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Is your website mobile friendly? Should you care? Do kids like candy?
Chances are you’re reading this on your mobile phone. (Are we right or are we right?) Moreover, if you can bear to tear your gaze away from that fairly dinky smartphone screen to lift your head and look around for just a second, chances are every single person around you is head down, engrossed, eyes fixed upon their own mobile phones. Just from this observational science, common sense alone should be enough to tell you that mobile phones are where it’s at when it comes to surfing the web. Communicating. Living life. Buying stuff. Any website, email application, game or any other app needs to be easy to use and view on mobile phones. If your website isn’t mobile friendly, your website isn’t user-friendly. And if your website isn’t user-friendly, your website isn’t Google-friendly. And if your website isn’t Google-friendly… why even bother having one.
Common sense not concrete enough for you? How about the following list of numbers-don’t-lie stats about mobile phone usage as it relates to your business:
- 3 hours – time spent per day on mobile, by the average consumer, engaging with digital media (Meeker 2018 Internet Trends Report)
- 71 – percentage of web traffic worldwide which comes from mobile. In the first quarter of 2019, mobile devices (excluding tablets) generated nearly half of all global website traffic! (Statista)
- 69 – percentage of smartphone users who say they are more likely to buy from companies with easy-to-use mobile sites that answer all their questions, no digging around required (BrightEdge, 2017)
- $2.32 trillion – E-Commerce sales mobile will be responsible for by 2021. Which equates to about 67.2 percent of all online sales. (Statista)
- 57 – percentage of users who say they won’t recommend a business that proffers a clunky mobile website (socPub)
Mobile consumption of websites and digital media is clearly winning the traffic race. Increasingly, your customers are turning to their smartphones to find you, learn more about you, purchase from you, which means that optimizing your website to be mobile friendly is a no-brainer. Actually doing it though? Well that takes a bit more brain power.
Luckily, we’re here to give you the definitive guide on building a mobile friendly website, mobile SEO best practices, mobile SEO benefits and more. Basically, barring building the actual mobile phone yourself, we’ll give you everything you need to know about mobile as it relates to your website.
What is a Mobile Friendly Website?
A mobile friendly website is one that has been sized and coded to look great and function smoothly on all mobile phones, smartphones (iPhone, Android, Blackberry), as well as other hand-held devices like iPads and tablets. Key elements of a mobile friendly website are:
- Content size: text should be easy to read with the naked eye, images shouldn’t be tiny.
- Navigation: the site should be easy to navigate, with menus easily accessible (not hiding off screen), buttons and links large enough for fat fingers, and no zooming in or out required.
- Looks: the site should look good no matter the size of the screen. (Yes, looks do matter.)
What is Mobile SEO?
Mobile SEO, or mobile search engine optimization, is what you do to ensure your site is mobile friendly i.e., all of the above. It’s the stuff you do behind the scenes to ensure good times on the screens.
Mobile SEO looks at things like:
- Load time
- Site speed
- Site design
- Site structure
- Responsiveness to different screen sizes
- Image compression
- Removal of pop-ups or interstitials
- And more.
Not only does mobile SEO ensure a better user experience for your customers, it also makes nice with the search engines. This results in a better ranking for your site on SERPs. Which then results in even more customers getting to see and enjoy the fruits of your mobile SEO efforts. It’s a vicious, or glorious, cycle, depending on how well you do it.
Why is Being Mobile Friendly, and Mobile SEO, Important?
And the answer is…. Yes, you guessed it. As always, the answer to everything SEO is almost always Google (related).
Of course Google isn’t the only search engine out there, but when it comes to mobile SEO it might as well be: Google accounts for almost 95% of the mobile search market. (Statista) So back in February 2015 when Google published a blog post saying that “Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results…”, SEOs all over the world sat up and took notice. Fast forward to March 2016 when Google released another heavy-on-the-mobile-love blog post stating that “beginning in May, we’ll start rolling out an update to mobile search results that increases the effect of the ranking signal to help our users find even more pages that are relevant and mobile-friendly…” and it’s safe to say that SEOs knew the writing was on the proverbial mobile screen: mobile SEO was the future. And the future was imminent.
Well that future has now arrived. In May of this year (2019), Google’s mobile-first indexing by default for new domains arrived in a glaringly clear (and mobile-friendly) blog post, stating that “mobile-first indexing will be enabled by default for all new, previously unknown to Google Search, websites starting July 1, 2019. It’s fantastic to see that new websites are now generally showing users – and search engines – the same content on both mobile and desktop devices.”
Although this only applies to new domains as yet undiscovered by Google, it is quite patently clear: Google wants your site, and every site, to be mobile-friendly. Not only will they crawl the mobile version of your site first, before your desktop version, but there will come a day when they won’t index your site, at all, if your site isn’t mobile friendly.
Mobile SEO is now not only necessary to keep users happy, it’s imperative if you want to be seen by Google – and by default users – at all. By switching to mobile-first indexing, Google is using the mobile-version of the content of your web page to determine your search engine ranking full stop, no matter which device you are using. So if your mobile SEO sucks (sorry, but this is important and we’re done beating around the bush), your ranking will suck.
Benefits of a Mobile Optimized Website
Of course, this kind of dictatorship – the kind where the king (in this case Google) tells you you must do something (in this case optimize your website to be mobile friendly) or else – tends to rankle. Before you get your back up, though, consider that this really is for your own good. A mobile friendly website, with mobile SEO in place, has all kinds of benefits – for yourself, for your user, and for Google.
1. Better User Experience
One for your user…
By streamlining your website to be responsive across all devices, and equally user-friendly, easy to navigate, and recognizably you, no matter which device your user is on, you are giving your mobile customers a user experience that will leave them feeling happy and more inclined to (a) spend money on your site and (b) return to your site. Give users the opposite experience, and you can kiss that customer, and the potential sale, goodbye. In fact, Google reports that 61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing and 40% visit a competitor’s site instead. (McKinsey & Company) Which leads us to benefit number 2…
2. Better Sales / Improved Bottom Line
One for you…
So a mobile friendly website is obviously good for the customer. Business acumen 101: what’s good for the customer is good for you.
Not only do 69 percent of smartphone users say that they are more likely to buy from companies with great mobile sites (BrightEdge), according to Google, 40% of people prefer to use mobile devices to complete the whole shopping process, from researching the product to buying it. Mobile also continues to drive presale searches. In 2017, Google reported that mobile searches for product reviews had increased by 35% over two years. That’s a whole lot of searching and buying happening on mobile. As long as your site is mobile friendly you can be a part of it.
Optimizing your site to be mobile friendly also gets bonus points in the ‘making you money’ department by being more cost effect than app development.
Bottom line? Being mobile friendly is good for business and your bottom line.
3. Better ranking signal
One for Google…
Google has clearly stated that responsive design, which renders your website mobile friendly (and all-device friendly), helps their “algorithms accurately assign indexing properties to the page rather than needing to signal the existence of corresponding desktop/mobile pages.” Ah yes, we are all slaves to the Google algorithms… Love them or hate them, there’s just no escaping the fact that to get better rankings you need to follow Google’s guidelines to ensure they can index your site. (In case you’re still wondering, those guidelines firmly point towards mobile-first indexing.)
How to Check if your Website is Mobile Friendly
Well, there’s always that mobile phone you’re reading this on… Start there!
Open up your browser, type in your URL and perform a mini-test on your own website to see how user-friendly the experience is. Be honest. Be brutal. Time yourself to see how long it takes before (or if) you get annoyed and abandon your own site.
Even better, perform the friend test: get a friend to open up your website on their phone and have a look around. What do they think of the page load speed, what it looks like, how easy it is to read, how easy it is to find things.
Now, with those experiences as your starting point, head over to Google’s mobile-friendly test to run something a little more technical. Type your URL into the search box, click Test URL, and Google will reveal the results in less than a minute. You can then head over to Google Search Console to find an even more in-depth report of your mobile status, learn where you’re going wrong and find possible solutions and fixes to what ails your mobile friendliness.
Pro tip: Once you’re in Google Search Console, start by checking whether or not Google can even actually crawl your site successfully to find your content and rank you accurately in SERPs. Go to Crawl, Crawl Errors, and click on Smartphone to find any possible errors.
How to Make your Website Mobile Friendly
So what constitutes a mobile friendly website?
It’s a website viewed on a mobile phone that offers a user-friendly website experience in spite of the reduced screen size. It offers all the same features and content as the desktop site, but presented in a way that is easy to view and use on the go. It’s your entire business offering in your customer’s pocket, without diminishing that offering in any way, shape or form.
The key items that users report wanting in a mobile friendly site include:
- Fast load time – we live in an age of convenience and, if we’re honest, impatience: your mobile site, like your desktop site should load in 5 seconds or less
- Finger-friendly buttons – big buttons that don’t ruin the look of the site
- A site that fits the smaller screen without looking squashed, with limited need for pinching to zoom in or out
- Reasonably sized, easy-to-read text that requires zero squinting
- Limited one-directional scrolling – vertical or horizontal
- Easy to find contact information
- Highly visible ‘Click to Call’ button to actually phone your business
- Links to your company’s social media
On a more technical level, mobile SEO best practices include the following key items:
- Do speed up your page – although this has already been reported as important by users, it bears repeating on a technical level. According to Google, 53% of visits are abandoned if sites take more than 3 seconds to load. In addition, half of your visitors expect pages to load in 1-2 seconds. Mobile page speed is no different. Start by using Google’s mobile speed test to see if your site has any speed issues. Common fixes can include things like compressing images, files and videos; minification of code; reducing redirects and more. For more insights into your site’s page speed, you can also use the Google PageSpeed Insights tool. This tool offers a score on your page speed (once you’ve clicked on ‘Analyze’ and the result has popped up, you can choose mobile or desktop on the top left of your screen to see insights for your mobile site specifically), as well as opportunities for improvement.
- Don’t over-use pop ups or annoying interstitials. Even the word pop up is annoying. That’s not to say you can’t use them. Just do so wisely.
- Don’t use unplayable video applications – like Flash. Google specifically recommends this one, saying “Avoid common mistakes that frustrate mobile visitors, such as featuring unplayable videos (for example, Flash video as the page’s significant content). Mobile pages that provide a poor searcher experience can be demoted in rankings or displayed with a warning in mobile search results.” For special effects rather use HTML5.
- Do make sure your content is mobile friendly. With space being an issue on mobile, it is even more important that your text reflects quality over quantity. Make it brief, to the point, useful, and easy to read. Use headers and easy to see and use call out buttons. In the words of Jakob Nielsen, a web usability consultant with a Ph.D. in human-computer interaction, “Short is too long for mobile.”
- Do make an informed decision on whether you want your mobile site configuration to be responsive, dynamic serving, or separate site configuration. Google does prefer responsive design – design which is coded in a way that allows the layout and display of the page to automatically change based on the size of the device screen. However, it does support all three options as long you as you set them up properly and signal to Google which one your site is.
Finally, we leave you with this thought about the power of mobile: “The adoption rate of mobile is twice that of the Internet, three times that of social media, and 10 times faster than PCs.” (Emma Crowe, Senior Vice President of Client Strategy at Somo, as told to attendees at the 2014 Mobile Retail Summit.)
Take some of the power back from that small device by optimizing for mobile and using it to your advantage. If you still have questions about mobile SEO, please call our SEO experts here at 1st on the List at 1-888-262-6687.