“Mobile-first indexing.” When Google Webmaster Central Blog made that earth-shattering announcement, that Google would start indexing pages based on their mobile appearance, it sent many website owners into a panic.
From an SEO perspective, they wondered “how will this affect all my current strategy?” “Will I need to hire a developer and change everything?”
Well, you may not need to change everything (we hope), but there are surely a few things to keep in mind.
Since more than 50% of internet users are using their mobile devices, it’s time to create sites that are fully responsive and smartphone-friendly.
Get the term mobile SEO ingrained in your noggin, and let’s dive into the top strategies for success in this new internet landscape.
It’s good to know exactly what mobile-first indexing really means. According to Google, mobile-first indexing entails its algorithm indexing the mobile version of a site’s content first, before considering desktop quality.
This isn’t to say that desktop versions of a site aren’t important. In fact, you should consider a site’s overall responsiveness across platforms and devices. But viewing a site through the desktop perspective is easy. It’s something we all do naturally while building and designing our websites.
Start programming your brain to consider mobile.
Forgetting algorithms for a second, let’s focus on the tangible part of why mobile SEO is important—the user experience.
UX is a buzzword that’s getting tossed around more often than a football in autumn. But do you know what it really means?
Simply put, user experience is the idea that you should make your website thoroughly inviting for users, causing them to want to stay on your site for longer durations and share your content with others.
And since mobile is now the most common form of web browsing, it’s crucial to make the user experience optimal on mobile devices.
One example of user-friendliness is using a ‘hamburger menu.’
This accordion-like, condensed view of a site’s main navigation is great for improving mobile-friendliness because it conforms to the narrow parameters of smaller screens.
Mobile SEO is contingent on good coding and development work, even more than it is dependent on high-quality content.
Mobile-Friendly Page Builder
If you’re building web pages yourself—without hand-coding them—you’ll need to invest in a page builder that will create responsive designs for you.
The key is to make sure that you can easily check out the mobile and tablet views while you build pages and make site edits. And preferably, the builder should allow you to make custom changes for each different view size.
Some of the top page builders include Thrive Architect, Fusion Builder, Beaver Builder, and Visual Composer. It’s always good to test multiple builders and find the one that suits your needs.
Short, Digestible Paragraphs
Moving away from the technical elements of mobile SEO, let’s talk about content structure.
Remember that topic of user experience? Well a major contributor to people staying on your website has to do with the way your content is laid out.
If you’re still writing 4-6 sentence paragraphs like it’s the year 1999, STOP!
Today’s internet user—and Google’s algorithm—wants short-form, digestible content, written in 1-3 sentence chunks.
Notice how short my paragraphs are throughout this article? That’s because I’m accounting for you needing to read this coherently.
Famous marketer Neil Patel once said, “Personally, whenever I come across a post where the author failed to keep paragraphs and sentences short and succinct, I’ll click on the [x] and run.” (source)
High bounce rates = poor user experience. It may seem counterintuitive, but keeping paragraphs short actually keeps users on your pages longer.
Check Mobile View
Even if your page builder is geared towards building a responsive website, you have to continually check out your site’s performance on mobile devices.
One free tool that every website owner should use is Google’s Page Speed Insights. This shows you how well your site is performing on both desktop and mobile devices, listing areas where improvements can be made.
Even if you’re not a developer yourself, you can easily share these insights with someone who can help you make the necessary changes.
A good rule of thumb is to check your site speed whenever new blog posts or pages are added to your site. It’s surprising how quickly errors can add up when you’re regularly posting new content.
When it comes to indexing your site, Search Console is a go-to resource. You can fetch and render any page for both desktop and mobile versions. It’s a good practice to do this for any new page you create, in order to spot potential crawl errors that would prevent indexing in Google.
And of course, the other way you can check the quality of mobile websites is by viewing them on your own mobile device. Although this isn’t a scientific method, it doesn’t hurt to use the eye test every so often to see whether users are able to easily navigate each page.
If you need a fresh perspective, ask a friend to look at your site on their phone.
Best Responsive Websites
So what are some of the best responsive websites that you should gather inspiration from? Well, a few years ago there weren’t many; nowadays, there are tons!
Like the e-commerce website, Vroozi.
Notice how their tablet and smartphone versions are almost identical? That’s responsiveness at it’s finest.
Or how this website rearranges its buttons from a horizontal placement, to a more vertical placement on mobile devices.
The general pattern you’ll notice across most responsive designs is this vertical alignment component.
By keeping each element stacked, you’ll give smartphone users a great scrolling experience.
Focus on the Technical
When doing SEO work, it’s easy to harp on keyword density, title tags, meta descriptions, and so forth. For mobile SEO, you need to brush these factors aside and first focus on nailing down the technical components.
This isn’t to say that keywords don’t matter on mobile, but they really won’t matter unless your site is fully responsive in the first place.
If you run regular tests to check for mobile responsiveness, you should be well ahead of the curve, and your competition.