Mobile SEO: A Beginner’s Guide

These days, as any business owner will tell you, maintaining an up-to-date understanding of SEO is crucial to gaining that all-important competitive edge. And as customers and clients become increasingly keen to engage with brands online, taking the time to craft an effective mobile SEO strategy is more valuable than ever.

A Brief Look At SEO

There are different areas, or aspects, of SEO, which is an acronym for Search Engine Optimisation. Simply put, the leading search engines (such as Google, Bing and Yahoo) work hard to develop the most accurate algorithms for delivering the website suggestions that best meet their users’ searches. This software “crawls” the many millions of websites and web pages out there on the internet, to identify those which offer a good match to their algorithms’ criteria. Typically, you can therefore expect your website to perform better in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) if it offers good quality, relevant content, that loads quickly and is easy for users to navigate.

What Is Mobile SEO?

With the increasingly dominant use of portable, mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets for internet use, understanding mobile SEO is now essential if you hope to keep your brand performing well in the SERPs. Google first identified a need to focus on the mobile internet experience back in 2014, and as a user, you may have noticed that clicking through to a website on a mobile device has offered more consistent results in the intervening years. Rather than being faced with content that doesn’t scale to the size (or simply won’t load) on a mobile screen, more and more websites have realised the importance of providing a seamless user experience across a range of devices and platforms.

Mobile SEO rewards these websites, giving them priority in the search engine results. Websites that employ mobile SEO practices focused on areas such as metadata optimisation, loading times, pop-up limitation and mobile sitemaps, together with delivering great quality, relevant content, will see themselves rewarded with better search engine rankings. Even seemingly simple adjustments such as ensuring font sizes are appropriately scaled for smaller screens, and displaying key business information and reviews will be repaid with better positions in the SERPs.

And when it comes to content, whether it’s text, video, or animation, it must load quickly and work as it should, when accessed by someone using a mobile device. This means that any software required to facilitate a video clip or effect must be readily available as standard on mobile devices, not just on desktop computers. An effective solution can be to offer separate URLs for your mobile and desktop site, but happily, better options for website configuration are available.

Focus On Website Configuration

There are certain key areas that comprise mobile SEO, and any effective mobile SEO strategy should take into account all of these. The first aspect looks at the website’s configuration, to ensure that it is compatible with mobile platforms.

One approach is to use dynamic serving, which employs “vary HTTP header” functionality to deliver scaled versions of your website to meet different device screen sizes. This method sees the software specifying whether HTML or CSS should be served, according to the individual demands of a device model. Whilst this method had its appeal in recent years, the growing range of mobile devices means that it is a time-consuming undertaking because you need to effectively create a version of your website for each mobile device that may be used to access it. As such, it is less efficient than choosing the responsive web design route.

Choosing responsive web design means that your site will adapt to meet different screen sizes and other characteristics of different devices. By taking a responsive web design approach, centred on viewport and CSS media queries elements, not only do you eliminate the need for separate mobile and desktop URLs, but you can use the same HTML and CSS for all platforms, making this a highly efficient way to respond to the challenges of mobile SEO.

Optimisation Strategies

Much like the SEO carried out for desktop websites, mobile SEO sees a focus on optimising key elements such as metadata, images, and titles. Firstly, look at getting the best from your meta titles and descriptions. A meta title for mobile may be up to 78 characters in length according to Google’s ranking systems, and should always include a focus keyword that will be used to influence your webpage’s position in the SERPs. The meta description, meanwhile, may be up to 120 characters long and should be well written to accurately reflect your mobile page’s content, with dynamic verbs used. The character limits for both meta titles and descriptions vary slightly for mobile and desktop sites, so consider finding an optimum balance in content to get the best results across all platforms.

When it comes to image optimisation, getting it right is integral to delivering a great user experience. Mobile visitors to your website will quickly tire of scrolling past large feature images, so ensure these are adjusted to automatically take up only the top portion of a mobile screen (or, indeed, cut them completely). Product images, meanwhile, are a non-negotiable element in many business websites, so focus on responsive web design methods. Opt for mobile-friendly picture formats and compress these images so that they don’t negatively affect page loading times.

Keep Mobile In Mind

Back in 2013, fewer than a third of internet users accessed the web via a mobile device. By 2021, this figure was 61% (Statista, 2022) in the USA alone and comparable in other major markets. And with technology firms constantly developing and refining the ways in which we interact with the online world, we can confidently expect this proportion to grow still further. The evolution of other types of smart mobile devices, such as smartwatches and smart glasses, means that the wise site owner will continue to work on optimising for mobile SEO so that they can offer a superlative experience over this growing variety of platforms.

By keeping the customer at the heart of your brand’s mobile website development, you can be confident of delivering an excellent user experience that will ultimately be rewarded by the search engines. Some universal points to remember are focusing on ease of navigation, ease of use, and always providing superb quality content. The rewards for doing so will speak for themselves: higher levels of website traffic, leading to more conversions, and better engagement with happier customers, leading to essential brand loyalty.

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