device. The mobile version of a website is no longer an afterthought – it’s now effectively regarded as the main version. Whatever your approach is to host your website’s mobile version, you have to make sure all content displays correctly and promptly when accessed from a mobile device.

From a web design perspective, collapsing menus (which once were regarded as a potential desktop SEO blunder) are your friends in this new paradigm. They’re a quite useful solution to structure content visually and get the most of the screen real estate available on smaller screens.

If you haven’t spent the time and energy to design a mobile version for your website and make sure it performs smoothly, this should now you one of your foremost priorities.

Luckily, you can use responsive design to host a unified version of your website that performs impeccably in both mobile and desktop devices; see the section below to learn more about this option and some of its alternatives.

How to Implement a Mobile Website That Ranks in Google

When looking to improve the mobile usability of your website, you should actually create a mobile version of the entire website. This is because even though mobile SEO is quite similar to regular SEO, it calls for specific adjustments.
To host a desktop as well as a mobile version of a website, three typical options are possible: hosting the mobile version on a subdomain, relying on dynamic serving or using responsive design.

Hosting the mobile version on a subdomain is a technically outdated solution that involves effectively running two separate versions of your website, which is not practical at all – and asides from being messy and troublesome, it’s actually not aligned with the current SEO best practices.

Dynamic serving is a somewhat better option that allows you to automatically host different two versions of your website from the exact same URL, depending on the user-agent that makes the request. While technically more seamless, it’s still a messy solution that involves managing two separate website versions behind the scenes.

According to Google, the best available option of the three is responsive design, since it allows hosting a separate mobile and desktop version from the same URL and using the same code base. Here the focus is simply on adapting the design in response to the user-agent making the request. This is the most technically elegant option, and it will allow adopting websites to be eligible for immediate inclusion in the new mobile-first index.

By relying on responsive design rather than hosting two separate versions of your website for mobile and desktop, you will indeed save a lot of trouble. When running separate versions, you must ensure a lot of factors remain very consistent across both versions, including structured data, metadata, social metadata, sitemaps and site capacity, just to name a few.

Once you’ve implemented responsive design, make sure to state it clearly to the Google bots by adding meta name = “viewport” somewhere in the head section of your pages.

Focus on user experience and Performance

At this point, you may be wondering exactly what you can do to improve the mobile experience of your visitors and ensure your website performs impressively every single time. Simply put, you have now to prioritize performance above aesthetics; in other words, you now have to design for performance.

The most obvious aspect of excellent website performance boils doing to a simple variable: page loading speed. This isn’t just a random pet obsession of Google engineers, either! In this day and age, it’s a well-known fact that websites that take more than a couple of seconds to fully load will typically lose many visitors who are simply not willing to wait to find what they’re looking for.

Achieving fast page loading times can be tricky, as websites tend to get bigger, pages longer and widgets more plentiful. In any case, there is such a good programmer can do to keep the loading times short and sweet, and page loading speed is a very objective and directly measurable variable – so put as much resources as possible into improving this variable and your website will be even more appreciated by human visitors and search engine bots alike.

Tools for Validate your Mobile SEO website

There are two useful tools available from Google that you can use to analyze how your website performs on mobile: PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse. These tools are very straightforward to use, and we recommend you to check your baseline performance today and start looking to improve on it immediately. The reports provided by these tools will point out the essentials you have to prioritize working on.

To see more-in-depth data, you should also try the new specialized tools for gauging mobile performance, available from Google Webmaster Tools. There is a quick analysis tool called “Mobile-Friendly Test”, as well as a deep analysis tool available in the “Mobile Usability” section. Make sure to familiarize yourself with these tools, and you’ll have a clear idea of what you should do next to align your website with the latest user preferences as well as the best practices for mobile Search Engine Optimization.

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