Mobile SEO - A Definitive Guide

Businesses boomed with having two versions of their websites – a complete desktop version and a stripped-down mobile version. Today, the mobile presence must not only need to be attractive as your desktop version but also needs to load at lightning speed. 

Recently, Google announced certain changes to their SEO ranking algorithm, which improves the experience of using the websites on smartphones. The goal of changes is to improve the search results for those websites, which are smartphone-friendly. However, the new rules also penalize those sites that are difficult to browse on mobile phones. 

All you need to do is follow the recommendations proposed by Google and understand its impact on the publishing and e-commerce sites, along with having an awareness of the common pitfalls for mobile SEO. In the following guide for the new Google mobile SEO rules, we will highlight the most significant ways of optimizing your website and take advantage of the recent changes.

What is Mobile SEO?

Mobile SEO is a technique and practice of optimizing your website for the users on smartphones and tablets and forms the backbone of Google’s index, which first rolled out in 2018. However, Google failed to provide many hints for the past few years. Mobile SEO analyses the performance of your website on tablets and smartphones, according to Google bots. Google inspects your sites and ranks the same based on different factors. At Shrushti, while focusing on mobile SEO, we better perform your website on mobiles, thereby gaining a better ranking by Google.

Importance of Mobile SEO

Since people are more inclined to access the internet on their smartphones and tablets, mobile SEO has become crucial. Google starts looking at your mobile website as the primary internet presence for your company. Since 2016, mobile usage has surpassed desktop usage in terms of browsing the internet. Today, more people perform searches on their mobiles rather than over their laptops and desktops.

The following statistics provide the best picture of how we tether our smartphones. There is no doubt, they are the ones to which we look at it in the morning and the last one to go off dim in the night. We scroll over Facebook while we wait in the grocery line and look out for the facts and news throughout the day. Surely, our smartphones form a huge part of our day. 

A study conducted states that more than 40% of users use their smartphones in booking their flights and hotels. People perform more than 56% of searches on their mobile devices. The status accounts for 144 billion more queries performed on mobile devices than on desktop. It is not surprising enough that SEO for mobile forms the future of Search Engine Optimization (SEO); hence, Google enhanced its algorithm for mobile searches.

Google’s Mobile-Friendly Update

In 2017, people performed 95% of all the mobile research on Google, and hence the update aimed to prioritize mobile-friendly sites in mobile searches and penalize unfriendly websites. According to a source, the algorithm’s new update affected approximately 45% of the Fortune 500 companies and 29% of the retail internet sites. Furthermore, in 2018, Google launched its Mobile First Indexing, prioritizing mobile webpages over desktop versions. 

As of April 27, 2020, a 21% decrease in the number of non-mobile-friendly URLs on the first three pages of SERPs post the new update. On the other hand, a decrease seen on the first page of 17.3% had a great impact on the second and third SERP pages causing a decrease of 20.7% and 25.2%, respectively, in non-mobile-friendly URLs. 

From the study, we determined that the websites ranking on the second and third SERP pages have fewer chances of mobile optimization and hence faced more adverse impacts from the updates. Besides the updated algorithm, you must employ certain fundamental practices, which help improve your site’s impact and position your company for optimal search ranking.

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Google’s Mobile-First Indexing

Google’s Mobile-First Indexing ranks the search results based on the mobile version of your first webpage, and this occurs even if the users search them from a desktop. Before the update, Google looked at the desktop version and ranked the webpages based on their content and relevance to the search queries. 

The ‘mobile-first indexing’ is not ‘mobile-only indexing,’ which means that if a website fails to have a mobile-friendly version, Google continues to index the webpage using the desktop index. However, the lack of mobile-friendly design has an adverse impact on your website’s search ranking. With most people prefer searching across mobile devices, it is beneficial to have a mobile optimized website.

Impact of Mobile-First Indexing

The impact of Mobile-First Indexing depends entirely on your website. If your website has a mobile responsive design or a dynamic serving website, where both the mobile and the website have the same primary content and mark-up, you need not make any changes. Your website is at par if it has the following features: 

  • The layout and the screen size adapts to all the devices, meaning it is mobile responsive

  • The webpages have high loading speed on both the desktop and mobile versions

  • The content is visible on the mobile versions
     
  • The webpages have working external and internal links. 

  • If your website fails to have any of the features, your search rankings start declining with Google’s Mobile-First Indexing.

Google’s New Mobile SEO Rules

One-URL and Responsive Websites 

We came to know that in summer 2020, Google announced that mobile versions of websites must have the same URL across diverse platforms. In simple words, Google gives more importance to ranking those sites that use the same URLs across all types of devices, ranging from desktops to tablets. However, another recent announcement made by Google stated that it favors one-URL in mobile search. Moreover, Google recommended the web developers use responsive web designs that would serve the same HTML across all devices. 

Sharing over Social Media is Trendy

Whether it is email, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, or any other social media platform, if you want to share your URLs, nothing can beat the idea of you sharing them over the social media platforms. Social media bring in more traffic to your website as the followers click on the links. The clicking of the link improves your website’s organic search results, thereby positively influencing your search rankings, especially when they contain images, videos, articles, and blogs.

Slow Redirects

We saw that Google’s performance penalties for redirects have adverse effects on smartphones and other mobile devices. If your URL starts with ‘m.’ or ‘mobile.’, (for instance, http://www.m.myself.com), you will need a redirect to go there. Visitors visiting the website from organic searches typically land on the desktop website. The visitors are then redirected to the sites meant for mobile devices. However, the delay of the redirect depends on your internet connectivity. If a visitor of your website on a 3G mobile device, the site will take to load up to half a second, which according to KISSmetric’s model, costs 3.5% of the conversions. Following the model, we calculated and saw if you can make a million USD through your website. However, if you delay half a second, you will lose one and a quarter million dollars a year. Moreover, you might face some hidden yet significant costs with redirects, such as IT overheads. 

Mobile Proxies 

Although Google will continue to provide proxy solutions, your incorrectly configured proxies will fail to rank high. However, if you wish to continue using mobile proxies, ensure that you meet the specific annotation recommendations proposed by Google

We found that very few websites implement these annotations successfully. Among the Internet Retailer Top 500 List, only 4.5% of the proxy-based retailers successfully implemented the proposed annotations. However, most proxy-based retailers either partially implemented or failed to implement the annotations, demonstrating compliance challenges. It is a very good reason for focusing on the efforts you give towards establishing a single URL or all devices. 

If you use a separate mobile URL and complete compliance with the requirements, you need to modify the mark-up for all the pages you have on your desktop and mobile devices. Alternatively, you can also put the entries into your desktop sitemap. However, if you do so, you need to add an entry for every page of your site. Moreover, you will need to introduce a legal link tag to the separate mobile and tablet websites, which will indicate the corresponding content page of the desktop website. More than 50% of the websites belonging to the Internet Retailer Top 500 list failed in setting their canonical tag for other pages (except the homepage), while 95% of them failed in setting the reciprocal desktop annotation. 

Shorter Mobile Keywords 

Mobile keywords are a little different from standard desktop keywords since people use mobile devices differently from desktops. Mobile devices have smaller keyboards than desktops and do not lend themselves well to typing long strings of words. Hence, you need to use shorter keywords for your mobile devices compared to the standard ones. Forget long-tail variations and stick to words that are only two or three words long. 

Irrelevant Cross-Linking

The practice of irrelevant cross-linking is known as incorrect opt-out behavior. If the users withdraw from your mobile-optimized view, you need to take them to the desktop version page, not to the home page or some other landing pages. Try to track all the withdrawals in analytics. However, if you come across pages where you find mobile visitors continuously opting out, it indicates that there is something wrong with the mobile page. If your mobile page has hidden or broken content of the desktop, note it is a common problem that you need to address at the earliest. 

Mobile Content

Your mobile page needs to have the same content as your desktop website. All the formats of the contents, including the texts, images, and videos, should be crawlable and indexable in the mobile version. Google updated their applications and mobile results for displaying badges for image search, which means the image attributes you ignored till now have become more relevant during the mobile searches. 

Another method of aligning your content over desktop and mobile ready website is through voice search. At Shrushti, we recommend optimizing your meta titles for mobile searches, as they are shorter. Remember, as visitors perform voice searches from mobile devices, it makes sense to optimize your mobile site.

Achieving Higher Google Search Ranking for Mobile 

To establish a successful business, you need to use the best techniques for your mobile app SEO to optimize your company’s site on mobile devices. With more and more customers using mobile devices for searching for your products and services, you need to give them a better experience by showing a small version of your desktop website. However, it is easy to implement a mobile optimized website.

Techniques to Implement Mobile Website

There are three main approaches to implement to make your website mobile-friendly. They are: 

  • Responsive Design 

Using a mobile responsive web design is the best method to build a mobile ready website. The method uses the same HTML code and URL irrespective of the user’s device and optimizes the website’s page layout and content depending on the screen size. The method provides a greater user experience, allowing the users to share links, minimize duplicated content, and does not require redirects. 

  • Dynamic Serving

When you show dynamic content across different devices, you use the same URL but different HTML codes for each. Although the practice is better than separate URLs, yet it is highly prone to errors. 

  • Separate URLs

The technique serves different HTML codes for different user devices and separate URLs. The practice requires detecting user’s devices and redirecting them to the page optimized for the specific device.

How is Shrushti in Help To You?

For the best experience in mobile SEO services, you have come to the right place. With innovative technologies and structured workflow, Shrushti emerged as the best mobile SEO Company. Besides, with highly professional and experienced digital marketers, the firm aims to provide the best-in-class services in SEO, SEM, content marketing, audits, consultancy services, and White label SEO. 

About the Author

My name’s Semil Shah, and I pride myself on being the last digital marketer that you’ll ever need. Having worked internationally across agile and disruptive teams from San Fransico to London, I can help you take what you are doing in digital to a whole next level.

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