Mobile SEO is responsible for ranking a website on mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablets and smartwatches. And based on the major global usage of phones, mobile SEO is becoming increasingly important.
Global usage of mobile vs. desktop
In the year of 2016, mobile phones officially took the first place in market share globally and outperformed desktop. With the exception of the recent lockdowns, when it was not possible to fully utilize the potential of smartphones outside of home, the market share is still growing.
In 2018, Google officially confirmed that the long expected mobile-first indexing would start rolling out. In short, that means the mobile version will be crawled first and will serve as a base for determining the ranking eligibility. Therefore, it is highly important to primarily focus on mobile devices in order to rank well on desktop as well. Some of the basic steps that can be taken are listed in the next section.
How to optimize for mobile devices:
- Loading speed - This tends to be the single most important factor determining the user experience and the rankings on mobile devices. Since the phone users usually want the information quickly, it is crucial to serve the content as fast as possible in order to avoid high bounce rate. For example, it is a good idea to keep image size below 100kb, avoid using flash and minimize the unused lines of code.
- User-friendliness - Due to the limited screen size, it is important to use every pixel meaningfully to increase the time-on-page metric and fill the space only with relevant information. It is recommended to avoid excessive visual effects (typically pop-ups) and to serve the main content to the top of the page. Another important element is having enough space between the buttons to trigger only one link when touched with a finger.
- Optimization for specific queries - As previously mentioned, mobile users often want and need the information quickly due to the common situations of when a phone is used for searching. It is therefore important to target these kind of queries which users search outside of home, such as “hairdresser rome” or “accomodation near me”.
- Mobile sitemap - Whenever there is a separate subdomain specifically for mobile devices (typically with “m.”, such as m.facebook.com), it is recommended to add an additional sitemap.xml file covering only the list of mobile pages.
- “Viewport” tag - For responsive websites, it is recommended to insert the “viewport” tag into the HTML code in order to display correctly. This tag ensures a proper resizing of the pages based on the detection of the device screen. Adding this tag is also recommended by Google itself.
- AMP - Although Google officially confirmed in 2021 that it will no longer require Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) in order to better rank on mobile devices, these are still an alternative to provide fast-loading and visually simple pages for high user friendliness.
- Voice Search - A prominent microphone symbol in the search box clearly indicates how important the voice search feature is from Google perspective. Besides the basic function of typing a character string and clicking enter, activating the voice search is the second most prominent option on the forefront of the main page.
Therefore, it is recommended to write clear, structured and easily readable content which also includes quotations and spoken language transcripts.
Two basic domain solutions for mobile devices
Ideally, before starting the project, it is advisable to think about which domain solution will be best for the site. There are basically the following two options.
In general, there are two basic domain structures suitable for mobile devices. Both of them have pros and cons which are also described below.
Typically, these subdomains start with the "m." extensions, such as the already mentioned Facebook (m.facebook.com) or Wikipedia (m.wikipedia.org). The advantage of a dedicated subdomain is separate admin account and adjustable technical settings optimized specifically for phones which often results in faster page loading speed compared to desktops. However, splitting the domains might weaken the overall domain authority and the linking power of referring domains, as the mobile and desktop versions are technically two different sites.
A responsive design means that the site content automatically adjusts to the detected screen resolution. The most prominent advantage is retaining the domain authority and identical links as part of the single domain usage. The disadvantage is then slower page loading and the need of implementing more complex analytics in order to reliably split the traffic based on the devices. For most websites, however, responsive design is the more appropriate solution in the long run, as SEO activities target only one domain and the risk of duplicating the work potential technical issues is limited.
Mobile SEO vs. ASO
To complete the picture of the mobile user experience, it is also important to mention App Store Optimization (ASO). Unlike mobile SEO, where the goal is to rank in various search engines on mobiles (not necessarily on Google), the goal of ASO is primarily to rank the app in the app stores, such as Google Play Store, Apple App Store, Galaxy Store, or Huawei App Gallery. The ASO activities are therefore not directly related to websites, but to separate apps instead.
However, part of the ASO and SEO synergies can be creating a special page dedicated to describing the app features and linking directly to the app stores. The page can then be optimized for branded words with the extension "app" ("zalando app") or generic industry relevant keywords ("fitness app").
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Get In Touch
I'd be happy to chat about anything regarding SEO and the latest Google updates. Feel free to get in touch with me via email firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with me on Linkedin.
I am currently working as Local SEO Manager for Zalando in Berlin. Previously living in Malta and working in the iGaming sector as SEO Manager. My journey began as SEO Specialist in Prague in the digital agency environment. At the moment, I am finishing my master's thesis about synergies between SEO and PPC and how to maximize the traffic using both channels in the overall strategy.
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