How Mobile SEO Changes The Game

March 2020

So, you’ve decided to freshen up your website, you’ve called in your web designer, and you’re about to see for the first time how the revamped desktop will look. You’re excited. Sound familiar? Stop the meeting.

Google has switched to mobile first ranking – which means you have to switch too. Instead of designing for desktop, then adjusting the design to work on a mobile, you must design for mobile first. Switch your perspective around.

Years ago, Google would read your source code in the same way as a browser. These days, it actually tries to render your website to understand the real user perspective. If the mobile site version loads fast, renders well, is easy to navigate and delivers a good user experience, you’ve done what is needed technically. All that’s left to do is create great content. (No pressure, right?!)

But, if you’ve failed the technical basics on your mobile site, think of it as a desktop fail too. You’ve significantly hurt your chances of ranking organically for either.

If you’re driven by conversion (and who isn’t), Google’s research suggests that mobile users have a greater likelihood of buying than their desktop counterparts.

If you want to see how it applies to you, check your analytics to see what percentage of your traffic reaches you via mobile. For most businesses, it’s more than 50% (and climbing). This all means investing effort and time to deliver mobile well is worth it. 

OUR TIPS FOR MOBILE SEO:

1. Design a responsive website. A responsive website has code that adjusts for the device being used to access the website. We build many websites in WordPress using the Divi framework, which is automatically responsive. When it comes to making changes, you update one and both versions are updated because they share the code.

2. Don’t cull content just on mobiles. Whatever content appears on your desktop site should appear on your mobile site too. Don’t serve up different content for mobile vs desktop.

3. Do the basic on-page optimisation. You need to optimise title tags, H1 headings, content, image alt text, the URL and meta descriptions. This is what you’ll be doing with desktop as well. With respect to titles and descriptions, stick to character count limits. We recommend no more than 150 characters for descriptions. Since there is less space on mobile screens, expect truncation if you add longer. If you need guidance about writing meta titles and descriptions, get advice straight from Google.

4. Don’t use Flash (or pop-ups). If you want to use animations or special effects, use html5 or embed MP4. Also, avoid pop-ups, especially on mobiles. They are notorious for badly impacting user experience.

5. Page load speed. This is the killer element of all. It is arguably THE most important technical element in mobile SEO. Slow mobile sites mean users will bounce. You must be on top of load speed, so keep reading, we’ve dedicated an entire section to it.

PAGE LOAD SPEED TOOLS YOU CAN USE.

Without good mobile page load speed, you’re history. You’re not going to rank well in Google unless you’re the size of Amazon or Wikipedia. Before we start with tips for speeding up performance, are you wondering what your page load speed is? The good news is that there are some excellent free tools you can use to find out.

  • Google Page Speed Insights: We recommend you use Google Page Speed Insights for its recommendations. We prefer other tools for actual speed testing.
  • GT Metrix: We love the GT Metrix tool for speed testing. It offers page speed score and yslow score and provides detailed analysis of focus areas for improvement.
  • Pingdom speed tools: We also love the Pingdom speed tool because you can select the ping server. If you’re in Australia and your website gets mostly Australian traffic, try setting the ping server to Sydney to mimic an Australian visitors experience. Like the other tools, you’ll be given a report that highlights focus areas for improvement.

7 TIPS TO MASTER MOBILE LOAD SPEED.

1. Pay for quality hosting.
Server response time has a huge effect on on-page load speed. If you’re based in Australia and looking for an independent recommendation, try the whirlpool forums. We use VentraIP to host Digital Koalas. Its average server response time is 200ms. (No, we don’t have any reseller arrangements with them.)

2. Love your plugins?
The more plugins you add to your website, the greater the drag that occurs. If you don’t need it, delete it. Chat and social media plugins are notorious for slowing websites down.

3. Have a good developer.
Prioritise the loading of above-the-fold content. Don’t render block anything that’s above-the-fold. Talk to your developer about clean, unbloated code. The more code that is written, the slower the site takes to render. Your html, css and JavaScript should be minified so the files are compressed to smaller file sizes.

4. Optimise your images.
Don’t load a 5mb image to your website. Don’t even load a 1mb image. Get your images down to around 200kb. If you are using graphics, save them as scalable vector graphics (svg) files. SVG files eliminate the HTTP request to load, so results in faster loading times. Don’t forget to add your alt text to images to describe what they are. Also consider loading desktop and mobile image sizes so that you don’t require the website code to resize images for mobile devices.

5. Minimise Redirects.
Redirects slow a website down – and you might not even be aware of how many you have. GT Metrix is a great tool for highlighting redirects. Some of the worst offenders are redirects hiding in tracking code, so if you’re not advertising on Snapchat, for example, turn off the tracking code to lighten your load up.

6. Website caching.
You can make websites load faster for subsequent visits by installing website caching Through caching, your browser remembers the website’s last configuration and displays it. If you’ve made changes to your website and its showing the old page, you’ll need to do a hard refresh.

7. Content Delivery Networks (CDNs).
A CDN is basically a network of servers in different locations that serve your content based on which server is closest to the visitor. Let’s say you have a server in Sydney, Australians that visit your website will be served content through it. However, if your visitors are American, they might get their served content via a US-based server.

CONCLUSION.

Want to rank well on Google? Mobile SEO is the new frontier. Backlinks and existing SEO strategies are still important but, when it comes to mobile, you’ll also have to master load speeds, easy navigation, proper rendering across device types and good user experience.
We believe you’re up to the challenge. 🐨

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Digital Koalas is a Melbourne-based Digital Marketing Consultancy.
We work with businesses, marketing teams and agencies to develop digital strategy, conduct independent digital audits, manage digital media buying and campaign optimisation, and provide assistance with digital team & talent recruitment.
Ready to talk to us? Say hello.

 

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