Adults in the United States spend 93% of their weekly mobile-device time accessing the internet. There has never been a better time than now to make sure you’ve made your website mobile-friendly.
In this article, we’ll share with you the benefits of a mobile-friendly site. Then, we’ll discuss the SEO and web design steps you can take to ensure your website makes the grade.
If you’re not going to go mobile-friendly, you might as well ask, “Why have a website?” Keep reading to ensure users–and search engines–can access and enjoy your online content.
Why You Need To Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly
Why should you care about making your website mobile-friendly? Isn’t it a lot of work? Americans spend as many as ten hours a day on their mobile phones, conducting business, entertaining themselves, and shopping.
If you engage in e-commerce or you have a brick-and-mortar store, that statistic alone should convince you that it’s time to take your website mobile. Overall, the main reason you need to go mobile is that it provides a better user experience.
Search engines, as well as consumers, are all about user experience these days. And if you have any chance of ranking on Google’s mobile index, for example, you’re going to need a mobile-friendly website.
How does a mobile-friendly website improve the user’s experience? With so many users spending so much time on mobile devices–phones and tablets alike–websites designed for larger screens and use of a mouse exclusively are not fun to browse. You have to pinch and zoom, scroll in all directions, and usually end up clicking on links you don’t mean to click on.
When a site is mobile-friendly, none of those problems exist. There are other benefits as well, such as page load speed. Mobile pages load faster on mobile devices.
These primary benefits–ease of use and better rankings in search–lead to secondary benefits such as increased sales, cost-effective website architecture (if using a responsive design), and being seen by consumers as a relevant and modern brand.
From those stem tertiary benefits: You have the opportunity to gain a lead on the competition and you prepare your website for the future. Mobile isn’t going away anytime soon, so you should ensure mobile users and search engines can access your site easily now.
What Is Mobile Optimization?
Now that you know why your website should be mobile-friendly, understanding mobile optimization is the next step to achieving it. The term simply means to make your website mobile-friendly.
This is done through SEO, or search engine optimization, and website design. The latter can be considered a part of the former, but we’ve broken them into separate sections below for further discussion.
Page speed is an example of optimizing your site’s SEO for mobile. On the website design side, you might think about site design and structure, for example. The good news is that a well-optimized site doesn’t usually require that many changes to become mobile-friendly.
Keep reading to learn more about what you can do to improve your mobile users’ experience and your own ranking within SERPs, or search engine results pages.
SEO For Mobile
Let’s look at how you can optimize your site for mobile SEO first. After all, search engines are the gateways to finding websites. We should look first, therefore, at how to increase your mobile ranking on search engines.
We mentioned page speed in the previous section. It’s one of the most important SEO considerations for mobile because due to differences in connectivity and hardware, websites can load more slowly for mobile devices if they’re not optimized.
Mobile users will give up on a website if it doesn’t load fast enough. But how do you make your website load it’s fastest? Here are some tips:
- Minify your website’s code
- Ensure your images are optimized
- Limit the number of redirects
- Make use of browser caching
Following these steps should reduce the time it takes your website and its pages to load. You can use free page speed tests to check your progress.
It used to be common practice to block these elements because older mobile devices couldn’t handle them. However, with smartphones and tablets now on the market, these elements are now supported.
Schema.org allows search engines to display rich snippets of information from your website on SERPs. If you’ve asked a question in Google, for example, and a box has appeared above or next to your organic search results containing the answer(s), you’ve seen the result of this.
Mobile likes rich snippets because screen space is limited to begin with. Rich snippets stand out more, serve the user better, and therefore garner more positive attention from search engines.
Titles, URLs, and META Descriptions
We just talked about how screen space is limited on mobile devices. This limitation can also affect how your titles, URLs and META descriptions appear on SERPs. You don’t want this data taking up the entirety of someone’s screen.
The trick is to be concise. Provide as much information as you can utilizing an economy of words. If there’s a simpler way to say something, go with that for mobile optimization.
Local SEO is a branch of SEO which helps you target consumers local to your area. It’s especially crucial for mobile search because so many mobile searches are done on the go with the “near me” qualifier.
There are many ways you can optimize your site for local SEO, but if you’re just getting started, there are two things you should do first and foremost:
- Update your NAP citations
- Add your city and state to META data
NAP citations are listings containing your name, address, and phone number. You’ll want to start with your website and make sure everything is correct. Search for your business to check for other listings, and if you use Google My Business–which you should–make sure your NAP citation there is accurate as well.
META data includes tags and your description. Adding geo-locators like your city to your title tag, for example, can optimize your site for local SEO.
Web Design For Mobile
By October of 2016, mobile usage of the internet outstripped desktop usage. If your website design is still not optimized for mobile, it’s safe to say you’re missing out. The good news is it can be fixed.
In this section, we’ll go over what a mobile-friendly site design entails. We’ll then show you three ways you can approach designing your site to work with mobile devices.
What Does Mobile Site Design Look Like?
Aesthetically, it should look like your site in that it should have the same colors, fonts, and other branding elements as your desktop site. When we ask what it should look like, we’re not talking about a different style guide. We’re talking about elements present on a mobile-optimized site.
Don’t use Flash. There are many phones that aren’t Flash-friendly. If you must show special effects, go with HTML5 instead of Flash.
Steer clear of pop-ups. While pop-ups may look great on a desktop site and be a useful way to mitigate page exits or gather marketing data such as consumer email addresses, they’re horrible on mobile devices. Sometimes they’re difficult to close, which can drive your bounce rate up.
What about buttons? You don’t want them to be too small or too large–think Goldilocks. You want them to be just right.
They also shouldn’t be in the way of scrolling. You can test on your own mobile device. Make sure:
- You don’t tap buttons by accident when you scroll
- You don’t have to pinch-zoom to tap a button
- Buttons don’t take up the entire screen
On mobile devices, above-the-fold content is no longer a concern thanks to endless scroll. Don’t feel like you need to cram everything into the top of a web page.
Now that you know what a mobile-friendly site looks and feels like, let’s talk about three ways to deliver a good mobile experience.
A dynamic serving mobile solution works by detecting what type of user is accessing your site. Then, it shows content for that user–mobile-friendly design for mobile users and desktop-friendly design for desktop users. This is done by utilizing the Vary HTTP header.
The main benefit of using a dynamic serving solution is that it utilizes only one URL, which consolidates authority. Search engines like that. It’s also great if you have content you only want to display to mobile users.
The cons are that it’s not only hard to put into place, but it’s also hard to maintain. Because of that, it can be demanding of your budget.
This configuration involves using multiple versions of your website. If you’ve ever navigated to a site housed on an “m” subdomain, you’ve seen separate site configuration in action. This method is easy to put into place, which makes it less expensive to set up than dynamic serving.
However, maintenance, while not difficult, can be time-consuming. That makes it expensive to keep up with. There’s also the risk of duplicate content; search engines aren’t fans of that, but this can be mitigated by setting up rel=”canonical”.
Another con to this method is it splits your website’s authority because you have more than one URL. However, for a benefit, separate site configuration allows you to display content desired only for mobile users, like dynamic serving.
If you’re going to go the separate site route, you need to make sure your site redirects are lean and clean, otherwise, page speed could slow down.
Responsive website design is Google’s favorite of the three options for making a website mobile-friendly. Like dynamic serving, you have one URL, so you maintain consolidated authority. Unlike both the dynamic serving and separate site methods, you can’t serve content that’s mobile-only, though.
However, there’s absolutely no risk of content duplication, and you don’t need to deal with redirects. The latter makes responsive website design the most efficient–and therefore least costly–to maintain.
Implementing responsive design might be expensive if a total redesign of your site is necessary. Basically, responsive design utilizes CSS3 media queries. Regardless of the size of the device users are on, they see the same content, just resized for their viewing ease.
This is done through an adaptive grid and design. The elements on your website will automatically accommodate the size of any screen, from mobile phone to tablet to desktop. The layout displayed by responsive design is determined by the orientation, screen width, and resolution of the device accessing your site.
We began this discussion by examining why you need to make your website mobile-friendly, and then moved onto what that looks like and how to go about it. If ranking on Google is important to you, you should take note of what Google prefers above all else. For example, we mentioned above that Google likes responsive website designs more than dynamic serving or separate site solutions.
As the leading search engine, it might behoove you to focus on pleasing Google first. Other search engines, like Bing, while important, will likely enjoy the same mobile-friendly tactics that Google prefers. As Google has maintained a 90% search engine market share from June 2017 to June 2018, focusing on this megalith of search engines is not a bad idea.
Ensuring that your website is mobile-friendly, regardless of which search engine you seek to please, should please the end-user. All search engines like when the end-user is happy. This has been a cornerstone of the latest SEO strategies and tactics.
If you still have questions about mobile-friendly browsing or how you can maximize your website’s potential for mobile use, we invite you to contact us. We’d love to help you serve your mobile users and improve your mobile search ranking at the same time by answering your questions.