With more and more of the world’s traffic coming from mobile devices, it’s vital to ensure that your mobile SEO efforts are up to scratch.
Here, we’re going to go through everything you need to know about optimizing websites for handheld users.
First things first, there are certain things you need to do to any page to ensure that the search engines pick up your page and start ranking it.
This is a little bit 101, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do the following:
Put your keyword front-and-center in your page title
Your main page title is your H1, and it’s one of the three main ways Google (and the other search engines) will use to check what your main keyword is.
So, you need to put your chosen keyword close to the beginning of your page title.
So, if your page is ‘Website design mistakes’ you’ll want a page title along the lines of:
- ‘Website design mistakes you might be making’ or;
- ‘Website design mistakes to steer clear of.’
The keyword won’t always be a suitable way to start your page title, but get it as close as possible.
Ensure you’ve got a simple, keyword-focused URL
Ideally, you want your URL to be simple and keyword-focused.
In a world where many CMSs are happy to generate titles automatically, it can be easy to make do with complex, unending URLs that don’t give search engines a clue what your page is about.
Instead, minimize your URLs: ideally, down to the keyword itself.
So, using the website design mistakes page example again, you’ll be looking at a URL like:
Yes, that simple! Remember, you want to make it as easy as possible for the search engines to get an idea of what your page is about. Your URL is part two of three.
Here’s part three:
Drop your keyword in as soon as you can.
Ideally, you want your main focus keyword to be a part of your first sentence, or at least the first paragraph.
A key part of SEO success – and one that’s under-rated – is RELEVANCE. Google’s job is to show readers the most relevant pages to the query they’ve made.
So, by dropping your keyword into the page as soon as you can, you’re showing the search engines that your page is definitely based around the topic they’re looking for.
Ensure your images and media have the right alt-text
Your alt-text is the media description that the search engines use to check what their topic is.
As a result, you want to ensure that this is also your keyword. Whether you’re adding a video or an image, ensure you’ve edited the image.
(Most modern CMSs make this easy, but here’s a more complete guide to changing alt-text if you need it.)
Link in and out!
Back in the day, it was considered SEO suicide to link out to other pages, in case they stole link juice from you.
However, these days things are mercifully more sensible and you can – and should – link to both other pages on your site as well as external resources.
So, for example, if you’re discussing bad website design and you want to link to a very good website (to demonstrate how it should be done) then do so.
Remember, Google loves genuinely valuable resources, and what do valuable resources do? That’s right: they link to other things that might help the reader out!
(Note: these are the main tips that’ll help you get results, but we’d definitely recommend checking out this outstanding article on technical SEO optimization at Backlinko. Brian’s a genius, and anyone SEO-minded should check his site out.)
Before we look at the differences that come from optimizing for mobile, we’re going to go through some of the main things you need to consider when carrying out any kind of SEO campaign.
Make use of analytics
It’s strange to think, but many companies trying to put together a digital marketing campaign actually don’t install Google Analytics.
Needless to say, this is MAJOR error.
Google Analytics can provide you with a wealth of information on virtually every metric that matters when it comes to digital marketing:
- How visitors engage with your site
- How many conversions you’re making
- What your return on investment is
- Where your traffic is coming from
And so on. Put simply, without using analytics effectively, you’ll never know if what you’re doing is working, and that’s a sure fire way to waste both money and time.
Focus on creating the best content you can
One of the most common mistakes you can make with any SEO and content marketing campaign is not providing real value.
It’s very easy to hire someone to throw out 350 word articles for next to nothing.
The truth, though, is that you’ll only get real results when you invest serious time into your SEO.
A number of studies have shown that longer pieces of content nearly always rank better in Google than short ones.
Remember, just because 300 words or so is considered the bare minimum, doesn’t mean you should get that far and stop.
(On our blog, for instance, you won’t find many pieces of content shorter than 1,000 words.)
Don’t FORCE writing longer pieces if your topic doesn’t cover it, but aim to create pieces of content with real depth.
SEO means providing a better user experience
One of the most important factors in SEO success is your bounce rate: that is, how many people land on your website and immediately leave.
So, you can’t focus JUST on content: you need to ensure your website is designed in a way that makes it pleasing to use.
This is why UX design is such a vital part of the SEO process. If you design a great website that users love, they’ll stay on it, resulting in a lower bounce and, from there, better results in the search engines.
Don’t under-estimate the value of keyword research
Good keyword research isn’t just about finding ANY terms, it’s about finding ones where you can offer real value.
What experience and knowledge do you have? Where can you offer genuine, actionable advice?
Work that out first, and then use the many available keyword tools to find out which term you should optimize around.
(Brian Dean is again the man for Keyword Research instruction: check out his brilliant guide here.)
Provide a site map to the search engines
This is an old-school technique, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take it seriously.
A good site-map will enable the search engine spiders to easily locate every page on your site, and you can be sure they’ll get indexed as a result
(Here’s a simple. Step-by-step guide on how to do this.)
If you can optimize for local search, do it
If they’re relevant to the search query, Google will prioritize local results.
As a result, if you get any kind of local custom, you need to ensure you take care of your local SEO.
(For a great guide on this, check out this guide here.)
So, what’s the difference between SEO for desktop and SEO for mobile?
Well, the truth is that a lot of SEO techniques – optimizing your page, creating great content – are universal. They work across the board.
However, there are a number of different things that are particular specific to mobile users. We’ll go through them:
Responsive design is essential
If you can only make ONE change to your website to get better mobile SEO results, make it a responsive design.
Remember, the search engines are, in the end, all about providing people with the best results they can, and they take bounce rate very seriously.
If a user lands on your website whilst using their mobile, and they’re confronted with a design that doesn’t even fit the screen – or one they have to zoom in on and constantly move around the page – they’ll leave.
Responsive design – a design that adapts to whatever screen it’s on – is simply essential for mobile SEO. If you don’t use it, you’ll pay the price.
(If you’re in certain markets, a responsive design will actually give you the chance to get ahead of the game: some fields are particularly slow to adopt to technology.)
Loading times matter even more
We’ve talked before about the patience – or lack of it – that many modern web users possess.
Unfortunately, that goes double for mobile users.
Mobile users are INCREDIBLY impatient when it comes to load time. If your site isn’t speedy, they’ll simply leave it.
Indeed, studies from Google themselves indicate that fast-moving sites earn nearly twice as much as those which are slow to get going.
What’s more, loading times are a very important metric to search engines: slow sites get penalized. It’s that simple.
(Check out these great tools, all of which will allow you to check out your current site loading speed.)
Fonts and font sizes make a difference
Yup, we can’t argue with that: font sizes isn’t the most gripping conversation topic.
However, it can make a big difference to your users. Get your fonts wrong, and mobile users just won’t read what you’ve written.
Typecast – who know their onions – recommend a pixel size of 16px or so, and a line height of 1.25.
On that note, it’s also important not to have a huge headline. This isn’t a matter of attention, though: it’s simply a matter of space. If your headline is huge, there won’t actually be room for everything else on a mobile screen!
(Oh, and if you’re thinking this isn’t SEO related, think again: remember, keeping users on your site MATTERS. If they don’t read your content, your time on page will go down and your bounce rates will go up.)
Remember that you’re dealing with skim readers
It’s standard SEO practice to use different tools to break your page up:
- Bullet points
Etc. This is more important on mobile devices, so if you want to target phone readers, ensure your content is REALLY broken up well.
Make sure you’re not blocking any files
Some site owners choose to block search spiders from accessing certain files, such as scripts or images.
Now, unless you’re doing this consciously, it shouldn’t be an issue.
However, if you didn’t build your own site, you need to check if you have any mobile SEO fetching issues. Here’s the tool.
Why is this important? Because Google themselves have confirmed that blocking any files can affect the engine algorithms and lead to what they call ‘sub-optimal’ rankings.
Even if you’re fairly sure you’re not blocking anything, it’s worth a double-check!
Ensure you’ve taken mobile UX into account
We’ve already mentioned user experience. Hopefully you understand the value of it (if not, read this!).
However, have you taken the time to ensure that the mobile arm of your responsive design takes the user into account? Remember, mobile users don’t think and act in quite the same way, and they’re looking for a suitably different – but still pleasant – experience.
You might be surprised how many designers that understand the value of UX focus all their energy onto the desktop, to the extent that by the time they start working on the responsive design, they’re just happy to make sure it fits.
You should take the time to thoroughly test the mobile versions of your sites, just as you would the desktop versions. (For more information on UX testing, check out our blog here.)
Don’t underestimate the testing tool
The most important thing to remember when it comes to mobile SEO is that Google is there to help (most of the time!).
In fact, they’ve provided a full tool designed specifically to help you check how well your website performs on mobile. Check it out here.
If you’re interested in learning more about the potential value of mobile SEO, get in touch with Iconic Solutions today, we’d love to help.