May 12th, 2016, Google rolled out their latest ranking-signal boost for mobile-friendly websites. This is the second update since the memo was first passed on April 21st, 2015. Passing the Mobile-Friendly test has become an essential SEO rubric for both desktop and mobile search query rankings.
Does the mobile version of your website still look like an unreadable and unnavigable shrink-down of your normal website? Then you need to update the website to be mobile-friendly right now. We will show you how, but first, let’s understand the basics of Mobile SEO.
Mobilegeddon… Oh No! My Ranking is Falling!
Here is a Q&A clip from Google Webmasters explaining the latest mobile-friendly ranking changes.
Mobile SEO 101 Q&A
1. What is Mobile SEO?
Mobile SEO defines how a website should serve content when searches are done through mobile devices. For the best user experience, website content should be synchronized and responsive on both desktop and mobile views.
An intuitive and responsive web design allows all the elements on a website to dynamically adjust according to the viewer’s screen size. More importantly, it enables all SEO work completed for the desktop version of the website to apply seamlessly to the mobile version as well.
2. What if Your Website is Not Mobile-Friendly?
Google penalizes unqualified websites that are not mobile-friendly by excluding them from mobile search queries. To be considered mobile-friendly, your top priority is to make updates to the website structure.
In 2017, mobile phone users are projected to reach 4.77 billion. Mobile-friendliness has already become an increasingly significant ranking signal. If you do not take action, think about all that lost traffic going to your competitors.
3. How to Be Labeled as a “Mobile-Friendly” Website?
You can test your website with Google's Mobile-Friendly Tool. Note not just your homepage, but every page within your website should pass this test.
When successful, a “mobile-friendly” tag will show up next to your webpage’s link when it appears in Google search results.
As of August 31, 2016, Google officially removed its “mobile-friendly” label from mobile search results. This means if your website is not mobile-friendly, it simply will not show up in mobile search results. Mobile-friendliness has become an inevitable ranking factor as the number of mobile users around the world continues to increase. So make sure that your website has a responsive design that intuitively works with all screen sizes.
If your website is not yet mobile friendly, talk to your web developer and make the change ASAP. Alternatively, you can always find a premade template from popular websites like TemplateMonster or GavickPro.
They offer a full range of designs for WordPress, Joomla, and even compatible designs for e-Commerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce. These templates are responsive so they look great on desktop, tablet and mobile phones.
4. What are the Google Suggested Strategies to Make a Mobile-Friendly Website?
Being mobile-friendly ensures all versions of your website are fully search engine optimized. There are 3 types of mobile-friendly web designs Google suggests:
Responsive Design serves the same HTML code for desktop and mobile. This design automatically adapts to different viewing devices. The same URL is used for a webpage viewed on desktop or on mobile.
Responsive Design is a widely adopted method which utilizes CSS (Cascading Style Sheets – a web design language) to structure your desktop website to flow intuitively into the mobile version. If coded correctly, all of the content on your normal website can display and function appropriately on the mobile website.
Dynamic serving displays a different version of HTML code on mobile devices. However, the URL of a webpage stays the same regardless of viewing device. Dynamic serving is also known as Adaptive Web Design.
Similar to the Responsive Web Design, this method pulls full content from the desktop website. The difference is that Dynamic Serving has the ability to distinguish whether the user is on a computer or on a mobile device. It will then determine which copies of HTML should be served to display the website.
Separate URLs or mobile websites require serving 2 different copies of HTML code and URLs for the same webpage. This is a separate mobile website created under a sub-domain with a dedicated mobile URL built for mobile browser.
This setup automatically detects the viewing device type, and will serve the correct version of the website accordingly.
Google states that it has no preference over any of the above 3 designs. However, Google recommends responsive design. Talk to you web developer to access your needs and decide which web design structure is best for your business. If you don’t have a dedicated developer, look into hiring an affortable freelancer from professional market places like 99design or Upwork.
5. How Local SEO Works on Mobile?
Have you ever tried to search for a restaurant or a coffee shop near you on the phone? Let’s say you are looking for "coffee near me", "drive-thru coffee", or "coffee shop open 24/7" within Google.
Why does Google show some business and not others in mobile search results? In addition to being mobile-friendly, businesses need to have adequate location information on their websites to return accurate search results to users.
3 Website Optimizations to Improve Mobile Search
- Sign up with Google My Business, and complete the profile for your business. Google will pull your business location and contact information when a location specific search query matches your profile.
- Include a business address on your website. Format the address to exactly match the address you inputted in Google Place. Put the address on your home page, or include it in the footer or navigation where it will show up on every webpage.
- Mind the loading speed of your website on mobile. People are impatient when it comes to waiting for a website to load. It is especially true when it comes to mobile search because people on the phone are usually on the go. A slow loading website can result in a bounce, which is bad news for conversion and marketing budget. Use Google Pagespeed Insights to test page loading speed of your website on mobile and desktop. Learn more about website loading speed and how it affects SEO.
6. What are the Impacts of Mobile Searches on Social Media?
Currently, Facebook has an estimated 1.65 billion monthly active users. Out of which, 989 million are on mobile devices. That means nearly 60% of users are on their phones.
So, you should make content sharing easy on mobile devices for the audience. All social media links and plugins should be visible on the mobile version of your website. Use free social sharing buttons like the SumoMe or ShareThis plugin to display responsive social media buttons on your website.
7. What is the difference Between Mobile Websites vs. Mobile Apps?
Apps are popular and are a great way to serve content to your audience. Like the mobile website, apps are suitable for displaying content on mobile devices. If your business is considering building an app versus having a responsive mobile website, here are a few pointers before diving in.
Most businesses that have apps in place usually have mobile-friendly websites as well. If your goal is to grow your online presence and gain ranking on search engines, then having a website is a must.
Since the release of Google mobile-friendly algorithm update, every website should be mobile-friendly regardless of having an app or not. So it really depends on your business needs.
For examples, e-commerce retailers and other B2C service providers can benefit from mobile apps because user experience can be greatly enhanced. Whether it is to build an easier checkout funnel or to improve in-app search, having a mobile phone application can increase conversion and user time spent within the app.
On the other hand, mobile apps in general, do not send out or receive as much traffic as a mobile website. Think about social media marketing. Posts are usually linked to a website to generate traffic, and a mobile-friendly website would benefit from such referral source.
Vice versa, if your website sends out heavy referral traffic, it would be easier to do so through a mobile website. Apps are better handlers when it comes to making direct sales such as e-commerce transactions.
So the decision really depends on the type of business you have and how to best service your customers. However, if you are going for an App, just make sure your mobile website is optimized for mobile devices. Remember mobile-friendliness is now a required ranking factor in SEO.
One Last Note…
Creating a better user experience is the core value behind building mobile-friendly websites. Mobile search will only become more predominate as technology advances to enable more possibilities on a mobile device. Explore more SEO strategies and learn how to improve ranking.