Mobile SEO

Getting ready for the Google Mobile-friendly Algorithm Change

Last November 2014,  Google announced it's algorithm changes to affect mobile SEO. Google revealed on its blog that there will be an algorithm update on the 21st of April 2015, that will expand their use of mobile-friendliness in it's rankings system.

 

Now for the "BIG QUESTION" Will the update affect all pages on a site?

Websites that are flagged as ‘not mobile-friendly’ will suffer from reduced visibility within organic search results. There is a high probability that there will be a reduction in visibility on desktops as well. Giving incentive to webmasters to improve mobile experiences.

 

Is Your Website Mobile Friendly?

Use "this link" to test your website. Did your website look good in all the frames? If yes then move on to  "Mobile SEO Best Practices". If not, then there are several things to consider.
If your using one of the popular CMS's for example like Wordpress or Drupal, 1st, check and see if there is an upgrade for your version. 2nd, check and see if there is an upgrade for your theme. These websites use themes and on occasion a website can be upgraded to the latest version without any issue. If there are known issues with your CMS and the upgrade, check with the Websites developer or find one to help you as most times these issues are easily solved. If your using a static html website then you can either upgrade to a CMS as the most popular and widely used CMS's provide a responsive base theme and your existing content can be easily recreated. If you wish to continue using a static HTML website, there are many nice free Responsive HTML Templates available on the web. For example "Click Here". That are easily customized and edited, but remember the other part of this discussion, just because you have a responsive website does not mean you have good mobile seo. Whether you are using a CMS or Static HTML you will need to ensure you meet all the requirements laid out by Google. Google Webmaster accounts are free to setup and provide the necessary tools to check and maintain good website health.

 

About Mobile Optimization

Mobile optimization is the process of ensuring that visitors who access your site from mobile devices have an experience optimized for the device.

 

What is Mobile Optimization?

Every year people spend more and more time on their mobile devices and tablets, but many websites still aren't designed to account for different screen sizes and load times. Mobile optimization takes a look at site design, site structure, page speed, and more to make sure you're not inadvertently turning mobile visitors away.

 

Mobile SEO Best Practices

If your site is already well optimized for search engines, there are only a few additional things that you need to think about when optimizing for mobile.

PAGE SPEED

Because of hardware and connectivity issues, page speed is even more important for mobile users than desktop users. Beyond optimizing images, you'll want to minify code, leverage browser caching, and reduce redirects. More information on page speed can be found on our SEO Best Practices for Page Speed page.

DON'T BLOCK CSS, JAVASCRIPT, OR IMAGES

In the old days, some mobile devices couldn't support all of these elements, so webmasters of mobile sites blocked one or all three. But for the most part that's no longer true, and the Smartphone GoogleBot wants to be able to see and categorize the same content that users do. So don't hide it. These elements are also critical to helping Google understand if you have a responsive site or a different mobile solution.

SITE DESIGN FOR MOBILE

Mobile devices are simplifying and revolutionizing the ways sites are designed. "Above the fold" no longer has meaning in a world where we scroll endlessly

DON'T USE FLASH

The plugin may not be available on your user's phone, which means they'll miss out on all the fun. If you want to create special effects, use HTML5 instead.

DON'T USE POP UPS EITHER

It can be difficult and frustrating to try and close these on a mobile device. This might lead to a high bounce rate.

DESIGN FOR THE FAT FINGER

Touch screen navigation can lead to accidental clicks if your buttons are too big, too small, or in the path of a finger that's trying to get the page to scroll.

OPTIMIZE TILED AND META DESCRIPTIONS

Remember that you're working with less screen space when a user searches using a mobile device. To show off your best work in SERPS, be as concise as possible (without sacrificing the quality of the information) when creating titles, URLs, and meta descriptions.

USE Schema.org STRUCTED DATA

Because of the limited screen space, a search result with rich snippets is even more likely to stand out than on a desktop. Read more about Schema.org structured data.

OPTIMIZE FOR LOCAL SEARCH

If your business has a local element, remember to optimize your mobile content for local search. This includes standardizing your name, address, and phone number and including your city and state name in your site's metadata. More information on local SEO can be found here.

MOBILE SITE CONFIGURATION

Probably the most important decision you'll make when setting up a site is deciding whether you want to use a responsive, dynamic serving, or separate site configuration. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Google prefers responsive design but supports all three options as long as you have set them up properly.

RESPONSIVE WEB DESIGN

Responsively-designed sites use CSS3 media queries to serve the same content to mobile and desktop users using a fluid grid and a flexible design to automatically adapt to the size of a user's screen.

Responsive designs use media queries to target the layout based on screen width, orientation, and resolution. For example, you could use the following CSS to instruct browsers how to display content for a screen that's 420 or fewer pixels wide:

Code Sample
@media screen and (max-width: 420px) {
.class {
[styles for this class here]
}
}

And to link to a separate stylesheet instead, put the following HTML in between your <head> tags:

Code Sample
<link href="mobile.css" type="text/css" media="screen and (max-device-width: 480px)" rel="stylesheet"/>

Responsive designs allow you to have a variety of these media queries so that users on tiny mobile screens, larger-than-average mobile screens, and even tablets can all see a site that looks designed for their devices.

Use an emulator like the Responsive Web Design Testing Tool to verify that your responsive design looks the way you want it to.

Dynamic serving

If you don't have the resources for a complete site redesign or want to display different content for mobile visitors than you do for desktop ones, one solution is to use one URL to display different sets of HTML and CSS depending on what type of device your visitor is using (also called detecting user agents). This can be useful, for example, if you're a restaurant who wants a mobile visitor (who might be wandering your neighborhood) to see a sampling of reviews and a map to your location instead of your full website.

Displaying different content based on the user agent is called dynamic serving and it's done using the Vary HTTP header, which looks like this:

Vary HTTP Header
GET /page-1 HTTP/1.1
Host: www.example.com
(...rest of HTTP request headers...)

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Content-Type: text/html
Vary: User-Agent
Content-Length: 5710
(... rest of HTTP response headers...)

Example from the Google Developers Blog.

Simply put, this means that the content displayed will vary based on the user agent requesting the page.

Dynamic serving is not the perfect compromise that it might seem to be. For one, it relies on having an updated list of user agents, which means that every time a new mobile device comes to market that list needs to be updated. And it's not uncommon for desktops and mobile devices to be wrongly served with the HTML for the other device. Read more about common pitfalls.

 

Separate mobile URL

Another option is to create a second, parallel site for mobile users. This allows you to create completely custom content for mobile visitors. To avoid URL confusion, most parallel mobile sites use an "m" subdomain. Parallel mobile sites can be as imperfect as dynamic serving sites at sending visitors to the right version, so be sure to make it easy for visitors who end up in the wrong place to click over to their preferred experience. You'll also want to make sure that your site redirects are all in place and as lean as possible to decrease page speed. And to avoid duplicate content issues, you'll need to set up rel="canonical".

 

What about using an app?

Creating an app is one way to tailor the mobile experience for your visitors. But the interstitial page many sites use to alert a mobile user that an app is available can also serve as a block to search engine crawlers. Google's John Mueller explains.

Special thanks to MOZ for some of the content used in this Article.

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