It’s no secret that a mobile strategy is becoming a necessity for small businesses of all types and sizes. More and more people are beginning to search the web on their mobile devices, and with the introduction of Apple Pay and the new iPhone updates, it’s likely that we’ll start seeing more purchases happening on mobile as well.
Fortunately, getting started with a mobile SEO strategy doesn’t have to be difficult or overwhelming. Once you understand how mobile differs than your desktop and a few tips to start you off, you’ll find that it works like a domino effect and you won’t be able to stop thinking about mobile.
How Mobile SEO Differs From Your Website’s SEO
It’s important to understand that the way people search on mobile is different than how they would search on a desktop, which is why you need a custom set of optimization techniques to succeed. Google also looks at factors differently for mobile and desktop. A few include:
- Local is more important. Local SEO is of course very important on a desktop computer as well, but Google will include local results on a mobile SERP even more frequently than they do on a desktop.
- Different search intent. Those searching on a mobile phone are likely on the go or want something faster than they would if they were on a desktop.
- Smaller screens. Of course, mobile phones have smaller screens. This means your design needs to be different in order to fit this smaller screen.
Of course there are other, smaller things that affect mobile SEO, but those are the three main things that Webmasters need to worry about right at the start.
A Few Mobile Optimization Best Practices
The following best practices correlate with the points made above. Because of those differences, there are things you need to do when it comes to optimization:
Have local intent.
Because Google tends to rank local results on mobile devices over those without local intent, it’s important you make sure you’re set to go with Google My Business and have all of your local information up to date. Again, this is still important when it comes to desktop search, but putting a focus on this will really help you soar to the top of a Google SERP on mobile.
If you don’t have a local shop and didn’t think local SEO was necessary, consider creating some sort of Google My Business page with your contact information. Although an address is helpful, if you’re the only type of company in your area (even if you don’t have a store), this can help you show up on a mobile SERP.
Have a responsive web design.
This is arguably the most important thing you can do for your mobile SEO. As discussed above, a mobile device is a smaller screen. This means that what is seen on the screen needs to be optimized—important content on top, no advertisements blocking important images or buttons, easy scrolling, etc. A responsive web design will allow your website to contort to the size of the screen someone is using for optimal navigation and use.
The screenshot below from annexgraphics.com shows how a responsive web design will automatically change what is seen on the screen based on the size. Notice how some images were moved and resized to offer the most important content above the fold:
Create a mobile sitemap.
For those who are unfamiliar, a mobile sitemap is how you let Google and other search engines know what’s going on with your website (most notably when new content is added). You should keep your mobile pages separate from your desktop pages so that there is no confusion when Google goes to index your site. If there ever is an indexing problem, you’ll be able to tell right away if it has to do with your mobile pages if you have a separate XML sitemap.
I recommend using the Fetch as Google tool from Google to make sure there aren’t any crawling errors. Oftentimes companies will get started with a mobile strategy and then it isn’t getting crawled and they don’t know why, so this is a quick way to make sure things are running smoothly.
Use mobile friendly meta tags.
You want to make sure you’re formatting your Meta tags in a way that is mobile friendly, which means keeping them shorter. Keep your title tags between 40 and 50 characters, and try to keep your descriptions under just 90 characters.
Optimize your embedded videos and images.
This goes right along with the second point—you want to make sure your images are also responsive. Flash is also not an option that works well for mobile because it is either very slow (on Androids) or can’t even be shown (on iPhones). HTML5 is your best option when it comes to optimizing embedded videos and images.
There are also a few things that matter on mobile just as they matter on a desktop including page speed load time, optimized content using keywords, and using correct redirects where necessary. You can learn more about advanced mobile tactics in detail here.
Extra: Should you have a separate mobile website? The more common way to go about mobile optimization is through a responsive design. This will take your desktop website and alter the design so that it fits onto a mobile screen (as discussed above). However, some companies choose to have a new website for mobile entirely so that they can customize content. Visit this article if this is something that you think may work for your website.