As part of the update, Google is now showing significantly different search results to desktop and mobile users, and mobile usability has been made a ranking factor for mobile search results. This is great news for anyone whose website is already mobile-friendly, however, if your website is not, it could result in your website ranking lower than it did previously on mobile search results.
We put together an article highlighting the most important aspects of mobile search engine optimisation.
Mobile friendly design
For mobile, it is important to have a design that is optimised for performance. This means quick load times, a clean layout and great readability.
Page speed is more important on mobile than on desktops. Mobile users often have less time and are therefore less patient to wait for websites to load. Google provide a great tool for checking your page speed.
Make content easy to read on mobile. This means displaying it in such a way that the user doesn’t need to zoom in to be able to read the text. Avoid horizontal scrolling and stick to vertical scrolling to access more of the content.
Flash, interstitials and pop-ups
Avoid using Adobe Flash Player. Not only is Flash quickly becoming outdated even on desktop, many mobile devices cannot actually render Flash elements.
Make sure to avoid pop-ups and interstitials wherever possible. Have you ever found yourself on a website only to find that it is impossible to close a pop-up because the little X was just outside of what you were able to see on your screen? I know I have! It is incredibly frustrating for the user and will likely lead to them leaving your website. App install Interstitials that cover a significant amount of your content may result in your page not being considered mobile-friendly, meaning you won’t rank as well as mobile-friendly pages.
If you use pop-ups, make sure they render well on all sorts of mobile devices and make sure they are easy to close.
Navigation and forms
The navigation should be easy and straight forward. Avoid menus that are too cluttered and make sure the menu items are big enough to easily navigate a website. If you add contact forms to your website, keep them as short as possible. The fewer boxes a user has to fill in, the more likely they are to send off a contact form, so avoid complex and long forms that would take a long time to fill in.
Responsive design vs. dynamic design vs. mobile website
Google recommends using responsive design, however, this is not a ranking factor. As long as your website is mobile-friendly and you have implemented all design factors correctly, it won’t make a difference to Google which option you choose.
Responsive design means that by correctly setting the viewport, you are telling all mobile devices how to best display your website content, no matter whether it is a smartphone, a phablet or a tablet, and regardless whether it is an Apple, Windows or an Android device.
When using a dynamic website design, your website content gets rendered differently depending on whether the user is using a desktop or a mobile device. You can use the Vary HTTP code to tell Google that you are providing a mobile-friendly design.
If you have a separate mobile website, for example at http://m.domain.com/, search engine optimisation is a little more complicated, as your website will exist twice. You can use annotations and canonical tags to tell Google which content to display to whom, and to avoid penalisation for duplicated content. As you can imagine, this could be a complex issue for large websites.
Google and mobile SEO
Google have put together a guide to mobile SEO which you can find here. To find out whether your website is mobile friendly, check your website’s Google Search Console profile. Click on Search Traffic -> Mobile Usability. You can also check whether an individual page is mobile-friendly with the Mobile-Friendly Test which you can find here. Keep in mind that this test can only check individual pages and not a whole domain.
If you need help with optimising your website for mobile, feel free to get in touch.