Best Practices for Mobile SEO

person taking a nightshot photo of a city using a mobile phone

As Google moves towards a strictly mobile index in the coming months, it seems to be the perfect time for a little overview of mobile SEO best practices.  The techniques mentioned below are as relevant to 2017 as they are to 2018.  That is to say, these techniques will take into consideration, as best as possible, the modifications to SEO work induced by the mobile index.  Not only is it vital for SEO analysts to understand the fundamentals of SEO, but given that mobile optimization has only picked up steam in the past couple of years, it may turn out that some key updates passed you by in the process.

Mobile optimization means taking a look at all the key features of a site – page speed, site infrastructure, site design, and more – and designing it for an optimal user experience no matter the size or shape of their device.  A user that might want to search for kitchen appliances on the bus, for example.  Ideally, this user will have as pleasant an experience searching for kitchen appliances on the bus as they would from a desktop – but only if effective mobile optimization techniques are in place.  So what can be done to ensure mobile visitors have a smooth and informative experience on your site?  Let’s begin with the building blocks:

Page Speed

Unlike desktop, page speed on mobile is a major consideration for SEO analysts.  Page speed refers to the time it takes for a full display of content on a specific page.  From an SEO perspective, the key thing to keep in mind is minimizing complexity and cutting down on images on a page.  Here are three elements of page speed (in a bit more detail) that need close attention:

  • Optimize Browser Caching.  You want the browser to cache as much information about each of your pages as possible.  That way, when a user returns to a page on your site they have already visited, the load time is much shorter (because information like JavaScript files and images are saved in the cache).  
  • Simplify Your Code.  A surprisingly common issue for mobile page optimization is sloppy code.  Spaces, commas, and any superfluous characters should be removed.  This goes for CSS as well as Java and HTML.
  • Compression Goes a Long Way.  Make your code files smaller using a file compression application.  Don’t apply it to images of course, as you can make size adjustments in photoshop without compromising pixelation count.  

Don’t Hide/Block Content

Blocking content from Google bots used to be a requirement of mobile because the device could not support the processing of extensive information at the same time.  Phones are much more powerful today and as such this is no longer an issue.  Make sure your mobile setup does not automatically block content, otherwise it will confuse Google bots and thus reduce your trustworthy score. 

Scrolling Endlessly Is Better than Pages Linked to the Homepage

Web design of today and the future is all about scrolling instead of page linking.  Scrolling is definitely a product of mobile heavy search patterns, and you should take advantage of this for your site.  What does that mean in terms of technical design?  

  • No Flash required
  • Pop-ups are only going to annoy a mobile user who is searching on a small device
  • Make it easy to scroll by designing large call-to-action buttons that are as easy to see as they are to select

Keyword Optimization for Local Search

This is an ongoing priority since day 1 of mobile SEO.  Very little should change in your standard approach to local keyword search, other than two features.  First, focus more on long-tail keywords in general because semantic search is already a big part of how Google’s algorithm interprets search queries.  Second, make sure key business information (like hours, location, etc) are easily accessible from mobile.  Google reports that searches for “stores open now” or “food open now” have more than doubled from 2015 to 2016.  

Pick Right Mobile Site Design

Choosing the right site design can literally make or break your SEO efforts going forward.  The three choices remain Responsive design, Separate URL design, or Dynamic site design, and each have their pros and cons.  While Responsive might be the easiest and most affordable from an SEO perspective, it is not possible to fully optimize pages for mobile experience.  Dynamic requires more maintenance and SEO competence, but it’s more than worth it in the long run because Google bots need to process only one URL for both desktop and mobile search.  Given that Google will soon be using mobile index ranking as the primary content to rank pages, now is as good a time as any to make the shift to Dynamic site design.  

Keep up to date with the changing landscape of SEO by following the work of local SEO expert Paul Teitelman

About the Author

Paul Teitelman - SEO Consultant

Paul is a well-respected Canadian SEO consultant and link-building expert with over 15 years of experience helping hundreds of companies rank for competitive keywords on Google. He is a Toronto-based SEO consultant who is passionate about search engine optimization and link building. Over the years, he has made a reputation for himself as a leader in the industry by consistently delivering phenomenal results to his growing client base.