Mobile search traffic has exceeded that of desktop since at least 2016. BrightEdge data shows that 62% of all web traffic is from mobile devices and tablets. And some of our clients consider that figure to be a conservative one.
Google has increasingly moved towards a model that prioritizes mobile experience. Its “mobile first” system uses the mobile version of a website for indexing and ranking purposes. Furthermore, platforms and reports like Google Lighthouse, PageSpeed Insights, and Page Experience all include dedicated features for optimizing mobile websites.
Mobile SEO is a technical but well-understood and largely straightforward process. It’s also absolutely non-negotiable from an SEO standpoint. Marketers will also see noticeably higher conversion rates from a site that is not only mobile-ready but fully optimized.
What’s the State of Mobile?
The current mobile landscape presents a multifaceted but also definite picture. And it leaves SEOs in no doubt about the importance of mobile optimization.
Mobile devices constitute the most popular way of accessing the web, search traffic is predominantly mobile, and Google has been transparent about the fact that it prioritizes mobile websites during indexing and ranking.
Here are some stats illustrating the current state of mobile:
Google prioritizes mobile friendliness, and it is likely central to the algorithms of other search engines like Bing and DuckDuckGo. Google has published extensive documentation on Search Central about how web admins can optimize their site and troubleshoot common errors.
What Is “Mobile SEO” and “Mobile Readiness?”
Mobile readiness describes the compatibility of a website with mobile devices. Mobile-ready sites are tailored to meet the specific needs of mobile users, and tend to have responsive designs and simplified navigation, among other elements.
Mobile SEO is the practice of optimizing a mobile site so that it ranks highly in search engines but is also aligned to the user experience of someone using a handheld device. In recent years, Google has adopted a “mobile first” approach, meaning that it primarily uses the mobile version of a site to determine rankings.
Google also offers a host of features in Analytics and Search Console (the Mobile Usability and Core Web Vitals (CWV) reports are two examples) that developers use to improve the quality of their mobile websites.
Mobile Readiness: A Checklist
We’ve compiled this mobile SEO optimization checklist, which will ensure that your site is mobile-friendly and has the best possible chances of ranking.
A solution like BrightEdge can automatically monitor these optimization factors and alert you when key insights arise or need attention. Consider implementing an automated solution if you don’t already rely on one.
- Mobile and tablet responsive design: Your website should employ a responsive structure and layout that fits the screen size of mobile devices and tablets. A responsive design will display equally well both horizontally and vertically. If you are a BrightEdge customer, ContentIQ or BrightEdge Instant can help you assess how your site will render and load on both desktop and mobile environments.
- PageSpeed Insights: Run mobile pages through PageSpeed Insights and implement changes. Speed is particularly important for mobile sites because connectivity via cellular networks is often limited. Minification and browser caching should be priorities. BrightEdge customers can also bulk test pages for page speed via Instant and correlate its impact on rankings for targeted keywords via SearchIQ.
- Google Search Console: The Core Web Vitals (CWV) and Mobile Usability reports available in Google Search Console are useful monitoring tools and can help identify issues and areas for improvement on your mobile site. If you have separate URLs for mobile and desktop, verify them both in Search Console.
- HTML5: Use of HTML5 ensures a clean, functional codebase that is preferable for mobile-responsive sites. HTML5 can also be used to create visual effects instead of Flash.
- Social Sharing: Have social buttons available, but not intruding on the visitors experience. This will allow sharability of your content and help with visiblity.
- Dynamic serving: If you implement dynamic serving on your site—two separate code files for mobile and desktop but served under the same URL—you’ll need to use the Vary HTTP header to alert Googlebot.
- Ads: Apply Better Ads Standards for mobile sites.
- Image compression: Compress high-resolution images to increase page speed. While other page speed factors are important, image compression is one of the biggest contributors to slow page speeds. BrightEdge customers can automate these processes for images via Autopilot and leverage Instant to test how their page speeds are impacting rankings.
- Optimize lazy loading: Lazy-load images should be visible in the viewport. Lazy-loading images that require user interaction (such as a tap from the user) are not visible to Google, so shouldn’t be included on mobile web pages.
- Navigation: A simple dropdown navigation bar is best for mobile.
- Concise headlines: Long headlines are cumbersome when scanning content on mobile devices and take up valuable screen space.
- Legible, correctly sized font: Fonts should be configured specifically for mobile screens. Generally, they will be larger than on a desktop.
- Pared-down forms: Typing tends to be more demanding on mobile devices. Simplify forms wherever possible and don’t add extraneous fields. Autocorrect on forms can also be problematic because locating errors requires scrolling. Real-time autocorrection is preferable.
- Space around links and calls-to-action (CTAs): Links placed close together are easy to tap by accident. Space links to avoid this problem.
- Large buttons: Make it easier to tap buttons by making them large enough. A page’s primary CTA should be tappable with either thumb.
- Appropriate use of white space: White space adds to the aesthetics of a mobile site and contributes to a positive user experience.
- Avoid pop-ups: Pop-ups aren’t entirely wrong on desktop, but Google has stated explicitly that full-page interstitial pop-ups should be avoided.
- Meta titles and descriptions: Don’t use different meta titles and descriptions for mobile and desktop sites. Google’s John Mueller has advised against the common practice.
- Apply relevant structured data/schema markup: Apply structured data wherever possible as it can help your website stand out in organic mobile listings. Use the same data for mobile and desktop versions of your site. Update URLs on your mobile site if necessary. Brightedge customers can leverage SearchIQ to see what Schema tags their competitors are using and how they are corresponding to high ranking results for keywords they are targeting.
Mobile SEO Optimization: Make It a Priority
Mobile readiness should be a priority for all SEOs. However, don’t view mobile SEO as a standalone task that can be completed and then forgotten about.
Mobile SEO optimization is an ongoing process that requires awareness of changes to user habits, SEO best practices, search engine guidelines (especially Google), and new technology. Moreover, mobile readiness reaches into nearly all areas of a business’ activities, including marketing, user experience, sales, and more.
It’s also important to keep in mind that while mobile SEO optimization can be a technical and multifaceted process, documentation and guidance are widely available on the web.
Navigating the Google Page Experience Update
POV: Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Do You Need It?
Guide to Page Speed (With Numerous Detailed Guides for Mobile Optimization)