Google’s Mobile-First Update
Everyone with a website has heard by now that their web presence needs to be mobile responsive for Google, every SEO firm has been shouting and preaching this since 2014. So, you don’t need us to tell you that. However you may not know that Google’s upcoming Mobile-First update prioritizes mobile sites in search results. This means that your site must be more than responsive, it needs to be mobile optimized to rank first. We’ll explain what that means and what you need to do.
Users typically search differently when they are using mobile than when they search on a desktop. Mobile users favor speed and availability so they use shorter phrases and more localized keywords. People using mobile to search are often on the move and are seeking local search results.
Alternatively some user choose voice search which utilizes what are called long-tail keywords. This is frustrating for optimizers because it conflicts, so it’s important to carefully research your keywords to see what’s relevant to your mobile customers.
The Google Search Console is a key tool for finding out what keywords searchers are using on different devices. Select “Mobile” under the Devices drop down within your Search Analytics. The data is useful but not comprehensive, you may need to consult an expert for the complete picture.
Google Search Console
If you have a separate site for mobile, it’s important to make sure it is forwarding properly, and you may need to submit a second sitemap to Google in case the paths are different.
You should check the Google Search Console for crawl errors. Be sure to check and render the site on both desktop and mobile versions to see any display flaws and see what Google sees to avoid penalties that effect your ranking.
Mobile Site Speed
You should check out Google’s PageSpeed Insights to see how your site performs on mobile. Google will evaluate your competition based on the performance of their site compared to yours. We just wrote an article a few months ago titled What is Website Optimization. We recommend familiarizing yourself with the subject to ensure your site performs better than the competition.
If you’re frustrated with the optimization of your site you may want to consider a separate mobile site that is optimized specifically for mobile devices without compromising the quality of your desktop experience. Not all of your content or features may be required, or consider a dedicated mobile app for your business.
We know that content is king, and you want to have high volume articles to establish your authority on a subject, but mobile visitors aren’t interested in the long form version of your content. They have less time and want to get to the point as quickly as possible. We recommend an abridged version of content to improve the mobile experience for your visitors. Consider delivering content based on the customer story.
It’s about assessing the right balance of content for search versus visitor satisfaction. Take a look at your site tracking and analytics to find if users are leaving too quickly and consider tailoring the content to fit the behavior that you’re observing.
User Experience Design
Responsive Design is the top priority when you want to deliver the best user experience. Since over half of Internet traffic is mobile you may want to consider mobile first as your design philosophy.
There’s a ton of factors to consider when designing for mobile, here’s a brief list to help you plan or evaluate your current user experience:
1. Smooth and Intuitive navigation – don’t make your customers think. The longer it takes for them to find what they are looking for, the more likely they’ll leave and go to the next Google search result.
2. Above The Fold content – check to make sure that what you are displaying above the fold is relevant to your visitors on mobile sites. Some of the biggest mistakes are having unoptimized pages where visitors have to scroll to find out if they’re in the right place.
3. Pop-ups are a mistake – they’re popular on desktop sites to retain visitors and capture their information before leaving, but they are a nightmare for users of mobile devices. They often break the functionality of a site and interrupt the user experience.
4. No flash media – make sure you have removed outdated technology that drains batteries and causes errors when rendering on mobile devices.
5. Optimize Video – your video should be formatted for the mobile screen, visit the pages and watch the videos yourself to make sure they perform as you’d expect on popular sites like youtube. Make sure the user can properly resize the screen, change the orientation between portrait and landscape, start and pause the video.
6. Desktop vs Mobile consistency – check to make sure the experience is consistent between all platforms. Often web designers do little testing between platforms, devices and browsers leaving one of their audiences with a poor experience.
We can’t emphasize the cross-platform testing enough. iPhones and Androids are different, you should test your site on as many devices as possible to make sure the experience is consistent for everyone. Remember your first impression is everything online.
Google evaluates a website on multiple fronts and be prepared for Google to consider all of these factors in their upcoming updates and your preparation will show in search results.