Mobile SEO: optimize your site for mobile devices

Conducting research online usually takes place via a search engine and this is becoming increasingly common on smartphones. For the first time, 2015 saw more Google search queries occurring on mobile devices than desktops. This has increased the pressure on website operators since they need to make sure that their products and services are displayed in an optimal way and can be easily found by the search engine. It’s therefore necessary to customize websites for mobile use. Mobile optimization is primarily about user friendliness (usability). Adapting your store or business website to users’ constantly changing habits benefits you in mobile SEO. This is because Google now counts a website’s mobile friendliness as one of its ranking factors.

What is mobile SEO?

SEO stands for ‘search engine optimization’, a discipline of online marketing that helps to improve a website’s ranking in the search engine results pages. Mobile search engine optimization (mobile SEO) has recently become an essential part of SEO planning.

Google, the market leader, has reacted to increased mobile use and the growth of the ‘second screen’ by paying special attention to mobile sites. Mobile site optimization has been an official ranking factor since the beginning of 2015. Website operators can find support and perform a ‘mobile friendly’ test on Google Search Console.

SEO goes mobile: options, implementation, and typical errors

If you want to make sure that your website appears in the search engine results page on a mobile device, there are a few measures you need to take. The first step is choosing the appropriate mobile configuration for your own site.

1. What are the options for mobile sites?

There are three main ways to adjust your site for mobile devices: responsive design, a separate mobile website, or dynamic serving. An alternative option would be to develop your own app.

  • Responsive web design: the basic idea of responsive web design is the creation of a website that automatically adjusts all its content and elements (i.e. images, videos, navigation) to fit the size of the display. This is achieved through HTML code, which optimizes the site for the device used. Responsive web design can be implemented quickly and easily, and since it’s recommended by Google, it benefits the mobile website in terms of SEO.
  • Dynamic serving: with dynamic serving, the HTML code changes depending on the user identification of the device. For example, the source code of a mobile site on a tablet is different to that of a smartphone. The URL remains the same and the server provides the HTML code depending on the device type.
  • Separate mobile website: it’s also possible to build a separate mobile site, which is a mirror image of the desktop page. Though modelled on the desktop site, it’s an independent entity with a different URL and HTML code. 

Developing an app: app indexing and store optimization

Due to the ever-increasing popularity of apps, many businesses offer their customers an app in addition to their website. This should provide added value in the form of improved user experience and useful functions. Whether the solution is a native app, a web app, a responsive design, or a mobile website, you should assess each individual case. Important for mobile SEO: even with apps, discoverability plays a role, although this applies more in the app store than with search engines. To generate a larger customer base, it’s essential to make the app accessible and easy to find.

2. Indexing a mobile site

Once you’ve chosen a configuration option, you need to make Google aware that a mobile site is available. Instructions for the particular configuration can be found via Google Search Console. It’s important to give the crawler access to all website resources so that Google Tools can ensure that all elements are optimized for mobile browsers. According to Google, you should avoid the robots.txt file, which is used to deny the crawler access to certain content.

3. Avoid typical mistakes

Since mobile optimization is a ranking factor, there are criteria for impressing Google with mobile websites. The site must fulfil three important conditions:

  • Mobile-friendliness: this is the basic requirement for every additional mobile SEO measure. Google’s ‘Mobile-Friendly Test tool’ can help. Bing, Google’s biggest rival, offers a similar tool.
  • Usability: this is not the same as mobile-friendliness, but with Google’s support, you can also meet the appropriate requirements here. Enter your URL into the PageSpeed Insights tool and you’ll receive tips for optimal user experience (separate for desktop and mobile). The tool advises website operators to adapt font size, links, function buttons, and the configuration of the display area.
  • Speed: as the name suggests, Google PageSpeed Insights checks a site’s speed as well. Possible tips here could be to reduce JavaScript and CSS, to use browser caching, and to optimize images.

You can avoid many of the typical mistakes that frequently occur on mobile sites by using PageSpeed Insights. Besides blocked JavaScript, CSS, and image elements, other problems include non-retrievable content, faulty redirects, and mobile-specific 404 errors. This article shows you how to identify and resolve any typical SEO mistakes on mobile sites.


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Mobile search engine optimization – more important than ever

Thanks to the ever-increasing number of smartphone and tablet users, people can surf the net whenever and wherever they want, making Mobile SEO a central topic of search engine optimization. This provides a great opportunity for new business areas such as mobile commerce or mobile payment, but it also poses a challenge for businesses that have yet to optimize their website. IONOS MyWebsite supports you by helping you design your website in responsive web design, as recommended by Google.

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