Mobile Optimization and SEO

It’s a Friday in July, and your site is a ghost town: minimal visits and boomerang-like bounce rates. Or maybe traffic has been relatively high month over month, ranking well on Google—but with conversions that remind you of drops from a leaky sink, your hands cupped beneath it waiting for the next one to fall. “What is going on here?” you might be asking yourself. You’ve got great original content, a solid promotion strategy in place, and some decent dollars behind targeted ad campaigns. You’ve put a lot of thought into your plan here, but could it be that your site isn’t optimized for the mobile experience?

The Mobile “Experience”

The mobile experience is truly the current zeitgeist. It’s been almost 10 years since the 2007 rollout of the smartphone, and while we’re familiar enough with mobile by now, we’re still eager to push the limits of what we can do with it. We’re creating and curating mobile-specific experiences to engage users in ways both new and native to mobile, but also intuitive enough that users know what to do, i.e. how to sign up and/or buy now. Because after all, conversion is your end game.

The mobile experience can be perfected with two things in mind: mobile optimization and mobile search optimization. Yes, they are two different things, or at least should be recognized as such. Mobile optimization is, as Moz puts it, “the process of ensuring that visitors who access your site from mobile devices have an experience optimized for the device.” This can mean responsive web design, separate mobile and desktop sites, adaptive design, or something simpler but better (more on this later). Mobile search optimization, however, is a specific part of mobile optimization. It involves the augmentation of the on-page content with mobile in mind. This comes down to a few different things, which we’ll get into.

Mobile Optimization

I mentioned that there was something simpler, yet better than some of the mobile techniques you may already know of. For instance, a popular tactic is to create a responsive site, meaning your site will adjust elements in response to a specific device or even browser size. This is a great first step, but as a stand-alone practice, has some serious gaps. So, let’s fill ’em in. 

First, just because a site is responsive does not mean that it is mobile-first, or even mobile-friendly (for more info on the difference between these three classifications, check out this informative article by Torspark, a sales funnel consultancy). A responsive site can still have elements or text that is too small or without mobile navigation in mind, or even feature videos or other rich media that won’t load/play. 

Most aspects for mobile optimization can be broken down into two buckets: design and performance. Mobile design consists of interface (experience) and aesthetics (design)—if the site is formatted in a way that feels native to a mobile phone, if the buttons are big enough to click, etc. Your site can have great design but have a very poor interface or user experience. When optimizing your design and experience, keep in mind a few things: signup form fields should be minimalistic and intuitive (Pardot), e-commerce sites should include “guest checkout” (Forbes), and popups and overlays should be used wisely and appropriately, otherwise they’re pretty much a must-avoid for mobile experiences (UX Magazine). 

Mobile performance also factors in site speed. To combat slow load times, Google introduced the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project, and also allows you to diagnose any speed issues with their tool, Google PageSpeed Insights. These two features can be paramount to a site’s success and in determining if Google ranks your site as “mobile-friendly.”

Mobile Search Optimization

Being mobile-friendly matters. In April of 2015, Google released an update to their algorithm that would take into account “mobile-friendliness” when ranking sites. Sites deemed mobile-friendly were given increased ranking, while those that were not were penalized in their ranking (check out our article on Mobilegeddon and what the Google Mobile Algorithm change means for you). Simply put, mobile-friendly sites receive better search rankings. You can also use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to analyze your site and get the A-OK.

Now that your site is Google-certified as mobile-friendly, your rankings are through the roof. Everyone is talking about your services and/or products and how they don’t know how they’ve lived without them. You’re No. 1 on the SERPs for keywords you’ve never even heard of—or are you? Here’s why not: you’ve optimized your site for mobile, but you haven’t optimized its content. You’re now the owner of this great storefront that pulls in lots of customers, but the clothes aren’t on your shelves because they are actually in a pile on the floor, waiting to be folded.

Mobile Search Optimization – Best Practices

Mobile search optimization is similar enough to desktop/default search optimization, but with some considerations that maybe aren’t so obvious. In fact, many argue that mobile search optimization is search optimization and that by optimizing for one, you’re optimizing for both. I agree with this to an extent, and under a specific condition: search optimization must be mobile-first or mobile-minded. Optimizing your content for search should operate in the same fashion as site optimization. By taking mobile into account first and foremost, your site will be optimized for both, as there isn’t much that wouldn’t be done for desktop. However, there may be a few specifics that could leave your mobile experience lacking. 

With that said, not all verticals are going to have a high volume of mobile searches. Users tend not to search for complex tasks on their mobile devices.

Here are some other things to keep in mind when optimizing your content for mobile search:

Get Local
  • 30% of mobile searches have local intent (Google). Of that 30%, 88% is made up of “near me” searches. 75% of those searches visit a store the same day, and 28% result in a purchase.
  • If you’ve got a local service or product to offer, make sure you’re optimizing your content for terms that would pair up with phrases such as “near me,” “open now,” and “where to buy,” while not specifically listing those phrases out on your site. This means incorporating relevant data about your business—such as addresses, business hours, and contact info—that search engines can pick up on for relevant local searches. Making use of Google My Business makes a huge difference. 
  • Implement schema markup data onto your landing page, including address/location, business hours, and a phone number (do you see a trend here?), so that Google can create an easy-to-read and prioritized knowledge graph, providing users with the essential data to help them find your product quickly and easily. Learn more about structured data and make use of the Structured Data Testing tool that Google offers to ensure your data is pulling into the knowledge graph correctly. 
  • For more tips and examples on how to optimize for local, check out Red Door’s Local SEO Tools and Tactics.
Getting Meta
  • Title tags should be under 512 pixels (about 70 characters). Meta descriptions should be about 156 characters. These are pretty standard rules of thumb when optimizing your content, making it more clear and relevant in SERPs. However, this isn’t an exact science when mobile comes into play. Although these titles will appear in mobile searches, they’ll be wrapped onto a second line to fit. This doesn’t negate your SEO efforts, but some believe titles for mobile sites shouldn’t exceed 45-65 characters for better readability. For meta descriptions, you will find that sticking to the high end of the 156 character limit will result in cut-off on mobile searches. Again, although not detrimental to your mobile ranking, having a meta description optimized for this shorter length is a small yet effective way of pushing users through to your site. Some resources even recommend keeping your meta descriptions to 120 characters or less
  • Optimize your meta data for mobile intent. For local businesses, this may look like including a phone number or address in the meta description. For e-commerce sites, your meta description could include terms like “1-step checkout” or “guest checkout,” enticing users to make a purchase while alleviating the anxiety of filling out long forms. Additionally, by adding something like local landmarks to your descriptions, you can help users understand your location beyond the use of a street address. 

What this means for conversion and your ROI

Ultimately, the numbers speak for themselves. According to Google, 76% of mobile searches result in local visits within the same day, and 28% of those searches result in purchases. While you can optimize your site to appear “friendly” to the vast mobile audience, it’s important to take it a step further and be mobile “compatible,” “intelligent,” and overall, “mobile-first.” By taking into account mobile as not just a nice-to-have, but a need-to-have, you can ensure that your content is optimized for both experiences, resulting in higher traffic. 

Interested in learning more? Check out these other SEO blogs created by the Red Door experts. 

Website Redesign: Technical SEO Questions You Need To Ask
SEO Checklist Best Practices for 2016
Red Door Interactive SEO Cheat Sheet

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