More and more people are now using their smartphones and tablets to primarily surf the net. Though the number of mobile users has increased rapidly in the last few years, even exceeding the number of desktop users by a significant margin, many sites are still not ready for this paradigm shift. Slow to load, structure littered with outdated HTML and CSS styles, and unable to adapt to different screen types, these old-fashioned sites are yet to optimize for mobile.
When you optimize for mobile, you make sure that anyone who browses through your site using a smartphone or tablet get maximum browsing experience. Mobile optimization is all about the website’s design, how the codes are structured, how quickly the website loads, adaptability to mobile and tablet screens and other such factors that encourage your mobile visitors to keep browsing your site. With Google gradually switching to mobile-first index, websites readable through mobile phone or tablet will be given ranking priorities over websites not friendly to mobile users.
If your site falls short of Google’s current web design standards, it’s about time to step up and make room for this new trend. Don’t lose the traffic you’ve built just because you left mobile users out of the picture. And you don’t have to worry because it doesn’t take much to optimize your website for mobile. Follow these guidelines about Mobile SEO and you’ll be able to safeguard your site’s rankings before mobile-first index conquers search engine results:
1. Redesign Your Website
Site takes time to load on mobile? Layout not adapting to other devices besides desktop? Your website theme and infrastructure are obviously not responsive.
The remedy to loading and layout issues is installing a flexible design – a design that changes according to screen size. For your mobile site to load faster on smaller screens, you also need to remove the following:
- Flash images or documents
- Popup links, ads or subscription boxes
Should increasing subscribers be extremely necessary, use a lightweight and responsive light-box pop-up plugin so that mobile users can easily respond by either clicking X or filling out the form.
What makes a site responsive is the presence of CSS3 media queries. The responsive design approach prevents web masters from building a mobile site under a parallel URL, which runs the risk of getting penalized for duplicate content. CSS3 media queries are basically coded instructions embedded in the website’s HTML source code. They detect screen size and resolution and tell browsers to revert to the appropriate style sheet.
What happens is that web designers code different style sheets – the original desktop style sheet, a style sheet for mobile, and a style sheet for tablet. These style sheets have detailed media attributes specifying maximum width and pixels for each target device. Links to each style sheet are placed within the HTML source code’s header tag. Mobile browsers will read through the codes, detect media attributes and use the corresponding style sheet.
To check whether your newly redesigned site is responsive to the mobile community, run a test through Google’s Mobile Testing Tool.
2. Design for Touch
Mobile web designs adhere to the Fat Finger Rule, which governs touch screen devices navigated by the thumbs. According to this rule, your mobile site must be between 45 and 57 pixels wide since this display measurement range best accommodates finger taps and thumb navigation.
When you’re designing for touch, consider these reminders:
- Buttons, tabs, icons, boxes and rows must be large enough and designed in a way that touch activities will not block or hide the content.
- Touch activities include tapping, swiping and scrolling.
- Touch is not precise so ask your designer to set codes to cover the widest possible area (design by zones where applicable).
- Touch accuracy and speed are higher at the center of a mobile screen and less accurate on the sides.
- More space means better touch browsing.
- Different users have different mobile search habits.
- Operating system matters; Android phone and tab users have a different touch experience from iPhone and iPad users.
Mobile phones and tablets offer smaller screen resolutions so space is limited. This is often challenging for web developers who need to squeeze the functionalities, content and major elements of a desktop website into a smaller platform. Rather than worry about which elements to retain or discard, designers should just focus on effective restructuring. They can get ideas from, replicate or an existing information design framework. The goal is to resize a website without sacrificing easy navigation, quality and comprehensiveness.
3. Leverage on SEO
It’s great that you are now on the same page as Google with your mobile optimization efforts. But device readability alone won’t get you anywhere. You might want to check how your SEO is going and mobile can be used to leverage your Mobile SEO. Are you ranking well on different devices? Does your home page perform better on mobile or desktop?
Suppose to say you’ve already optimized your site for mobile and tablet with help from the best SEO company. Mobile-first index is still in the works yet you can see clearly how different mobile search results are compared to desktop search results. When your search rankings are inconsistent across different devices, possible causes may include the following:
- Meta tags are either too long for mobile readability or too short for desktop indexing.
- A page or a few pages of your site may not have been optimized for mobile.
- You’re using keywords not often used by mobile users.
- Website has no Schema.org rich snippets on the HTML source code.
- Site’s location is ambiguous.
- Mobile site configuration fails to work as it should.
If your ultimate goal is to top search rankings in time for the mobile-first index, all versions of your site should be SEO friendly. This means all structural and keyword issues have been addressed on all devices. Here are ways you can patch up ranking inconsistencies and rank well on any platform:
- Create concise meta titles and meta descriptions.
- All web pages, including sitemaps, are optimized for mobile.
- Understand mobile users’ behavior and the type and length of keywords often searched via mobile.
- Go to Schema.org and follow instructions on how to add rich snippets to your source code.
- Optimize for local search by specifying your location in your website metadata.
- Choose a single-URL mobile configuration that’s less risky to install yet suitable to your budget.
Change with the Times
A lot of people are scratching their heads because Google has been releasing algorithm updates like crazy (see your newly improved Google Search Console, by the way). As long as you follow the guidelines set forth above, you have little time to worry. Expect your site to fare better than most during the mobile-first index. Take this new algorithm change as a blessing in disguise and see how far your business can grow in this digital age with or without the help of an affordable SEO company.
Lauren Mclaren is a digital content curator. She works for Digital Muscle Limited, a leading Sydney-based Digital marketing company specialized in providing affordable web design packages and quality SEO services in Sydney. She loves to cook and read books in her spare time