Type “mobile SEO website” into Google, and almost six million results will be returned. That’s indicative of how significant not just search engine optimization has become in recent years, but mobile-specific SEO. Achieving the coveted first-page results position is the dream of every marketing manager and web developer, despite the enduring mystery surrounding the algorithms Google and Bing use to calculate website rankings.
While there are some SEO factors we aren’t entirely sure of, attributes such as design and content are key in determining a website’s performance against its competitors. This is especially true for the mobile user experience, which now constitutes the majority of internet traffic. Search engines analyze a site’s mobile user experience as they crawl through its contents, and any website that prohibits mobile UX will be marked down.
Mobile audiences are goal focused, with little patience or enthusiasm for distractions. With that in mind, your website needs to look good on the move.
Here are some of the key elements to consider when creating a website optimized for the mobile user experience:
With page loading times a critical factor in ranking results, content-heavy single-page sites are a bad idea. Mobile audiences are already compromised by small screens that only display a few lines of text at a time, and they don’t want to be endlessly scrolling. Prominently position simple navigation like a drop-down hamburger menu on every page, and use responsive design so HTML code fluidly renders to suit each output device’s resolution. Create touchscreen elements such as buttons and dropdowns that are of large enough size and have enough space between them to minimize the risk of users accidentally clicking the wrong option.
No matter how important ad revenue is, never adopt interstitial ads. These effectively fill a mobile screen with an advert or banner, and may be treated as the page’s content by search engines. That’s hugely detrimental to SEO, and it can drive traffic away from the site. On a related note, evidence suggests most mobile audiences will abandon a site that’s still loading after three seconds.
Any website needs a degree of keyword optimization to perform strongly, and mobile platforms are no different. Incorporate keywords and long tail terms into each page without compromising readability. Mobile sites need concise and compelling content, so aim for a maximum of two paragraphs per page with prominent calls to action.
A blog or news page allows you to revise the site regularly without affecting the SEO value of key pages like About Us and Services, where buying decisions are often made. Constant editorial revisions indicate a well-maintained site, which is a positive SEO attribute.
Every plugin, widget and CSS layer has to be downloaded and processed by a mobile browser, which is likely to be less powerful than a desktop variant. Mobile devices additionally rely on erratic connections like 4G, which are more likely to slow down than an Ethernet-powered desktop computer. Strip out anything non essential, and consider whether every page needs social media buttons or graphics. Compress and resize images without compromising their appearance on a large monitor, and display text in a single block to reduce potential formatting issues.
Make sure you create a robots.txt file that web crawlers can examine to boost SEO performance, and ensure every photo and page has an accompanying tag to increase keyword prominence. Bear in mind attributes like Flash and Java don’t count towards SEO results, but they will increase the page loading time. Flash is incompatible with many mobile devices, so use HTML5 instead.
Anything that hampers loading times is best avoided, so an auto-playing YouTube video is an absolute no-no. Embed the video directly from YouTube’s high-speed servers, and let each visitor decide whether they want to press play. Avoid unnecessary functions like graduated transitions, since the mobile user experience is all about getting things done quickly. Don’t try to squeeze more text in with small fonts, either – having to pinch and zoom to read will drive site traffic into the welcoming arms of your competitors. This is especially true for contact forms.
While in beta testing, the site’s functionality can be rated using tools like Google PageSpeed Insights. This is great for identifying issues that may be harming loading times, such as redirects or unnecessary code fragments.
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