Yes, SEO only indexed based entirely on mobile for Google.
What exactly is Mobile SEO?
Simply defined, mobile SEO takes in all those practices which tend to optimize a website for tablets and smartphones, including techniques to make site resources easier to interpret and evaluate by search engine crawlers. This is an extremely important concept because the number of mobile searches on the Internet is not only rising, but it is enjoying explosive growth. Currently, mobile devices account for more than 58% of all Internet searches, and according to Google, mobile searches outnumber desktop searches by more than 27 billion queries.
It’s not much of a stretch to say that mobile devices are quickly becoming the standard for Internet searches, and that’s exactly why Google has decided to conduct a major overhaul on their search engine algorithms, so they can favor mobile devices. Since Google is the primary search engine for conducting Internet searches on mobile devices – approximately 95% – it makes great sense for Google to align their search engine assessment with mobile devices. They have already taken steps in this direction by rolling out their ‘mobile friendly update’, which penalizes those sites lacking in responsiveness.
The second major step in this direction was when Google rolled out their Mobile First Index, which ranks search results exclusively on the basis of any webpage’s mobile version, regardless of which kind of device is used to initiate a search. Up until now, Google has had two similar indices which it used for ranking, a desktop version, and a mobile version. When a user initiated a search from a smartphone, the mobile version would be invoked, and if the search were started by a desktop, that version would be used instead. Nowadays, regardless of the device being used, the mobile index is what is displayed to a user.
So how does this affect your own website? If your website has already been mobile-optimized, it won’t be affected much at all. It would also be minimally affected as long as all the following are true:
- your site has a user interface which is optimized for all types of user devices
- all your redirects and internal links are in good working order
- all data loads quickly
- resources are loaded across all devices
- you don’t conceal content on the mobile version of your site. If you do conceal content on your website, you will likely notice a decrease in your search rankings.
What constitutes a mobile device?
While the person on the street might consider a mobile device to mean either a tablet or smartphone, Google excludes tablets from the mobile device class and instead considers only smartphones to fall into the category of mobile devices. This shouldn’t make a huge difference to your website because you should be optimizing for all mobile devices anyway.
Getting a Mobile Website Ranked on Google
The bare minimum functionality for SEO on mobile devices today calls for your website to be displayed in a readable and fully viewable manner. What this means is that the viewer cannot be presented with a mini-version of your full-sized website, with portions of the webpage out of view on the sides, or on the top and bottom. Since it’s not at all difficult to implement SEO on a mobile site, there’s no excuse for this lack of responsiveness.
You basically have three options for presenting your mobile display, as shown below:
- The M configuration – this calls for separating two different versions of your site by having separate URLs, your full-sized version, and your mobile version. When a user attempts to access your website, you have to figure out which type of device is being used, and then direct the user to one side or the other. This strategy is not used as much now as it was formerly because the dual URL’s are difficult to manage. For instance, you need to have multiple URLs assigned to every single snippet of content on your site, and there’s a lot more HTML programming involved. That’s one of the biggest reasons this approach has fallen out of favor currently.
- Dynamic serving – in dynamic serving, all content is contained on a single URL, but users are served different HTML and CSS according to the type of device which was used. This is better than the M configuration approach, but there are still a couple issues with it. As an example, dynamic serving is somewhat notorious for showing desktop versions of your site to a user with a mobile device.
- Responsive design – with a fully responsive design, page layouts, and associated content are displayed without different HTML or CSS, and without separate URLs. All content is served from the same URL, there are no mix-ups, and it is extremely user-friendly. In fact, this is the only serious option you should be considering.
Optimizing Your Mobile Site
After having adopted a responsive design which appeals to users on all devices, you can take a look at making your mobile site SEO optimized. One of the first things you should do is use Google’s mobile usability test to determine whether your site presents any problems at all for mobile users. By simply entering your site’s URL into the appropriate area used by the tool, you’ll be able to obtain a full report on any problems users have with your website.
Get rid of any pop-ups
Keep in mind that the whole point of Google’s evaluation of your website is to determine whether or not it will constitute outstanding content to display to a user. If your site has hidden pop-ups lurking around, expect Google to degrade your site ranking, because it doesn’t want to return that kind of content to a user. While there are still a few acceptable types of pop-ups, you’re better off removing most of them, so that you don’t take the chance of getting penalized by Google search engines.
Check out how your site actually looks
It’s a good idea to take a look at how your site actually looks, so you can see exactly what a mobile user would see when your site is presented. Whether you use an online tool to accomplish this, or you simply access your own site via several kinds of mobile devices, you’ll be able to tell exactly what all other mobile users are seeing when they go to your site.
Show everything on your site to mobile users
In years past, website designers and developers would sometimes block resources from mobile users in an effort to increase loading speed, and sometimes to enhance the overall mobile experience. Google has taken the position that pretty much everything should be displayed to mobile users, with nothing being blocked or hidden. Their stance is that anything which is relevant to the page at all should be available for presentation to the mobile user. If you should continue to conceal content or block it from mobile user access, be advised that Google will probably ignore such content, and assign a lower ranking because of it.
Optimizing for User Interface Signals
These days, search engine optimization (SEO) is less focused on technical things like meta-tags, and instead more on simply producing a terrific website which has value and appeals to users. One of the first areas Google will look at in this general context is what your mobile site speed is like. Google’s expectation is that your entire site should be loaded in less than a second for mobile users. This may be difficult for you to pull off, but there are some online tools which can help you approach that standard, even if you cut can’t quite get there.
Make content easy to read on phones
This is a must-do kind of requirement because if the content on a phone is not extremely easy to read, you can expect users to abandon your site almost immediately. In order to accomplish this, a few things you can do are to use at least a 14 px font, always keep paragraphs short, make sure lines are no longer than 60 characters, maintain good contrast between your text and the background, and make sure you have good content prepared for your readers.
Make use of HTML 5 where appropriate
If your site is one which has embedded videos or a lot of fancy graphics or animations, it should be coded in HTML5 rather than something like Flash.
Use the viewport content tag
Make sure that you’re using the viewport content tag so that your website is displayed properly on the user’s device. If you forget to include this, or if you make a mistake with the syntax, your site is bound to look abnormal or un-viewable to a user – and that means they’re gone.
Use these mobile user interface tips
These three tips will help mobile users maximize their usage and experience on your website:
- Keep header images compact – mobile Google users are always looking for an immediate response to their search criteria, and enormous header images get in the way. Either make these much smaller or delete them entirely for the sake of readability.
- Use negative space – negative space is comprised of the clear areas between design elements on your webpage, and it’s extremely important for mobile sites. Desktop web pages can still look good if they’re a bit cluttered, but on a smartphone, cluttering is something akin to death, in terms of readability to a user, and also in terms of how Google evaluates your web pages.
- Attach social media buttons as a tab – while it is important that you receive as many shares as possible for your website, it’s also true that they work best on a tab bar so that they don’t distract your users.
Best Practices and Advanced Mobile Tips to improve Mobile SEO
We will conclude this discussion of mobile SEO by considering a few of the more advanced concepts related to advanced mobile SEO, including best practices and a few quick tips you can use.
Get more traffic by improving click-through-rate
Your site’s click-through-rate is a huge factor when it comes to site rankings, and if Google observes that mobile users are not clicking on your site, it will automatically result in your rankings taking a downturn. This makes it important that you make yourself aware of what your click-through-rate actually is. There are a number of ways to determine this, but whichever method you choose, do find out what your click-through-rate is, and take steps to improve it if necessary.
While you’re at it, you should also find out what your bounce rate is, as well as your dwell time. Google Analytics can help out in this area, and you can compare how your mobile version stacks up against your desktop version, to get an idea about your user interface signals. If bounce rate and dwell time are pretty even between your two versions, that probably means your mobile site is optimized. However, if Analytics shows you a big difference between the two versions, you should investigate whichever page you are checking out in Analytics. There’s bound to be some kind of a problem there.
Increase mobile page speed
You should do whatever you can to increase mobile page speed because users are always looking for quick results to their searches, and when they don’t get those quick results, they’re likely to move onto the next website. Here are some things you can do in this regard:
- Do a speed test – there are tools you can use online for checking the mobile loading speed of your site, and once it’s been done, you’ll have a helpful report that details loading time on your mobile device, and shows you where there might be obstacles that are slowing things down.
- Compress images – it’s a good idea to compress your images because that will significantly reduce file size and speed up load time tremendously.
- Optimize tags – optimizing the description and title tags for mobile searches is a good idea because then you can be sure that your tags aren’t being cut off due to excess characters. If your tags are relatively short, you may want to expand them to take advantage of the extra room.
Does Implementing accelerated mobile pages (AMP) help SEO?
Accelerated mobile pages are versions of web pages which been stripped-down so that they can be loaded more quickly on mobile devices, and in fact, compared to non-AMP pages, they load approximately four times faster. Accelerated mobile pages are a Google product, so naturally, they are highly favored by the search engine ranking algorithms.
What you have to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to implement AMP is that it does cause some limitations to be placed on your webpage functionality. For instance, you will lose some level of control over your ads, pop-ups, and lightboxes, as well as your use of cascading style sheets (CSS).
All this does result in faster loading times of course, but it also takes away some of the visual appeals of your website. Implementing AMP can also have a negative impact on your efforts to build links. Whenever some other site attempts to link to yours, the pointer will actually be to the Google.com domain, rather than your own specific website.
The future of AMP is somewhat uncertain, so the decision to implement or not may become a moot point very soon, and if your chief concern is to gain some mobile loading speed, you might be better off with the coming technology from 5G. It might be better to simply wait for the arrival of 5G, and take advantage of that superfast loading speed technology, rather than make any sacrifices by implementing AMP.