If you have a website, you’ve probably read quite a bit about SEO. In the past few years, you might have heard a lot coming from the tech gurus on the web about mobile SEO in particular. For a lot of bloggers, business owners, marketing managers, and other professionals with websites, this may all sound a little confusing. Perhaps a bit overwhelming.
How is mobile SEO different from regular SEO? Aren’t people searching on the same internet with their phones as they would be on their desktops? How important is mobile for my particular business? And if I’m already doing SEO, do I really need to do something different for mobile?
You might’ve just finally learned how to choose target keywords and secure backlinks. And now you’re supposed to learn a whole new set of SEO skills?
Fortunately, we’re here to help. This article will cover the basics of mobile SEO, including:
- The definition of mobile SEO;
- The reasons mobile SEO is important;
- Google’s mobile-first indexing and why it matters for your business;
- Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages and Facebook Instant Articles;
- The types of websites that can most benefit from mobile SEO;
- Mobile web design and speed; and
- Why voice search on mobile devices means you need to optimize for long-tail keywords.
Ready? Let’s dig in.
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What is Mobile SEO?”
Put simply, search engine optimization for mobile, or mobile SEO, describes a strategy for ensuring that your website appears in mobile search results. It also optimizes the experience for your site visitors from mobile devices.
Mobile SEO is important for several different types of businesses, which we’ll get into in a moment. But it’s important to know that in order to optimize for mobile, you’ll have to pay attention to web design, development, and SEO. It’s no longer good enough to simply design an attractive site. Your site needs to also ensure that mobile users can easily find you in search results and navigate your site to get to the information they’re looking for, even on a small touch screen hooked up to a mobile network or spotty public wifi.
Why Optimize for Mobile?
For one thing, mobile optimization will give you a strong advantage over many competitors. Even though mobile has pretty soundly defeated desktops as the number one source of internet usage, a lot of businesses still design their websites for the desktop experience. If they have a mobile website at all, it’s usually just the desktop design with a little clutter taken out. And they’ve rarely considered a strategy to increase their rankings on mobile search engine results pages (SERPs).
In 2015, Google reported for the first time that more of their searches had been conducted on mobile than on any other device. Then, in 2016, mobile overtook desktop as the most often used device for accessing the internet. In other words, if you’ve been holding your breath waiting for mobile to arrive, you can let it out about 3 years ago.
It’s not hard to see why. People are pretty attached to their phones. In fact, about 75% of people admit to bringing their phones to the bathroom. (This number may be higher for basketball fans in March, or parents of toddlers pretty much any time of the year.) And nearly half (48%) of people shopping for products on mobile devices start with a search engine, rather than an app or branded website.
And people behave differently when they’re accessing the internet from their phones than they do on a desktop. They have shorter attention spans. They’re much less likely to choose the link 4 spots down on the SERP. They’re much more likely to leave a site if they don’t find what they want immediately. If your business wants to reach these users, you’ll have to tailor your SEO strategy to meet their needs.
Google’s Mobile-First Indexing
If you’ve followed us this far, you might have read some other blogs and articles on mobile SEO. If that’s the case, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Google’s new hot topic, mobile-first indexing. But what is it, and how will it affect your site and SEO?
It’s pretty simple actually. Mobile-first indexing means that Google will use the data from your mobile site first to determine how your page ranks, and what information to include in their index. It is still being rolled out gradually, so it may not be affecting your particular site just yet. But it is live and at work with some sites already, and gradually making its way to others.
Note, this is not mobile-only indexing. If you don’t have a mobile site, Google will look to the desktop version of your site for indexing purposes. But they might punish you in the rankings.
This is a huge change from the recent past when Google would crawl your desktop site first and use that information for indexing and search rankings. If you had a mobile site, Google would crawl that as well, and you’d get a bump in your mobile rankings as a reward. But with mobile-first indexing, Google considers the mobile version of your site to be your primary website. It’s as if the mobile version is your main domain, and the desktop version is the parallel site.
For this reason, it’s important for all businesses to make mobile SEO a priority. Many businesses focus all of their SEO attention on their desktop site. But if your mobile site is going to be what Google looks to for ranking in search results, this means that you need a high-quality mobile site.
Google AMP and Facebook Instant Articles
If you are a web content creator who wants to reach a mobile audience, you need to be seriously thinking about AMP. Google rolled out its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) in February 2016. These are the results that you see under the “top stories” banner on your results page, and they have a little lightning bolt to the left of the site name.
For example, look at this results page for the query “Why is Stephen Hawking famous?” This was one of the most popular Google searches on March 14, 2018, the day Hawking died.
You’ll notice that, without scrolling, we can see two results under top stories. Both are designated with a lightning bolt. These results appear in a carousel. This means that when a user clicks on one of them, it loads almost instantly. And if the user wants to read another of the top stories, they can simply swipe from right to left to get the next article. Instantly.
Google AMP follows a similar project from Facebook called Instant Articles. Facebook claimed, and publishers agreed, that Instant Articles would load ten times faster than articles from the web. This made for a more pleasant user experience, and allowed publishers to reach a wider audience.
If your business relies on users viewing and consuming your content, you should consider using AMP. When people can access your content instantly, it keeps them reading and watching. They’re likely to click on a 2nd or 3rd article on your site. They may even be more likely to share.
Mobile Design and Speed
Mobile SEO success has a lot to do with user experience. If your site visitors don’t bounce after viewing the first page they see and they convert, your ranking in search will be improved. The Google search algorithm takes into consideration about 200 factors and user experience is among them.
Mobile design and speed are key to user experience. In Mobile Website Design and Performance Basics we tackle the factors that will improved your mobile site’s user experience. It is definitely worth the read.
Mobile Is Often Local
Most often, mobile searches will lead users to local results. For example, if a user in Reno, Nevada searches for a pizza restaurant on their phone, they’re most likely looking for a local joint. Google knows this, so they’re not going to give that user a list of pizza places in Las Vegas, Nevada, no matter how much better their pizza is.
For this reason, local listings often dominate page 1 of search results on mobile. Page 1 gets at least 66% of all clicks, not just on mobile devices, but all devices. On mobile devices, that rate is probably even higher because of something that Google calls the local 3-pack.
The local 3-pack is what you see just under the ads results when you Google something from a mobile device.
For example, look at these results we got for “pizza.”
You can see that Google showed us a map of pizza restaurants nearby, followed by results for Domino’s Pizza, Pizza Guys, and Pizza Plus. Each listing includes a star rating, a street address, and a VERY brief, 4-7 word blurb. If the user wants more results, they can click on “more pizza” at the bottom of the screen. But since we’ve already got 3 good options in front of us, we probably won’t.
High-quality backlinks are important for all SEO because it is the most important factor Google looks at when determining the quality and authority of your site. This huge factor affects where your site shows up on a SERP. If many high-quality sites link to your site, Google assumes your site must contain a lot of good information. So when a user searches for one of your keywords, Google is more likely to send that user to you.
This applies the same to local businesses as it does to national businesses. But a local pizza restaurant in Los Angeles won’t get backlinks from sites in Chicago. Therefore they need to get them locally. Local backlinks will also mean more to Google for a local business’s website.
Getting high-quality backlinks for your site takes some work, but White Peak is a leading SEO firm so if you need help, just let us know.
Mobile is For National Companies Too
It’s important to note that national companies should optimize for mobile too. Many mobile users will find a site while searching on their phones, then complete the transaction later from a desktop. That’s why it’s important for every business to have a mobile site that ranks high with Google and is easy to use with a mobile device.
Voice Search and Long-Tail Keyword Optimization
Think about the last time you searched for a business on your phone. Did your search start with “Hey, Siri”? If so, you’re in good company. Most smartphone users conduct at least some of their searches using voice. And when users search with their voices, they are most likely to speak in complete sentences. “Hey, Siri, find me the closest place where I can get an ice cream cone,” sounds a lot more natural than “Hey, Siri. Ice cream.”
It’s also important to note that Siri only shows the user 1 or 2 search results. She won’t find you if your business doesn’t show up at the top.
For this reason, mobile SEO needs to focus on long-tail keyword optimization. This will require some additional research, or perhaps the help of a professional digital agency.
This is a lot of information to take in. We know. We hope that the simple break down makes it a little easier to digest. And if you need help optimizing your site for mobile users, get in touch with us. We’d love to work with you!
Tim Woda is the CEO and founder of White Peak Marketing. He has been on the founding team of five successful start-ups and his digital marketing campaigns have acquired more than 800 million customers for his start-ups and White Peak’s client companies. Tim has been featured by The New York Times, Fox News, Forbes, The Huffington Post, and more. Under Tim’s direction, White Peak was selected as one of America’s Top Digital Marketing Agencies for 2021 by MarTech Outlook magazine.