Let me take you back in time for a moment. It’s 2015 – mobile search overtakes desktop search for the first time across ten countries including the US, UK, Japan, and other major economies. Then? Mobilegeddon. Google updated their algorithms to preference websites that gave a better mobile experience.
That same year, 72% of marketers reported relevant content creation as the most effective SEO tactic.
Fast forward to 2017, and Google has created a mobile-first indexing system, meaning the mobile version of the web will prioritized in generating rankings, because most of their users are on now on mobile.
Yet in 2017, only 61% of marketers say improving SEO is their top inbound marketing priority. As an online marketer, this makes me ask – What’s going on here? That figure should be 100%!
I understand that the world of SEO is one of constant change and flux, but mobile is now the largest source of traffic for businesses around the world, and SEO is still the key to increasing your share of this traffic and maximizing your successful conversion of traffic into sales.
It’s time to put two and two together and make four (hundred, thousand). Mobile traffic. SEO. Mobile SEO.
Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to improve your mobile ranking, and doing so will in turn drive more business to your site.
Today, we’re going to cover three essential elements to creating a mobile friendly website, and the many factors that affect success. These include what to do across Technical, User Experience, and Content categories.
Then, we’ll break down what not to do, across all manner of unusual little things you might never have thought of otherwise. So, on with the show!
Who doesn’t like fast-loading web page? A better question would be, who doesn’t like a slow loading website? The answer? Google. Google doesn’t.
When it comes to mobile, users tend to show even less patience than usual. Searchmetrics performed a study of mobile ranking factors, and found the top ten ranking websites on mobile had an average page load speed of 1.10 seconds.
Being even a tad slower will see your site shunted down into the top 30. If your site doesn’t load in 3 seconds, mobile users will simply close the tab or navigate away. Fortunately, Google has a mobile-friendly checker that will take this into account and give you feedback accordingly.
Alternatively, you can use Pingdom to check how fast your pages are loading.
There’s also another option.
Facebook’s ‘Instant Articles’ are signified by a little lightning bolt in the corner, while on Google the initials AMP are used.
These pages are light on their HTML and CSS code – minimalism increases performance.
By keeping this cut down, this makes pages easily pre-renderable and cacheable for browsers, resulting in load times that are up to 30 times faster than regular pages.
Despite resistance from some content creators, Google are pushing AMPs as a solution for consumers, and have calibrated their algorithms to reward websites using the AMP format.
That means if you do so, it will have a positive effect on both your rankings and click-through rates.
Fortunately, the folks over at AMP Project are helping as many people as possible understand how to enable this for their site.
A quirk of the new mobile first indexing has been that Google seems to reward mobile sites for having unordered lists even more generously than desktop sites.
The advantages of lists for making information easy to absorb and process are well documented, and unordered lists feel less arbitrary and more focused on providing actionable advice to users.
If you’re wondering what the golden number of bullets for mobile devices is, it’s nine. This will sit comfortably on a single page on most screens (provided they proper bullet points and not paragraphs), and strike the right balance of detail and brevity.
A picture is worth a thousand words. The internet is becoming more visual. Mobile connections are getting faster, data allowances more generous.
Images are easier to perceive, and leave a stronger impression on the viewer than raw text. Image processing takes up the largest single expanse of the human brain – 30% of the cortex, compared with 3% for hearing. Humans are optimized for images.
You can optimize your images for web. Reduce dimensions so they’re still clean and sharp for mobile users, while compressing to reduce file size. This will help you avoid slowing down the site’s loading speed.
Kraken offers superb image optimization for mobile.
Watch out! While ‘keyword stuffing’ was in vogue for a while a few years ago, Google has long gotten wise to the practice, and having too many keywords will now actively harm your site.
This isn’t calculated in absolute terms – it’s relative. If you have long form content, you are allowed more keywords, as they form a lower proportion of the total.
To avoid penalties, you want to make sure your keyword density is below 3.5%. To be super safe, you want to stay below 1.8%.
However, this may be the wrong way to think about it. A consensus of SEO sages now suggest that simply having the keyword in the content, in the title, the URL and a header is better for ranking than density in the content.
Avoid over-optimization and keep it natural. This should ensure a good distribution throughout the total amount of words you have.
Conversely, if you’re new to this and want to know what keywords you SHOULD be targeting, we here at RankReveal have the tool for you.
Rich social engagement provides a ranking boost for any site, regardless of the platform. It’s important to remember that when it comes to mobile, users are browsing social networks and apps more than they are the internet.
There is an extremely high correlation between social signals and ranking, and links shared on Facebook and Twitter are used as a ranking signal.
Aside from this, social media’s primary purpose is communication, and for you, communication equals feedback. Feedback helps you target your content more effectively, and in the long term, will make you a better marketer.
Local SEO is essential for business with brick-and-mortar location.
HubSpot paints a clear picture:
Don’t be deceived. That isn’t a reason not to use Local SEO when targeting mobile ranking. Users will search on a mobile device to find what they want, then switch to a desktop machine to enter payment information, or buy in store.
SEOPressor has a great guide to setting up Local SEO which will help you cover the basics.
So, now I’ve steered you toward a lot of helpful things you can be doing to improve your mobile SEO ranking by creating a mobile friendly website.
However, it’s equally important for me to steer you away from things that can do real damage to your mobile ranking.
Flash used to be the darling of web design in the early noughties. However, mobile browsers don’t support Flash and therefore, can’t display any flash content.
Flash has become an albatross around the neck of your website. It results in a poor experience for mobile users, and Google may also penalize you for ‘hidden content’.
They reflect bad design and bad maintenance, and sending your mobile users to the site’s desktop version, or to non-existing pages (no matter how witty your Error 404 page is) will aggravate customers, and Google doesn’t want that.
Fortunately, SEOPressor is a handy WordPress plugin that can help you prevent such embarrassment by running the SEO audit to fix your broken links.
They are annoying enough on desktop, but especially annoying on mobile, where the screen size is smaller and therefore the intrusion blocks more of the content.
Everyone hates them. Don’t do them. Just don’t. No. Stop it.
Small fonts are another of the most complained features on mobile sites.
Incredibly to me as a regular writer, people actually want you to use 16pt font (the kind I’d normally use for titles) as your general body copy.
This is because the sizing is relative, and when reading on a small screen with a huge resolution, 16pt is actually easily readable (where on a larger screen with lower resolution, it’s huge).
Do you use interactive elements on your site, like buttons or check boxes?
If so, they shouldn’t be so small that the user’s finger has trouble pressing them. Long gone are the precision days of the mouse. Touch screen is, for better or worse, the new king, and making sure your design is touch friendly is essential.
Imagine the frustration from trying to hit a pixel on a screen and missing ten times in a row. I said ‘imagine’, but the right word is likely ‘remember’. We’ve all experienced a badly designed website, but that shouldn’t give you permission to let yours be one of them.
Mobile pages tend to have around 75% fewer links on them than desktop pages. You need to be far more targeted about where you’re sending your audience.
This is because hitting the screen is used to scroll up and down the content as well as to click on things. Too many links, you’ll be pushing your audience away from your site, and making it harder for them to successfully engage with your content.
This is a tough one because you’re getting squeezed from both sides.
A higher number of words places makes it harder for you to get the top position in the rankings. BUT, URLs ranked worse than the top 10 have roughly the same text length as those in the top 3.
That ‘spare seven’ spaces in the top ten can be taken up by long form content. So it’s all about striking a balance that will give you the best chance for success. I calculate the ideal length for mobilized content to be between 700 and 1000 words.
Make your content rich by the mobile screen’s standards, rather than the desktop’s. Fewer words, fewer links, better images, and a smoother, more minimal experience that puts the focus where it needs to be, and nowhere else.
You’re now armed with all the knowledge, and a lot of the tools you’ll need to take action based on that knowledge. What tools can’t achieve, perspective can. You should now understand why mobile-first works the way it does, and how to manipulate it to your advantage.
Any questions? Leave them in the comments section below! If you have personal experience of adapting to mobile-first in 2017 and you’ve discovered something we’ve missed, please share it with our readers in the comments section!
SUBSCRIBE TO RANKREVEAL’S BLOG
Join 100,000+ fellow SEO marketers! Get RankReveal’s latest insights straight to your inbox.
Enter your email address below: