FAQ Friday: Mastering the Mobile Search Engine

Posted by Nate Ruttan Jun 2, 2017

faq-friday_mastering-mobile-search-engine_1000x576.jpgToday’s world moves faster than ever. The phones in people’s pockets have vastly more computing power than it took to launch the 1969 moon landing. Information is instantaneous, so it’s no small wonder that mobile search is at an all-time high. Keeping your website up-to-date now means making it mobile-friendly as well.

In 2015, Google announced that there were more search queries on mobile devices than on desktops. This was a historic milestone, but a much-anticipated one. For years, mobile use has become accessible and mainstream as smart phones boast faster connection speeds and larger screens. Because of this, there is a trend towards mobile SEO and UX design that is growing fast and here to stay. Staying on top of the most effective strategies takes concerted effort, but pays dividends.

It’s remarkable how quickly the mobile landscape changes when it comes to keyword strategy and SEO. Google’s complex algorithm changes every couple months, so it takes persistence to be up-to-date on the most effective strategies. That being said, here are a few tenets that have staying power:

Simplicity is the best policy

Your app’s interface has to be polished and easy to use. You’ve got to consider the various size of fingers that may potentially struggle at precise interactions. Keep movement through the app as smooth as possible.

Pop-ups are evil

Not only will Google penalize you for intrusive pop-up ads, but users absolutely detest them. The mobile marketplace is as volatile as the desktop marketplace: with the world of information at user fingertips, it is very easy to lose prospects forever if they feel that your site has spam.

HTML is the gold standard

The wide variety of operating systems supported by mobile makes it extremely important for brands to follow valid HTML coding. Browsers parse through HTML code to determine search relevance. Any errors or invalid coding will result in broken pages and a lower ranking. Sites built in accordance to standards will ensure a consistent experience across all devices. Stay away from Flash!

56% of mobile phone users rely on their phone for information on-the-go. This is true for people in both personal as well as professional settings. The interconnectedness of the internet has spilled over from office desktops into the pockets of billions of people around the globe.

But even as the way people access information changes, content is still king. Publishing high-quality content remains one of the most important signals you can use to create a successful SEO strategy across any platform—your website has to be filled with relevant content that people want to interact with, and that's easy to interact with.

Just remember that it takes a different set of parameters to optimize a mobile site for SEO. For example, Flash is a common desktop plugin that might not be available on mobile, and if your content fails to load, the user will navigate away from your website, never to return! Despite the fact that Google is able to crawl Flash content, the majority of your mobile visitors won’t be able to see or interact with it, so it’s better put that content into HTML.

It's always better to play it safe and ensure all users can access and interact with content, because users are becoming pickier over time. If a site isn’t mobile-friendly, but instead is just the full site converted into a mobile web page, they are likely to leave the site after just one click. In fact, in 2016 users were reported to be five times more likely to exit a mobile site if it was not fully optimized for mobile use. That’s why it is important not only to plan ahead, but constantly test your site from a mobile device to stay ahead of bugs and inconsistencies.

 

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Using Responsive Web Design (RWD) is crucial for maintaining a consistent balance between aesthetics and functionality across all platforms. Whether desktop, tablet, or mobile, RWD grants your site the ability to stay fluid yet still provide the same content across various channels. You certainly don’t want your mobile site to look altogether different from your desktop site. This is usually attained through CSS3 queries which load the site based on the screen size. This keeps the same URL and HTML format intact for all devices. This makes it easier for Google’s crawlers to find and promote your links, as well as making it easier for users to share your links directly.

Loading speed is another key factor to consider when optimizing a website for mobile use. A page that loads in an instant over secure Wi-Fi may not fare we as well over 4G, although the connection speeds are thankfully increasing all the time. Here is a useful tool for determining the loading speed of any particular website page, which gives valuable insight into the potential problem areas of your website.

Here are the most common fixes to increase a mobile page’s load time:

  • Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content
  • Enable compression
  • Optimize images
  • Minify CSS
  • Leverage browser caching

Even though “simplicity is the best policy” was mentioned earlier in this article, it is worth expanding on. While finger size and mobile experience play important roles in optimizing a mobile website, the attitudes towards searching and browsing is slightly different than on desktop. Users accessing the internet on their phones are much more goal-oriented than their office-based counterparts. They are searching for something (a product, an answer to a question, geography-specific content, etc.) because they need it now.

It is more difficult to navigate through a mobile site than it is to click around a website with a mouse. Users spend less time on mobile sites, even though they use them more often, because they are more goal-oriented. They want the least amount of information needed to satisfy their query, and they want to move their fingers the fewest amount of times to get there. Incorporate this goal-oriented behavior by using as few navigation movements as possible. Do not use pinch-to-zoom, as more than one finger is often perceived by mobile users as clunky and awkward.

Although taking your website mobile can be finicky, it is well worth it to stay on top of the current trends. Mastering the mobile search engine means incorporating technical as well as design elements. Don’t be afraid to explore user testing, and be sure to provide continuous updates as Google’s algorithms change, as well as the wants of your ideal consumer. For more on mobile strategy, check out this blog post.

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