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October 25, 2017

How To Conquer Google’s Mobile Site Expectations

With last year’s announcement that Google will be switching to begin prioritising mobile sites as opposed to desktop, the SEO world has been preparing for mobile-first indexing to roll out. This won’t surprise many, following the 2014 announcement that Google would penalise websites which aren’t mobile friendly. Mobile-first indexing is an update to the prioritisation of sites, meaning that Google will now browse the smartphone versions of websites prior to the desktop versions and use this information as a primary source for how sites rank in their search index.

This change has come about because Google has seen an increased number of people choosing to browse the internet on their mobile phones in comparison to desktop searches. Therefore, it no longer makes sense for Google’s index to prioritise desktop versions of sites. To help you understand how to go about making your site more mobile-friendly, we’ve broken down some of the key elements Google is looking for on mobile websites.

mockup-654585_960_720Responsive Web Design

The aim of responsive web design is to ensure that the website responds to the way the user is behaving. A good example of this is where a website adapts to the screen size, the platform it’s being used on and the orientation of the screen. To succeed in creating a responsive website, you’ll need to have a flexible grid on your website, responsive images, and a clever use of CSS media queries.

As your website user changes between their mobile phone and their desktop computer, the website needs to automatically respond to allow for differences in screen resolution, image size and scripting abilities. Essentially, the website uses the same HTML code on the same URL on any platform or device but it renders the screen differently to give users a better experience on mobile.

Other design best practices include:

  • Prominent calls to action
  • Keeping menus short and basic
  • Making it easy to navigate back to the home page
  • Displaying the search option clearly throughout the site

All of these design elements are crucial for improving user experience when browsing on a mobile phone. Remember, mobile users may be multitasking so they don’t have time to click through long lists to find the information they need. The site search must also be optimised to deliver relevant results each time, otherwise users may become frustrated with the page and bounce.

When it comes to e-commerce sites, to ensure conversions are maximised, it is imperative to include an option for customers to browse the site without signing up to anything first. A great way to implement this is by allowing users to purchase items as a guest. This will encourage new users to use the site, as most people won’t register or sign-up for a site they aren’t familiar with.

Dynamic Serving

Another design element Google looks for in mobile websites is dynamic serving. Responsive web design is the preferred method for creating mobile-friendly websites but dynamic serving can also be effective.

Dynamic serving involves the use of the same URL across all devices but a different version of the HTML is created for different device types. This means that every device sees a unique version of your website, based on the information the server knows about the user’s current browser.  Dynamic serving can help your website to run smoothly as less will show up on the site. This can provide a boost for the user’s experience and encourage more visitors to keep returning to your website.

iphone-410311_960_720Separate Mobile Site

Another option for improving the quality of your user’s mobile experience is to create a separate mobile site. It’s possible to host a separate mobile version of your site using a separate URL. This can be achieved through creating a mobile sub-domain, a completely different mobile domain, or having the mobile site within a sub-folder. All of these options will work effectively as long as you remember to implement the correct bi-directional annotation between the desktop and mobile versions of your website.

Having a faulty redirect could be the difference between your page ranking and not having any search visibility at all. You have to redirect mobile users from the right desktop URL to the correct mobile URL on each page of your site. Redirecting every page back to your homepage would be an incorrect way to link your mobile site, it makes no sense to the user and results in poor UX.

Robots.txt

To optimise your mobile site for Google’s change in indexing methods, you’ll need to ensure that Robots.txt isn’t blocking any important sections of your website. If Google detects that you have hidden certain webpages from its crawlers, it won’t index these pages. The best strategy is to allow Googlebot access to the relevant JavaScript, CSS and images on your website at all times and only block parts of the site you do not want to be indexed such as an admin portal. This can help to improve your rankings and allows Google to see your mobile website just as a new user would.

play-button-2138735_960_720Playable Content

It’s a common mistake for designers to forget that some content and videos are not playable on mobile devices. Examples of such content include licence-constrained media and videos which require Flash or other players in order for them to work.

Users will see an error message if they visit a website with content that’s not supported on a mobile device as they won’t be able to play the video. It’s quick and easy to resolve this issue. Simply use HTML5 standard tags with videos and animations on your website to make them more mobile-friendly.

Fast Loading Time

Research by Google in 2016 showed that a whopping 53% of mobile website visitors will abandon and bounce from a site if a webpage takes more than 3 seconds to load.

A slow website will also have an impact on Google crawlers – slowing them down and reducing the number of pages which are indexed. There are several ways to determine why your page is performing slowly, including using Google Chrome Inspector and Google PageSpeed Insights.

To use Google Chrome Inspector you need to press F12 to bring up the Developer tools and then click the mobile icon to emulate how it will load on a mobile device. A graph and a timer will appear when you refresh the page, which will give you a clear indication of exactly how long the webpage is taking to load and which elements are causing it to slow down.

Google PageSpeed Insights will give you a detailed list of recommendations for how to improve the speed of your site, but it won’t actually tell you how long the page takes to load. You may need to use Google PageSpeed Insights in tandem with other tools to resolve loading time issues completely.

amplifier-768536_960_720AMP

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is a Google-backed project which aims to speed up the delivery of content on mobile through a stripped-down HTML code. As you would have seen from our Brighton SEO blog, AMP is a widely debated topic. On one hand, AMP allows pages to load quickly to improve user experience. However, this can come at the expense of the functionality and style of a website. If a user logs onto a website and finds it restrictive, the bounce rate may increase.

If you’re in need of a hand to boost your search campaign and ensure your mobile website has everything that Google is looking for, get in touch with our experts today on 01245 287 864.

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Author:

Chris Clowes

Christopher Clowes is Marketing Professional Qualified through the Institute of Digital Marketing and is an author of sales and marketing information books that have been published on Amazon. Within Absolute, Christopher is our SEO Manager whom looks after some of our top clients, with a keen eye on all things SEO.


Email c.clowes@absolutedigitalmedia.com

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