It should not come as a surprise to anyone that mobile internet use has reached an all-time high in 2015. In fact, Google reports that mobile search volume has already surpassed desktop, so there’s no turning back.
With search behavior having already shifted, Google has moved mobile to the top of their list for algorithm updates and tweaks. In fact, Google rolled out a major algorithm update in late April of 2015 that was focused on rewarding “mobile friendly” websites with better placement on search engine results pages (SERPs) for smartphone and tablet searches.
Bottom line: if your website isn’t already mobile friendly, you are already behind the curve.
What can you do? Take immediate action. Optimizing a website for mobile can be quite complicated, depending on what approach you select. But it doesn’t have to be. If you align with the following five strategies, you’ll be in good shape heading into 2016.
1. Go Responsive and Don’t Look Back
I have been a major proponent of building all websites as mobile responsive for several years now. What does this mean? A mobile responsive website senses the screen dimensions of the device fetching the content and adjusts how the website is displayed based on those dimensions. Check out the Return On Now website on a standard browser and see how it morphs when you change the view within the browser window. This is how responsive websites typically operate.
There are really only two other viable options for mobile sites – dynamic websites that serve up different content on different platforms, or separate mobile websites that require you to manage multiple web properties. Both of these are problematic for various reasons.
Dynamic websites, while good for user experience, can become a problem if they serve up different content to search engine spiders than they do for other users. Any good SEO will tell you that this is a ticket to being labeled a spammer. No one wants that label placed on their website.
As for separate mobile websites, those come with a great deal of overhead. Basically, it is the equivalent of signing up for twice the work in areas such as design, UX, SEO, and copywriting.
It’s hard enough building and ranking a single website, so why in the world would you voluntarily opt to double that work? The easy, and smart answer, is to simply go to responsive and move on.
2. Optimize Load Times
How fast your website and its pages loads has always been important to user experience. For years now, Google has recommended that all pages on your website load in 1.5 seconds or less. The standing “worst case” that has been bandied about for years was 7 seconds before people will run out of patience and jump ship.
On mobile, performance matters even more. I’ve seen industry estimates that people will give up in 2-3 seconds tops. The search engines also take page load time into account when ranking content. It matters, a lot.
How do you optimize a website to make it load faster? There are a range of possible remedies, from upgrading your hosting, to changing the sequence various resources and scripts load on a page, to minifying code, and even optimizing images.
If you want to learn much more about optimizing page load time, this post covers it pretty thoroughly.
3. Focus on User Experience across Platforms
User Experience (UX) has become an accepted piece of website design and development in recent years. But the UX is completely different on different platforms.
When building your responsive website, always keep in mind that mobile users are on smaller phones and must interact with it via a touchscreen. This is completely different than using a mouse on a desktop or laptop computer.
Spacing matters, as does layout, flow and several other factors. If you aren’t familiar with best of breed cross-platform UX, bring in someone who is. You’ll be glad you did in the end.
4. Don’t Forget About Local
When optimizing for mobile, local should factor in heavily on your approach. Local SEO impacts the seven pack and other off-site listings, but those listings are in turn impacted by how you represent your location both on the website and on the search engine local directories (e.g. Google MyBusiness).
Mobile users are shown results that are geographically close to the location where they search. Be sure your mobile site is indexed at the proper location. You can influence this heavily in several ways, including semantic markup for location.
5. Track Mobile Keywords Separately
Part of optimizing for mobile is to be sure what impact your efforts are having on your organic search traffic. Since mobile friendliness is assigned by Google on a page by page basis, you want to be sure you know if any pages failed to make the grade.
The easiest tool you have available for this is Google Search Console (formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools). This free service from Google provides you with a summary of what keywords drove clicks to your website from each of the major platforms, specifically splitting out between desktop and mobile searches. Since it is available to you, take advantage of the data.
How do I know I’ve done it right?
In preparation for the mobile update (Mobilegeddon as the industry came to call it), Google released a useful tool that crawls your website and tells you if you’ve optimized it for mobile properly. If you want to QA your work, just hop over to Google’s Mobile Friendly Testing Tool and see if it gives you a pass or fail on your website. Takeout the guesswork and find out for sure if you got it right.
Mobile is here to stay, so your website should be built to satisfy mobile users. If you follow these simple five strategies, you will be on top of your mobile traffic in short order.
Has your website already transitioned to a responsive design? What impact have you seen on your traffic and engagement metrics?Tommy P. Landry has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and business strategy, at companies ranging from startups to enterprise.
Having launched three businesses since 2001, Tommy is currently president and founder of Return On Now, a forward-thinking social SEO and inbound marketing consultancy in Austin, Texas that helps businesses increase their website visibility, traffic, and lead flow.