Mobile search engine optimization (SEO) has been a hot topic in the marketing industry for quite a while. The talk has finally become extremely relevant, as studies continuously show mobile search is overtaking desktop searches.

But what is mobile SEO and could your business benefit from it? This guide will answer those questions and provide you a set of best practices for mobile SEO. Hopefully with the help of this guide, you can finally join in on the digital revolution.

Best Practices for Mobile SEO

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In this article, we will start with 1) what mobile SEO is, and continue then with 2) why mobile search engine optimisation matters, and 3) the key areas to focus with mobile SEO.

WHAT IS MOBILE SEO?

One of the reasons companies find mobile SEO so difficult is the lack of understanding of the practice in the first place. This isn’t just a problem of not doing your homework. If you go up to SEO marketing experts and ask them to define SEO, you’ll probably end up with a number of answers.

Webopedia gives the term a great overall definition. It states:

“Search engine optimization is a methodology of strategies, techniques and tactics used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in search results page of a search engine (SERP) – including Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines.”

While the essence of SEO is the use of tactics that improve the company’s ranking on a search engine, the different tactics you can use to do so vary greatly. There’s no one-way of achieving a higher ranking and companies often need to apply multiple different strategies to achieve the desired results.

You might be wondering whether it matters what the company’s ranking is. Consider your own online searches as an example. You probably type in the keywords you are looking for and most likely click one of the pages on the first result page. Therefore, you want your business to be among to top results, otherwise people might not ever find you. As a small business it is unlikely people directly come to your website. If you can boost your search engine ranking, you are more likely to present your business for new customers.

The tactics you use to boost your company’s rank depend a bit on your industry. The most obvious option is to improve the use of keywords, which are the words people often use to search for a product or service such as yours. You then have plenty of ways to enhance the use of video, pictures and even your social media for further ranking improvements.

How mobile SEO differs from typical SEO?

Considering the above, it might seem odd to have a separate mobile SEO strategy. But if you’ve ever browsed websites on your mobile device, you’ll know how important it is for websites to be mobile-friendly.

Mobile SEO essentially helps your site to ensure the website and its design is usable with a mobile device. This can ensure mobile users don’t just skip your content because it’s too difficult to read or browse through.

Furthermore, just as your website can recognize the device the viewer is using to look at the website, so can the search engines detect it. In fact, Google has ensured mobile-friendly websites enjoy an advantage in search results, so you certainly don’t want to skip this opportunity to boost your rankings.

In addition, people’s way to search for content is different for mobile devices to desktop computers and laptops. This means your website might need to slightly adjust the use of keywords to ensure mobile users also find your page.

One of the crucial differences between SEO and mobile SEO is the emphasis on localization. Mobile phone searches are often done on the go and therefore, by localizing your content, you can greatly enhance the chances of people near your shop to find you.

WHY MOBILE SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMISATION MATTERS

If you aren’t still convinced about the usability of mobile SEO, the below statistics should change your mind. The global use of mobile phones is increasing rapidly and mobile marketing is changing search engine marketing for good.

The Mobile Marketing Association published a study in 2013, which predicted the mobile marketing boom would generate $400 billion in returns within the next five years. Furthermore, the global number of smartphone users is likely to hit six billion by 2020.

According to data by Simply Zesty, mobile data consumption has increased by 83% in the last few years. In 2014, people spent, on average 1.4 billion minutes online, which is an increase of 400% to time spent online in 2010.

Mobile traffic amounts to 60% of all search activity, with mobile search accounting for 48% of all Google searches. This, if anything, shows what a massive opportunity mobile SEO for business.

But the sheer number of mobile searches shouldn’t just convince you. In the end, for your business, the consumer activity counts for more. But data show customers don’t just prefer to spend more time online on their mobiles, they actively use this time for making shopping decisions.

Alchemy Viral’s data shows around 90% of mobile searches result in an action, including a visit to the business or the purchase of a product. Shopping on your mobile is becoming much more commonplace.

The rise of smartphone has provided consumers more opportunities to be smart and to carefully consider their purchasing decisions. This is highlighted by the fact that around 60% of people who own a smartphone, check the product on the device before buying it.

People are increasingly busy and always on the move these days, partly thanks to smartphones. Nevertheless, you can now easily do your grocery shopping with your mobile while waiting for the train or send your mother flowers on the last minute, even if you are off to a holiday!

Quite interestingly, this preference for browsing on the mobile phone might actually be a good thing for companies’ marketing efforts. YuMe and IPG Media Lab conducted a study that showed people are more receptive to marketing when in public. In addition, the smaller the screen people use to watch ads, the better they will remember the marketing message later on.

So not only are people using mobile phones more, your marketing message might be getting through to the customer better. This gives an additional bonus to optimizing your content for mobile phones.

But in the study, the ads were naturally optimized for each screen size, so you cannot simply forget about optimization. If you’ve browsed a non-mobile-friendly website on your smartphone, then you know how frustrating it can be. The person viewing your website must be in dire need of your service not to give up and look for a mobile-friendly website instead.

The above stats show, if a business wants to survive in today’s world, it cannot overlook mobile SEO. Therefore, it’s a bit of a surprise to find there are still plenty of companies with non-mobile-friendly websites.

If your business is still part of this group, you need to step up and change your strategy for optimization. With the below strategies, you can create your business a sound mobile SEO strategy.

THE KEY AREAS TO FOCUS WITH MOBILE SEO

When you start looking into mobile SEO, your mind will be flooded with different strategies and ideas. There are countless ways to optimize your content, but not all of them are as good.

In fact, there are certain practices that are outright bad and are most likely going to get your website punished by the search engines.

The below set of practices will offer you the best route to good quality mobile SEO. They form the basis of a solid mobile SEO strategy and by implementing them in your company’s website, you will boost your search engine visibility in an instant.

Optimize content for performance

Take a look at your website and try using it on a mobile phone. You’ll instantly notice how the user experience differs, when you are using the site with your fingertip and the screen size is smaller.

It is essential to start by optimizing your content with the device in mind. A touch screen device makes it hard to press small navigation links and therefore, you want to streamline your service to accommodate vertical menus, for example.

You also need to pay close attention to the navigation on the site. Since the screen is smaller and the ability to browse is more limited, you must have the most important and popular sites behind a touch of a button (or screen!). Google Webmaster Tools is great for finding out how many instances of pages, which don’t consider the path of the user’s fingers, you have on the site.

In most instances, the above can be achieved by developing a revamped site specifically for mobile search. Make sure you don’t achieve this by simply scaling down the desktop version of the website. This is an easier route, as you are simply tweaking around the website, but it won’t provide as effective results as redevelopment.

Overall, you have three different routes for optimizing your website for mobile. It might be a good idea to go for a combination of these and implement them all, but even starting with one can boost your search engine ranking. You can:

  • Make your website responsive – as mentioned above, this will detect the visitor is using a mobile device and will then adjust the layout accordingly.
  • Enable dynamic serving – a more complex approach, which means the design detects the device and loads the appropriate content onto that device.
  • Have a mobile URL – you can simply have a sub-domain for mobile users. This means your mobile users are redirected to the mobile site.

One of the important elements you need to look at are possible videos and images on your site. Make sure the visual content is responsive, so that it scales to the optimal size for different devices. The most important thing to do is remove Flash from the site. For example, iPhones don’t render Flash at all and Android devices respond to it very slowly.

In addition, pop ups are an ultimate no-go for mobile sites. Make sure you avoid these as much as possible.

Once you’ve done optimizing the content to fit the mobile device and tweaked the navigation to suit the touch screen models better, you need to test the site’s performance. Things such as page loading times are essential because a slowly loading site can mean you lose customers.

According to one study, 74% of mobile site users leave the page if it hasn’t loaded in five seconds. The same study claimed a one-second delay could amount to $1.6 billion in annual losses for online merchants.

What makes loading speed on mobile sites trickier is the way they connect to the Internet. You need to remember smartphone connections can be slower to desktop connections, although the speed is improving a lot with the rise of 4G.

Focus on localization

Google’s statistics show 50% of mobile searches happen with local intent. Localization is therefore a crucial part of mobile SEO.

Your website must use plenty of local keywords. For example, instead of using “a cake factory” keyword as part of your content, opt for “a New York cake factory” instead. You’ll also want to make sure each site has your address details to boost local ranking.

Add as much detail about your business as possible. You want to include the full address, with postcode or zip code, as well as include possible opening times and contact numbers. Google’s mobile search provides this information for top searches, for instance.

Finally, you can also enhance your localization by joining local community pages and other such organizations. These could be yellow pages-type of websites, but also local chamber of commerce groups or industry groups. Local citation cites such as Google Listings and Yelp, among others, are also crucial.

Link building opportunities are a big part of good mobile localization. Guest blog in local community websites, co-operate with local small businesses or get your business featured in the local media. All of these activities can boost your search engine ranking.

Keep track of mobile keywords

As mentioned earlier, the way people search changes when they switch from a desktop to a mobile phone. If you’ve optimized your website for keywords before, you want to make sure you check the mobile keywords to optimize the content on the mobile site.

There are two big differences to searches on the mobile. These are:

  • Mobile searches tend to be shorter – people often use shortcuts on the phone and keyword selection is much more restricted. Tail phrases tend to be on the point and short.
  • Mobile searches are more localized – as the above section showed, people’s searches become local in nature on the mobile. This is because many use the phone to find businesses when they are on the go, especially if they are in a new place or part of the town.

The Google Keyword Tool is still one of the best ways to find relevant keywords and it has a way to search for mobile keywords. You should also make sure to track mobile keywords on your site. The Google Webmaster Tools allow you to adjust the search query settings to track mobile keywords. This will give you great insight into what people are looking for on your site.

When it comes to keywords, you must remember to avoid practicing the so-called keyword stuffing. The keywords you use must come naturally from the content and the type of business you are. Do not overuse keywords and stuff them on your site in an inorganic manner. This could result in search engines punishing your site, not to mention that people can quickly spot the difference between real information and keyword stuffing.

Aim for socialization

There’s another final difference influencing mobile SEO strategies to general SEO: social media. Mobile users are more likely using their phones more to be connected with, not just their inner circle of friends and family, but also the wider world. Mobile phones are used for social engagement and your mobile SEO strategy should reflect this.

When you are adding content to your mobile-friendly site, you want to ensure it has this social-factor to it. Is the content entertaining? Could it be shared with friends and family? Keep these questions in mind when developing and adding content.

You should also pay close attention to making it easy to share the content from your website. Mobile-friendly sites should have simple, easy-to-click buttons for social media sharing, such as Facebook and Twitter.

There are examples of retailers who have nailed this social-first approach. If you venture into Macy’s mobile site, you can see each product can easily be liked and shared via social media, for example.

Consider going down the app route

There’s also an alternative approach to mobile SEO, which you should keep in mind. Depending on the type of business you have, as well as the products and services you offer, developing a mobile app might be another route to take. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should not optimize your website for mobile, but that you also utilize the power of the app and direct your mobile customers to it whenever you have a chance.

An app can offer a much better user experience for your customers and in its own way also boost mobile SEO. But you also need to be careful not to block search engine crawlers from spotting your mobile-friendly site by using an interstitial page to alert guests of the available app.

Furthermore, remember that an app and a mobile-friendly website often serve a different purpose. Applications are perfect for situations where the customer will want to visit the site multiple times. Apps are therefore resources or business tools for the user. Mobile banking apps could be an example of this. It makes more sense to develop an app for online banking rather than a mobile-friendly site.

Think carefully whether the intent of your customers visiting your site could be better served with an app or a mobile site. For many businesses, an app is not the answer, but you definitely want to develop one if your customers would effectively benefit from it.

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