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For SEO, Mobile Experience Matters

seo 620x350 011 For SEO, Mobile Experience Matters

Mobile SEO has historically taken a back seat to desktop SEO, but that began to change this summer when Google’s Matt Cutts spoke about the importance of mobile SEO at SMX Advanced. Google later confirmed on its Official Webmaster Central blog that it would focus on promoting websites in organic search that offer positive experiences for mobile visitors.  Google’s changes could roll out by Halloween – just in time to impact holiday shopping.

Google usually remains fairly quiet about upcoming algorithm changes, but they’ve been vocal on mobile SEO and shared some of the most common errors that companies make when designing websites for mobile devices. Here are a few of those errors and some tips on how to prepare your website for mobile SEO.

Redirects

Under Google’s new guidelines, sites could be penalized if a full web page redirects mobile visitors to an irrelevant page on the mobile-optimized website. In the example below, mobile visitors who navigate to www.example.com/bears or www.example.com/sharks are redirected to the homepage of the mobile site, instead of to information about those specific topics. This makes it harder for users to access the content they want, which can be frustrating and ultimately lead to site abandonment. Since in Google is in the business of rewarding positive user experiences, it frowns upon improper redirects.

Fortunately, there is an easy fix: simply redirect visitors from the desktop page to the corresponding mobile-optimized page. If the full web page doesn’t have a mobile-optimized equivalent, consider using no redirect at all and serving the full desktop page. It’s better to keep visitors on the full web page than to redirect them to an irrelevant page.

 

Mobile SEO Bears Sharks 637x71 For SEO, Mobile Experience Matters

Do this.                                                                                            Not this.

 Videos

Another issue is embedded videos or interactive graphics, which often aren’t accessible to all mobile users. Flash, for example, will not work on iPhones or Android versions 4.1 and above. Either create these elements using native HTML5 elements or eliminate them from mobile pages altogether.

Quality                     

Test your mobile site regularly to make sure your mobile-friendly pages work and do not result in errors or blank pages. Again, if your content is not available in a smartphone-friendly format, it’s better to serve the desktop version of the page than an error or blank page.

Googlebot-Mobile        

Incorrectly handling the Googlebot-Mobile crawler can also affect a site’s search engine ranking. According to the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog many sites make the mistake of creating infinite redirect loops by redirecting Googlebot-Mobile for smartphones from full web pages to pages optimized for feature phones, which then redirect back to the full pages. This should be easy to avoid as long as you’re not over thinking things – Googlebot-Mobile crawlers will identify themselves as the mobile devices they represent. Treat them as such, and you’ll be fine.

Interstitials & Overlays                     

Promoting your smartphone app on your mobile site isn’t a bad idea, but be mindful how you go about it. Methods such as interstitials – an intermediate page that interrupts the path between two related pages — or overlays can cause indexing issues for smartphone-optimized content and may be too disruptive for visitors. If you must advertise your app to users, Google recommends using a simple banner in line with the page’s content.

Page Load Speed

Page speed is equally important for mobile websites as desktop sites. Mobile users often have slow data networks and less tolerance for slow sites. Pages should load on smartphones in less than one second. Any longer than that, and users begin to disengage. Google Analytics reported last year that the average web page takes more than 10 seconds to load on mobile devices.

How can page speed be improved? Two of the biggest considerations are page weight and the number of requests needed to render a page. By ‘requests’ we mean things like images, scripts, style sheets and other assets required in order to render the page. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Content – The less content that is presented, the lighter the page. Take a close look at the elements on a page – are they all necessary, or can some be removed? For example, if the page includes five ads are they really generating that much income? Try two ads and see how that affects page speed.
  • Images – Images can dramatically add to the weight of a page. Only use images if they are absolutely necessary and make sure you optimize the images.
  • Social sharing tools – Be judicious in the use of social sharing tools like AddThis or Sharebar, which are notorious for slowing down page loads. In a recent RepEquity project, including just four social sharing buttons added 400kb of page weight and 40 requests. When using these tools, be sure to monitor user engagement. Omit them from the mobile site if visitors are not utilizing them.

Final Thoughts

A recent study revealed that only 6 percent of the top 100 Fortune 500 companies have websites that comply with Google’s mobile requirements. Two-thirds of these websites could see a drop in search rankings because they don’t serve mobile versions of many indexed pages. Taking steps now to make your website accessible to people using smartphones and other mobile devices will save you headaches, increase customer loyalty, and – most importantly – help you outrank your competitors in search.

 For SEO, Mobile Experience Matters

Melissa Cahoon

Account Executive at RepEquity
As one of RepEquity’s account executives, Melissa works with clients of all sizes to improve search engine results, remedy online reputation issues, develop and launch websites and conceptualize and implement email and social media campaigns. Melissa has lived and worked in DC since graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2011, where she earned a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication.
 For SEO, Mobile Experience Matters
 For SEO, Mobile Experience Matters

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8 thoughts on “For SEO, Mobile Experience Matters

  1. Okay, this was undoubtedly a thorough guide to all those who are in need of advice regarding SEO for mobiles. I guess, among all the other factors, loading speed of the page matters lot since smart phone users look for quick answers to their queries.

  2. Melissa , great post! I do want to point out, though, that the SEJ site is a prime example of mobile pitfalls. Specifically, the choice for RWD versus a dynamically switched html version of the page or even an old fashioned m dot. Let me explain…

    I attempted to access the article on my Galaxy Nexus phone with only a 3g connection. The page load speed was painful and the amount of data was approx. 5 MB not counting the advertising. Hardly an optimal experience. We run into cases all the time where my clients have caught the RWD bug and not realized the negative impact on the actual mobile experience. Googlebot mobile be damned, RWD is an exercise in compromise and, in this case, failed.

    Again, great post! My comments above are directed at SEJ :)

  3. Yes having a responsive site is great but encourage everyone to TEST their respective websites on various formats (iPhone, Android, etc). Thanks for talking about this subject Melissa (Your are probably one of the handful people who know about Mobile SEO). One more thing, I was never a fan of over the top social buttons either (They totally slow down site loading speed).

  4. I hate mobile-optimised website initially as I thought it sucks as compared to a desktop page but I quickly realised my folly that I simply can’t do without it now! It is a must have if you have an online presence for both seo purposes and for your user experience. A Great post on this topic here.. Highly Recommend!!

  5. Great article and it’s ill-conceived how only 6 percent of the top 100 Fortune 500 companies have websites that comply with Google’s mobile requirements and how day to day I see companies upgrade their websites to a “modern” site but are still are not mobile friendly. With the amount of people now making transactions on their mobile devices nowadays it’s become a necessity to have a mobile optimize website. I wrote a similar article to this one actually on 5 reasons why you need a mobile optimized website, check it out here: http://www.dytek3.com/5-reasons-why-you-need-a-mobile-optimized-website/

  6. Really good article. I think page speed would be even more important on mobile devices especially with, as you said the slow data networks. If your page is too slow, your competitors are just one click back.