Improving your mobile search engine optimization (SEO) can help you rank well on search engines, attract clicks, drive conversions, and more. Gaining a thorough understanding of what mobile SEO is and best practices can allow you to develop a comprehensive and effective strategy for your website. While many SEO best practices are similar for mobile and desktop searches, there are important variations. Mobile SEO is affected by mobile device technology and user experience. Some of the best practices aren’t covered in Google’s mobile guidelines, but going beyond the requirements can pay off. Before diving into our top best practices, let’s cover mobile SEO in detail.
What is mobile SEO?
Like traditional search engine optimization, mobile SEO involves optimizing your website's content and back-end processes to improve its usability on mobile devices and ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs).
As a result, you can drive organic mobile traffic to your site via search engines and ensure it functions appropriately for consumers on smartphones and tablets.
While traditional and mobile SEO share some similarities, a few key differences set them apart.
The main differences are not in the substance but in the focus of the mobile optimization effort. Good content and links are still important, but since the way mobile pages are built to meet Google’s guidelines adds complexity, mobile SEO focuses on technical requirements that are sometimes less obvious and harder to test than those of traditional SEO.
For example, a phone’s operating system and screen size can impact how search engines present results on the page. So, you’ll have to keep those factors in mind when optimizing your website.
Why should your website prioritize mobile SEO
There are many reasons to prioritize your website’s mobile SEO. For starters, there were almost 1 billion mobile devices operating globally in 2021, and that number is expected to reach 18.22 billion by 2025.
That means more and more people are likely to use their smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices to browse the web. Moreover, search engines frequently roll out mobile-specific capabilities that enhance the user experience on these types of devices.
Let’s explore a few other reasons why SEO for mobile devices is essential below.
Google’s mobile-first index
Indexing is how a page gets added to the SERP, and Google uses a mobile-first index. As such, Google will evaluate the mobile version of your website using crawlers to determine its rank on search results.
Before, what came up on the SERP depending on the device you were using. For instance, you would get desktop results if you used your computer to look up something rather than your smartphone.
If your site isn’t optimized for mobile, it may significantly lower your ranking. This makes it challenging for mobile users to find your page on the SERP and reduces the likelihood of engagement. According to Backlinko, the #1 site on search results has an average click-through rate (CTR) of 27.6% and is 10 times more likely to get clicks.
Google prioritizes mobile engagement because they want people to find what they’re looking for via its search engine. This means they must surface websites that meet a user’s needs so that they don’t need to return to the search results repeatedly. Otherwise, mobile users might consider switching search engines, which would be a loss of business for Google.
You can also generate more sales by increasing your website’s visibility with SEO. This is because users are more likely to click on your site, the higher its position on the SERP. It may also meet the demands of their query right away, so they don’t have to continue searching for the product or service they want.
Moreover, if your website is discovered through search, it’s important to know that the mobile site is going to do its job when a new user gets there. According to Google, individuals who have a negative experience with a brand are 62% less likely to buy in the future. So, it’s imperative to make a good first impression.
Having a responsive web design and a mobile-friendly website can also drive sales and conversions. Buying something online via an e-commerce site that’s not optimized for mobile can be a very frustrating experience.
However, a site that’s easy to navigate on any device can encourage consumers to browse longer and finalize their purchases.
Improve website loading time
The loading time of your mobile site also matters. In fact, the probability of bounce increases by 32% when a page’s load time goes from 1 to 3 seconds.
Fortunately, you can improve your site’s speed by ensuring it’s ready to be viewed and engaged with on mobile devices.
Mobile SEO best practices
An effective mobile SEO strategy focuses on URL rendering, page rendering, user experience, and mobile-focused markups. We’ll go over these best practices in more detail below.
URL rendering refers to how a URL looks in the address bar, which is essential to mobile SEO. To succeed with this element of mobile SEO, businesses must devise and maintain URL rendering rules in canonical tags, internal links, and sitemaps.
For SEO, your goal should be to have only 1 canonical version of a URL. Canonical URLs are the HTML link element that tells search engines that this is the URL you want them to surface for each page.
By setting normalization rules, you can use your server to recognize the request and rewrite or redirect the browser to the correct URL version so that the user still gets to the page. Normalization rules provide code that automatically changes capital letters, incorrect prefixes (like when a user doesn’t type “www.” at the beginning of a URL), and trailing slashes to direct users to the right page.
Setting a single canonical URL for each page ensures that only 1 version of a page URL is being worked on, optimized, and indexed. Following this guideline lets you know which URL to edit if there are issues with the indexing.
Canonical URLs are also especially important for page rendering and page speed because URL variations can slow down the rate at which pages load. And canonical URLs also prevent pages from being missed in a migration—like if you have to change servers—when URLs are updated or moved. This can mean that old pages won’t remain live after a redesign, and their link equity won’t be lost in the long term as the new page URL and content builds up rankings.
When optimizing your website for mobile devices, always keep in mind the importance of user experience (UX).
A positive user experience makes it easy for consumers to navigate your website. It also limits barriers that prevent potential buyers from moving through the purchasing funnel. As a result, you can enjoy increased sales, increase credibility and trust, and boost conversions.
In contrast, a negative user experience can cause shoppers to quickly leave your mobile site and move on to a competitor, leading to the loss of sales opportunities.
Mobile-focused markup refers to the schema (which is code or microdata) that helps a page get discovered by a mobile search engine. This includes product ratings, reviews, recipes, addresses, and product details—all of which make a page more relevant to more searches.
Speakable schema is also becoming more important to mobile searches. This includes frequently asked questions (FAQs), question and answers (Q&As), and how-to markups.
In general, Google is focusing much more on ranking answers to questions in search. Many in the SEO community have gone from talking about Google as a “search engine” to talking about it as an “answer engine.” The growth of voice-enabled search is likely driving this and growing quickly, so it is a good idea to focus on creating content that answers questions about your business or industry.
Get to most out of your SEO strategy with Mailchimp
The best practices of mobile SEO are more technical than traditional SEO, but they’re all within the reach of anyone with the patience to investigate and learn.
Make sure your website does a good job of URL rendering, mobile page rendering, UX design, and mobile-focused markup to take your efforts beyond meeting the burdens of Google’s mobile-specific updates and guidelines. Doing so also ensures you can rank high on search engines and drive click-through rates.