While we are all partially aware of how big of an impact mobile devices have on the daily lives of this generation, things get even more complicated and the changes are more significant once you look at the whole thing from a position of a business owner. The ways mobile devices impact productivity, business communication and many other aspects of optimising business practises are still things that entrepreneurships are trying to optimise, even on a corporate level. The potential is great but establishing an optimal approach is something that is individual for each separate business and integrating it into your established workflow is very much a process.
When it comes to SEO and mobile devices, things are not as straightforward as we would like them to be but we are getting there. SEO always had a dose of flexibility and it is highly unlikely that two SEO specialists in the world approach it in the exact same manner. Nevertheless, mobile SEO can be a tangled web of information that can be hard to wrap one’s head around, especially if you start running from source to source and get contradictory information. We are here to attempt to untangle this web for you a little bit and get you up to date with the latest changes.
Performance is key to successful SEO
The final goal of designing a well optimized website that passes all mobile SEO standards is performance. Not every user will have the latest version of Apple’s iPhone or whatever the latest trendy device may be, and you need to keep this in mind when designing your website. Sure, your website may run smoothly on new devices with strong Wi-Fi access, but you need to take into account the average user. For them, the fact that a website takes too much time to load is not something their device is to be blamed for – it is the website’s fault. This usually leads to a high abandonment rate which can destroy all you hard work towards creating an SEO optimized website.
The problem with performance is usually related to the multimedia elements that are too “heavy”. This include pictures, videos, infographics, animations and other content the quality of which can have a big role in performance optimization. In a perfect world, maximized content quality is a desirable thing, but making every picture HD and every video 1080p can kill your website’s performance. You need to hit that sweet spot between having decent quality content which can load up pretty fast. Keep your target audience in mind. The average users in India and the USA are very different from each other.
Basically, similar to regular SEO, optimizing websites for mobile users includes optimizing its load up speed. Being slow, means being low in SERPs.
The three types of mobile design
There are three options when it comes to making a mobile friendly website and each one comes with its own set of advantages. They all have their quirks when it comes to SEO as well and you need to take your needs into account when making a decision.
- Responsive Design
The most widely used approach due to its versatility and ease of application. A responsive website adapts to the size of the screen the user is using to access it. More importantly for our subject matter, it doesn’t require any additional coding to help crawlers search for the relevant SEO elements. The viewport code is a standard part of the responsive design and it serves the purpose of adapting the design to specific devices. This approach is the one recommended by Google, but is not the only option at your disposal.
- Dynamic Design
The second option includes using dynamic content which will display differently for different devices. Your server will respond differently (meaning that it will call up a different HTML and CSS) on the same URL depending on which device makes that request. You will need to add some additional code for this design in order to get crawlers to go through it properly. The Vary HTTP code needs to be present in the website’s header.
- Separate Mobile Website
This approach is broadly considered as outdated and ineffective. Nevertheless, we need to be thorough. Making a separate mobile website makes SEO extremely difficult and means that you are basically doing it for two separate domains. Mobile websites will have an m.domain or mobile.domain URL and you will need to use annotations on your desktop webpages and canonical tags for your mobile pages in order to separate and point the crawlers to the right ones. This method is particularly difficult to implement for large websites that have a lot of separate web pages.
User experience as an SEO factor
From a business perspective, this is one of the most important factors of web design but it is also crucial from an SEO perspective. Crawlers are smart and they have objectives to determine if your website actually provides optimal experience for the users that visit your website. The factors relevant for user experience include the following:
- Quick Load Time
- Ease of navigation
- Clean URLs
- Proper redirect
User experience doesn’t merely include these technical aspects but also the design of the website. The content needs to be readable without requiring additional zooming in (or out for that matter). It should also be properly segmented. The scrolling needs to be vertical, not horizontal, since it can be quite unintuitive for a touchscreen user to scroll sideways. Another issue should be the design of the UI. You need to make the buttons large enough so the users with the biggest fingers have no trouble hitting them. There are few things more annoying than missing a button while browsing and having to go back and so on and so forth. Adapting your forms for mobile users is also important. There are few people out there who are willing to bother filling out large form using their phones.
- Plug-ins: They are usually designed for PCs and can cause a lot of trouble for an average mobile user. They also require updates which can cause even further trouble making them a very big liability.
- Adobe Flash Player: Flash is becoming more and more complicated to handle and most mobile device are not equipped to handle them.
- Pop-Ups: These can be bad all on their own but combine them with a mobile website they can really wreak havoc.
Local SEO optimization
To me, as well as most other SEO specialists, having a mobile friendly website and not optimizing it for local searches. The majority of mobile queries are related to “on the go” contexts, meaning that people are searching for things (shops, locations, hotels, etc.) near them and want the closest, most reliable solution. Not tapping into this potential with an already up and running website means missing out on a lot of potential.
This subject is very broad but these basics should be enough to get you on the right track. We would not recommend creating and optimizing a mobile website without the presence of a webmaster and an SEO specialists. There are too many quirks you need to be aware of in order to make it run smoothly. Furthermore, having a professional help you out will make the optimization period shorter and get your website up and running faster. Again, keep the users in mind and you can’t go wrong. Many strive to create an impressive website that stuns users as soon as they land on it, but that’s not the user’s need. They need a functional, fast and intuitive design which gets them what they came to get in the first place. We hope you liked our article and that it provided you with some practical information that you can use to improve the experience people have when they visit your website. Until next time, stay mobile!