If you’ve been diligently monitoring your site’s analytics, you’ve likely noticed a spike in mobile traffic over the past year or so. In a recent mobile traffic audit of 34 Be Found Online clients, Steve Kozma – our trusty analytics evangelist and all-around awesome guy – found that 22% of total traffic was coming from mobile devices. That number is expected to be in the neighborhood of 1/3 of all traffic by the end of 2014.
If that wasn’t enough motivation for you, Google is cracking the whip on webmasters, too. In a June 2013 announcement, Google confirmed that mobile factors are taken into consideration for organic rankings:
“To improve the search experience for smartphone users and address their pain points, we plan to roll out several ranking changes in the near future that address sites that are misconfigured for smartphone users.”
If you haven’t started incorporating mobile into your overarching SEO strategy, now is the time to start. How do you get your mobile SEO on the right track? Start with some of the most impactful factors:
- Mobile Site Design
- Page Load Time
- Local Optimization
Site Design for Mobile SEO
Putting on your user hat for a second, you’ve certainly noticed that some websites are far easier and more intuitive to use on your smartphone than others. At best, the website formats itself to the resolution of your particular device, providing an easy-to-use experience. At worst, it’s simply the desktop version, forcing you to scroll horizontally and expand your view to even click a link. It should be pretty clear which of these your users and search engines will prefer.
To ensure that you have a search engine-friendly mobile user experience, Google supports the following three configurations:
- Responsive Design: serves the same HTML for a single URL and uses CSS media queries to properly render CSS on the user’s specific mobile device. This is Google’s recommendation.
- Dynamic Serving: serves different HTML for a single URL depending on device user-agent (desktop, mobile).
- Separate Mobile Site: the user will be redirected to a mobile-specific URL if a mobile user-agent is detected.
In addition to the responsive design being a user-friendly solution preferred by Google, it may also be easier for your web team to manage since multiple versions of your site are not being created.
Improving Mobile Page Load Time
Since at least early 2010, Google has considered site speed/page load time as one of the elements they use to determine organic rankings. In a mobile landscape where the average page load time hovers around seven seconds, Google extended this to mobile devices, recommending that all mobile pages load in one second or less.
To make this load time goal a reality, Google Developers offers a number of technical suggestions, including:
- Limit server response time to < 200ms
- Minimize number of redirects needed to resolve page (0 is ideal)
Again, these are relatively technical changes that should be reviewed with your web team to determine the best route for implementation. Making on-going improvements in mobile page load time may improve abandonment rate, traffic, rankings, conversion, and overall user engagement.
Optimizing Your Mobile Site for Localized Search
It should come as no surprise that mobile users are often on-the-go and use their device to find the phone number for the nearest locksmith, get directions to a local drycleaners, or look for coupons for a neighborhood pizza joint. If your business has a local presence, it is highly recommended that you place a local focus on your mobile SEO practices as well.
Here are a number of ways to enhance your mobile SEO footprint by placing a focus on local searches:
- Google+ Business Profile: Creation and active management of your G+ Business profiles will help standardize your location information and increase visibility of your business in search results. It’s also integrated with Google Maps to get customers to your location quicker.
- Create Pages with a Local Focus: Create and optimize pages that highlight each of your store locations, local events, localized service offerings, and more. Having these pages creates additional opportunities for your site to rank for local searches and receive more targeted traffic.
- Location Microdata: With the launch of Google Hummingbird, it is more important than ever to give your web content semantic context for search engines. If you have individual location pages, mark-up location information using a micro data type such as Schema.org. If you don’t have location pages, start creating them!
- Be Easy to Find and Contact: Remember all those great store location pages you created after reading the above recommendation? Utilizing ‘click-to-call’ on those pages can pave the way to increasing conversion rates, making it easier for users to contact you immediately. And how can users find those store location pages in the first place? Having a Store Locator page/tool will help users find your nearest location using address, ZIP code, or geo-coordinates.
Wrapping Things Up
There’re no two ways about it: mobile is changing the way search marketers do their jobs and, ultimately, plan for overall success. There’s a lot to learn and many things to consider when setting the course for your company’s mobile success. But starting with the basics of user-centered mobile web design, fast-loading pages, and local SEO optimization are surefire ways to get the ball rolling and start seeing results.
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Dalton Finney is a Senior SEO Analyst with Be Found Online in Chicago. You can find Dalton on Google+