Mobile friendliness matters because, quite simply, people now access the web with their mobile device more often than with a desktop computer. Think about it: how often do you search or browse social media on your laptop versus your phone?
Just take a look at the facts:
- Google processes more searches on mobile devices than desktop
- PC sales are declining
- Mobile traffic is now more than 50% of website traffic
So thanks to the rise of mobile internet access Google has been making their own changes. In 2015 Google released the Pigeon update to give mobile optimized sites a boost. And then, last year, they started mobile first indexing.
The mobile first index is important because, according to Google, most users are making decisions based on information found after a search conducted on a mobile device. So Google is adjusting to that reality and trying to index websites in a way that will better meet their users’ needs.
So that means your website needs to be mobile friendly to better meet your users’ needs.
How can you tell if your website is mobile friendly?
One way is to find yourself a nice SEO audit tool. But if you want to do it yourself, you can with this simply 4-step process.
1. Check Mobile Site Design
Making sure your website is properly organized and built to load on mobile devices is absolutely critical to mobile SEO. If a page doesn’t look nice when someone visits it on their phone, they aren’t going to bother reading, watching or otherwise engaging with the content.
There are three ways you can design your pages to be mobile friendly:
- Responsive design: This method serves the same page to users regardless of device, but adjusts the page’s layout based on screen size. Responsive design uses CSS3 media queries and a fluid grid with relative units to automatically fit the page to the user’s device.
- Dynamic design: This method means serving users different HTML based on the user’s device, so your site will serve different content for mobile users and for desktop users. This way you can remove high quality (large) images and/or videos that will drag down page speed for mobile visitors.
- Parallel design: This method means creating a mobile URL structure that hosts pages specifically for mobile users. Basically, if your site is hosted at www.example.com, its mobile version will live at m.example.com. The server then automatically redirects any user on a mobile device to the mobile URL.
You can technically use any of these three methods to create a mobile friendly page. However, responsive design is generally considered the best option since it doesn’t require two different sets of code or any redirects.
It’s also Google’s preferred method for creating mobile friendly pages.
2. Measure Mobile Audience on Your Site
The first step in auditing your mobile SEO and mobile friendliness is to establish where you are now. Collect data for your website’s:
- Traffic (visitors and/or pageviews)
- Search activity
- User behavior
You can view traffic and user behavior using your analytics. In your traffic reports, add a Segment for “mobile and tablet users.” Fortunately, mobile users are a default segment in Google Analytics.
Now you can compare how your mobile traffic compares to the rest of your traffic.
Once you’ve added the mobile segment, go through your normal reports on sessions, pageviews, user behavior and conversion to compare your mobile audience to your desktop audience.
3. Mobile Keyword Optimization
A big part of mobile SEO is making sure your website is optimized for the queries people use on their mobile devices. I don’t know about you, but I phrase my queries differently based on whether or not I’m using a keyboard.
Some general guidelines to follow when researching mobile keywords:
- Use shorter keywords than you would for desktop, even the longtail keywords.
- Think locally. Most mobile searches have local intent, so if your business has any sort of local ties, focus there first.
- Think beyond text searches. Voice search is on the rise, and it’s considered mobile. You also need to include conversational keywords that match how people search via voice. Ironically, these keywords will look a lot like desktop longtail keywords.
Use Google Search Console to see what queries your audience is already using to find you. Open up the Search Analytics report and filter by device:
Check out the queries listed below the graph. This will give you a great clue as to whether or not your audience has local intent. If they do, the queries listed here will include the phrase “near me”.
4. Check Your Speed
To say page speed is important for mobile SEO would be like saying Bill Gates has some extra cash lying around — one of the great understatements of our time.
Having a page that loads above the fold content quickly is vital to having a mobile friendly website. In fact, to be considered optimized for mobile, your page should load content in 1 second or less. Once you factor in network latency and the normal overhead of loading a web page, you’ve got around 400 milliseconds you can actually do anything about.
In order to make you page as fast as possible, audit these factors that will slow down your site:
- Images: Big images are one of the usual suspects when it comes to slow pages. Reduce image size to reduce load time. By image size, we mean file size, not dimensions. Resizing images via HTML won’t improve load time. Use your image editor or a tool like ImageOptim or PunyPNG to reduce image size.
- Reduce the number of ads: This might not be possible if you’re primarily a content publisher, but ad servers contribute to long page load times. Minimize the amount of advertising on a page to increase its speed.
- Hosting: Don’t cheap out on your site’s host.