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The 10 Most Harmful Mobile SEO Mistakes

Avoiding these 10 mobile SEO mistakes will earn you better positions in the SERPs, drive more traffic to your mobile site, and keep your visitors happy.

The 10 Most Harmful Mobile SEO Mistakes

From “mobilegeddon” in 2015 to mobile-first indexing in late 2016, Google has been delivering one consistent message: you need to be mobile-first.

That means mobile SEO is more important than ever.

Here are the top 10 mobile SEO mistakes you need to avoid if you want to earn better positions in the SERPs, drive more traffic to your mobile site, and keep your mobile visitors happy.

1. Slow Site Speed

Page load speed is an important Google ranking factor. But it’s also important to the people who will visit your site. According to Google research, 53 percent of people will abandon a page if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.

The 10 Most Harmful Mobile SEO Mistakes

Your goal should be to get every mobile page to render in under one second.

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How? Well, all of these optimization tips should help, but here are a few immediate fixes to help speed up your mobile site:

  • Minimize requests and redirects: Keep pages clean and simple. Eliminate as many 301 redirects as possible, remove unnecessary elements from your page, optimize your HTML code, and minify anything that might slow site speed like CSS and JavaScript.
  • Resize and compress images: You can use built-in tools in WordPress to automatically resize images for you, and tools like to compress your file size.
  • Check your hosting solution: Cheap third-party hosting solutions won’t give you the site speed you need to host huge volumes of traffic. This is especially true for e-commerce.
  • Check your progress: Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights as a quick and easy check of your website’s performance.

You can also consider creating AMP optimized pages. These pages load four times faster than regular mobile pages thanks to their stripped down HTML coding, and it’s easy to adapt your existing content into AMP content.

2. Blocked Files

Googlebot should be able to crawl your website like an average user, which means restricting access to JavaScript, CSS, and image files on your website can potentially harm your rankings.

Check your website’s robots.txt file to see if any essential elements are disallowed. Go to Google Search Console and test your robots.txt file. Use Fetch by Google to ensure you have no further indexing issues.

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Remember to test all of your URLs, especially if your site uses separate mobile and desktop URLs.

3. Interstitials Ads

As of January 10, Google announced that “pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as high.” However, as Glenn Gabe of G-Squared Interactive noted, it hasn’t had a huge impact.

Still, it’s not a bad idea to check your mobile site’s use of interstitials and popup ads. If you’re displaying any popup that covers your screen, you might want to rethink your mobile design — even if it is your most compelling CTA.

Any page that provides a poor user experience could rank lower in organic search. This includes:

  • Popups that cover a page’s main content, regardless of whether that occurs as soon as a user clicks through from Google search results or occurs as users scroll through the page
  • Standalone interstitials that are difficult to dismiss — especially if accidentally clicking these interstitials redirects you to a new page
  • Deceptive layouts, where the above-the-fold portion tricks users into thinking they’re viewing an interstitial

Note that there are some exceptions to this rule. Interstitial ads that are not adversely affected by the new ranking signal include:

  • Legally necessary interstitials, including those for age verification and cookie usage.
  • Login dialogs for unindexable content (e.g., private content like emails and content behind paywalls).
  • Reasonably sized banners (e.g., the app install banners provided by Safari and Chrome). Generally, these take up no more than 20 percent of a screen.

4. Unplayable Content

Before you include video or multimedia on your page, consider how it will affect your site speed and whether your video-embedding is playable on all devices.

Also, include a transcript whenever possible. This will assist both Google (for indexing) and users who need closed captioning.

If you wish to include animated content on your website, Google recommends using HTML5. You can easily create these animations in Google Web Designer, and they should be supported across all web browsers.

5. Bad Redirects/Cross Links

Faulty redirects are a major issue in websites that haven’t been optimized for mobile. This is especially true on websites with separate desktop and mobile URLs.

Common areas of improvement include:

  • If a mobile user mistakenly lands on the desktop version of your website, redirect them to the mobile version of the page they were seeking. They should not be redirected back to your mobile site’s homepage.
  • If you do not have a smartphone equivalent of your desktop pages, remedy that ASAP. Until those pages are live, you should leave users on your desktop page as opposed to redirecting them to your mobile homepage.
  • Mobile users who request dynamically generated URLs should be taken to an equivalent mobile URL that will properly display the information they’re seeking.
  • Mobile users across all devices should be served the same content.
  • Avoid mistakenly linking to desktop-optimized versions of your pages from your mobile URLs.
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If you want to be automatically alerted to faulty redirects, you should verify your mobile site with Google. This will help you isolate mapping issues and detect crawling errors that you can later correct in Google Search Console.

6. Mobile-Only 404s

Users on the desktop and mobile versions of your site should be able to access the same content. You need to remedy any instance in which mobile users receive a 404 error while trying to access a page that desktop users can see.

In general, you should eliminate all 404 and soft 404 pages as quickly as possible — these could help improve your SERP positions for your site. Website auditing software will help you easily find and fix broken links and 404 pages.

7. No Rich Snippets

Google is always heading in the direction of rich, accurate, and instant answers to queries. Using to provide those answers will give you a leg up in mobile search results.

If you aren’t yet using Schema or Structured Data markup to categorize your content, then you’re missing out a key driver of organic CTR. Google and its users tend to respond to rich snippets that showcase examples of the information they’re seeking.

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You can test your website’s structured data, and make sure that your mobile and desktop versions are equivalent, using this Structured Data Testing Tool.

8. Not Specifying Mobile Viewport

Mobile screens come in all shapes and sizes, so if you don’t specify the correct viewports using the viewport meta tag, then your users may experience pages improperly fitted to their device. Common mistakes include:

  • Using fixed-width viewports, which are only optimized for certain devices.
  • Poor minimum viewport parameters, which leave users with smaller devices high and dry.

Fortunately, these are relatively easy problems to fix:

  1. Enable user scaling.
  2. Control your page’s basic dimensions and scaling using the meta viewport tag.
  3. Match the screen’s width in device-independent pixels with width=device-width.
  4. Include initial-scale=1. This ensures a 1:1 relationship between CSS pixels and device-independent pixels.
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You can also use CSS media queries to style your page differently for small and large screens. For more information, visit the Google Developers blog on Responsive Web Design Basics.

9. Poor Mobile Design

Your design must also be mobile-friendly. So design for smartphones and tablets, not the desktop experience.

Avoid illegible fonts, small font sizes, and on-screen clutter.

Space the elements of your pages so that mobile users aren’t at risk of clicking the wrong link or button.

10. Not Cross-Checking Metrics You Rely On

Understand how the tools you use on a daily basis work, and how the metrics you rely on are calculated. When you’re optimizing — whether for mobile or desktop — make sure you use a good site auditing tool to find your gaps. Check your content, your backlinks, your title/meta tags, your schema markup, etc. — everything that will play a role in your website’s success.

At the same time, understand that even when different tools boast similar functions (e.g., site audit), they often deliver measurably different results. Cross-check your results against another tool’s results; you might be surprised by how much they differ.

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Make sure you understand how each tool arrives at the metrics they churn, especially complex metrics such as TF-IDF and Keyword Difficulty. This will help you identify the numbers that matter most to your business so that you can rely on the metrics that matter.

Desktop & Mobile SEO Start at the Same Place

The secret to any successful SEO strategy lies in a solid understanding of your audience. This research should be the backbone of everything you do – SEO, content, site design, etc. If you know how consumer behave online, you’ll be better able to appeal to your audience.

Not understanding your customers leads to many of the most common SEO mistakes, whether it’s choosing the wrong keywords, using headlines that address the wrong pain points, or promoting on the wrong channels.

Bottom line: You can avoid all of these mistakes and have a team working tirelessly to optimize your mobile SEO, but all of these efforts will fall flat if your content doesn’t appeal to your target audience.

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Do yourself a favor and use your favorite tools to tap into the conversations your customers (and your competitors) are having about your brand. Get to know your core offer and your audience intimately. Then you’ll be ready to build an amazing and optimized mobile website.

Image Credits: DepositPhotos


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Aleh Barysevich

Founder and Chief Marketing Officer at Link-Assistant.Com

Aleh Barysevich is Founder and Chief Marketing Officer at companies behind SEO PowerSuite, professional software for full-cycle SEO campaigns, and ... [Read full bio]

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