How to Optimize Non‑Website Assets for Mobile SEO

Create and optimize content that helps people find your business online

Although mobile search engine optimization (SEO) focuses mostly on the content of your mobile website, non-website assets can have a big impact on your search rankings, too. Google My Business (GMB), images, video, audio, native apps, and Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are often featured at the top of mobile organic results because they are easily consumed or cast from the mobile device. You can leverage this content to benefit overall performance in mobile search results.

Create a Google My Business (GMB) profile to boost visibility

Among the best ways to get discovered online is to create a Google My Business profile. This is what people will find when they search for your business—it shows up in the knowledge panel box at the top of the search results. Your profile also comes up in the map pack that results from organic searches and results within Google Maps.

You can create, optimize, and maintain your business profile, which should include essential information like what you offer, your hours, phone number, and address. It should also feature photos that give users an idea of what your business does. Think of this profile as your website’s homepage. It provides an introduction to your business so it needs to feature enough information to entice newcomers.

It’s important to know that anyone can submit changes to your profile. And although you should receive notifications when someone edits your profile, they can be easy to miss. Be sure to check your profile frequently to ensure that it has the most up-to-date and relevant information about your business.

Optimize your images

For some searches, like shopping-related ones, Google includes images directly in the results. Images can do a lot to increase mobile traffic, because users’ eyes are naturally drawn to them, and they are more inclined to click when using a mobile device. To improve the likelihood of your images surfacing at the top of search results, mark them up as part of product, recipe, and news article schema. Check Google Images to make sure that they are getting indexed. You can further disseminate images on the web by including them with press releases and posting them on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook. When you cross-post your images with variations of the optimized text, you are multiplying the number of opportunities that your content has to rank.

Google strongly recommends using your original images rather than stock photos. Not only is this important for giving visitors a real sense of what your business is about, but it’s easier for Google’s image recognition software to rank and index unique images. If you must use stock photography, try to make it different from the original by creating a collage or adding branding and iconography to help convey more about your brand. This also makes the images more useful to share across other sites and social media networks.

Optimized images are most important for really competitive terms, like the things that people shop for and compare options. Often terms like this include words like “best” or “top.” For these, Google often ranks third-party review sites and articles so that people can assess which options are the “best” or “top.” Getting your images in these kinds of results will improve visibility and brand recognition, while also establishing a strong sense of credibility for the brand. Sometimes, this is part of a PR effort—to make sure that the top domains that rate products in your space know about your products and have images on hand (with product specs) so that it's easy to get coverage in a comparison article with great images.

Create video content

Make a quick impact on your search rankings with video. Adding short “how-to” videos to a branded YouTube channel is a great place to start. These kinds of videos don’t require a huge production value and they can make a difference if you sell a digital product. No video budget? Try using free software like Loom to create simple videos.

Whether you invest money or create videos for free, the key is to cross-post it as many places as possible. Start by posting it on your YouTube channel, making sure to treat all the metadata fields and information as if they were part of your website—using clear information, keywords, and calls to action wherever they belong, but especially in the title and description. To make the video even more effective for search, add bookmarks for the different steps or topics in the video, through a process called timestamp bookmarking. Once this is done, post the video on your website—perhaps on a frequently asked questions page or a blog post, and share it on your social media channels. You can use YouTube Studio to both edit and track the views of your videos.

Optimizing video assets can drive traffic and awareness in multiple places. It makes the biggest impact on YouTube, which is where most of the videos that are embedded directly into a mobile search result come from.

Drive voice search results with ebooks, audio books, and podcasts

Google wants to rank content that people can engage with, so for images and videos, they use platforms like YouTube that are great on iOS and Android devices. This can be harder for other types of content. Google has an entire catalog of other types of content in Google Play, and all of these have the potential to rank well in mobile search.

In the past year, Google has made a big effort to support podcasts and announced that they will start ranking individual episodes of podcasts separately in search results. This gives them a large inventory of audio from which to parse and serve voice results when voice searches are submitted to a Google Assistant device without a screen. The problem with ranking entire podcasts is that there is not one podcast platform or player that is widely used on both iOS and Android devices like YouTube is for videos.

This is similar to ebooks and audiobooks. The more Google can find answers, especially when audio versions of the answers are available, the better. Google will likely prefer to rank content for voice search that they can parse from real audio files, rather than using their own “robot-voice” to read answers from the text on a page.

Boost rankings with native apps and progressive web apps

Apps are another great way to boost search rankings, although they require optimization efforts of their own, known as App Search Optimization (ASO). This practice applies to native apps, which are those that must be downloaded like software from an app store. To begin, it’s important to know that app rankings and algorithms are different between Google Play for Android devices and the App Store for iOS devices and that there is a third kind of ranking called App Packs. App Packs occur directly in Google and the algorithm for ranking in these App Packs is different from the algorithms from either of the stores.

While many of the ranking signals in the app stores follow the same basic logic as traditional SEO, there are significant differences in the implementation and strategy. Search volume and the relative value of keywords changes between Google and the 2 app stores. This means that to do the best job at really understanding and optimizing for rankings in all 3 places, it makes sense to do separate keyword research for each channel to make sure that you are targeting the best keywords for each. It is also important to understand that Google Play and the App Store work differently for international content. If you are promoting international apps with ASO, there is even more variation in the strategy to consider.

Additionally, most professionals in the app space use the word “ranking” to mean something different than what it means in SEO. In SEO, a reference to “ranking” is always really keyword ranking, which is how well something ranks in a search result for a specific keyword or phrase. Conversely, in ASO, when people use the word “ranking,” they are often talking about the category ranking, or how well their app is scored overall compared to similar apps. If they are a particularly popular app like Instagram, then they could also be talking about store ranking which is the overall ranking of the app in the store against all other apps. The strategy for ASO focuses on driving keyword rankings for different searches in the store, but often the goal, in addition to just driving downloads and engagement in the app, is to improve keyword rankings and downloads to drive stronger store or category rankings.

Web apps and Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are similar to native apps but can live on the web, outside of the app stores. They often use lots of JavaScript and code to make them look and feel more like native apps than websites. Sometimes people use the phrase “web app” just to reference any JavaScript-based software on the web, even if it is never actively downloaded and installed like a native app. PWAs have been a focus for Google because they work on the web, but can also be installed directly from the web for an even better, faster experience—so they offer the best of both worlds. PWAs allow users to interact with them on the web like websites, but once a user visits a certain number of times, they will be asked if they want to download the app.

Answer questions with chatbots, Google Assistant apps, and Google Actions

The last grouping of assets that can drive rankings outside of the website is a new breed of software that Google is interested in for their ability to interact directly with users or allow Google to interact with users. The simplest and most common version of this kind of software is a chatbot. Chatbots are software programmed not only to respond to certain keywords and prompts with pre-scripted responses and follow-up questions that seem somewhat human, but also to guide the actual humans they interact with down a specific funnel or path. The user’s pathway is based on their responses to yes, no and multiple-choice questions, such as, “Are you here to shop for makeup that you want to buy online or pick up in a store?” or “Are you interested in makeup, hair products, or skincare?” In many ways, these chatbots function like a phone system in which you “press 2 to speak to a representative,” but instead of pressing a number, you are typing something into a chat window.

Google Assistant apps and Google Actions are based on the same concept as a chatbot, but they are built to be a bit more flexible and capable. Most people seem to use the name Google Action and Google Assistant Apps interchangeably, though they might have slight differences. Google Assistant apps are chatbots that can be used with voice commands, instead of typing. These are designed to be used with the Google Assistant in devices like the Google Pixel, Google Home, Google Home Hub, and others, and Google has a store full of Google Assistant apps that you can use. The thing that makes Google Assistant apps different from the Amazon version, Alexa Skills, is that Google Assistant apps work without needing to be installed. Google Actions are similar and can also be invoked and interacted with by voice or through text, and use APIs to interact with other systems to do something like book a reservation or buy a ticket.

All 3 of these options can be built using software created by Google called DialogFlow. DialogFlow will walk you through the steps of building a chatbot, which can be submitted to Google with a trigger word to create a Google Assistant app, and then built out further to integrate with an API or external database to become a full Google Action.

Mobile SEO can be complex, but optimizing non-website assets can boost your visibility. Images, videos, audio, apps, and chatbots can all serve to improve your discoverability no matter which mobile device someone is using. You don’t have to implement them all at once, but building out a strategy that thoughtfully involves 1 or more can help your business grow.

Written by Cindy Krum for Mailchimp. Cindy is an expert in mobile SEO features.