With Google now serving more search results on mobile devices than desktop and planning a mobile-first index, it's clear that having a distinct strategy in place for driving organic results on smartphones is more critical than ever this holiday season.
Mobile SEO has some key differences from desktop, including how users interact through the physical interface, the search terms used, how the mobile site is navigated and the type of information users look for on mobile sites, Thatcher Spring, founder and CEO of GearLaunch told Marketing Dive. Basic steps for mobile SEO include making sure all website pages are mobile-friendly, and to submit websites to Google Search Console to get errors flagged that hurt mobile friendliness.
Beyond simple optimization, marketers are also paying close attention to speed and user experience this year.
"The other critical piece for mobile is page speed," Spring said. "Slow loading mobile sites will rank lower in search results and experience a much higher bounce rate compared to the desktop version of the same site. Mobile users are generally on the go and need answers in an instant. If a page takes too long to load, visitors will leave."
Bernard Huang, SEO specialist, Mushi Labs, said user experience is also a key mobile SEO factor. User experience refers to the ease-of-use of a mobile website. Having a clunky page with hard-to-read words and tiny buttons or links, will hurt a site's ability to rank on the mobile index.
Mobile SEO tactics for the holiday season
With mobile traffic likely to spike during the holidays, deep linking is another tactic that has been growing steadily as a way to surface useful app content for site visitors.
“If you also have a mobile app, check out deep contextual linking,” said Huang. “This technology allows you to send users into unique mobile app experiences from a link in your web content. Contextual deep linking easily allows you to convert web traffic into revenue for your e-commerce app or sign-ups for your productivity app.”
Savvy marketers are also toning down modals and interstitials as Google is penalizing sites with full-page interstitials, blocking 80% or more of the actual content, per Huang. For notifications on accepting cookies, or calls-to-action to download an app, brands are using a less obtrusive footer or banner.
Huang pointed to two blog posts from Google as important resources for mobile SEO best practices. One addresses the importance of including non-intrusive interstitials and the other the basics of responsive mobile-friendly designs.
Mobile SEO best practices for the holidays include creating relevant content. This year, there is a strong focus on videos, which have proven to be a popular type of content for mobile users and marketers should take advantage of what Spring described as an “ever-expanding medium.” One way some marketers are using video is to curate best holiday gift recommendations, share the video on a brand's website and then refer to the link.
A quick tip for holiday mobile content is to refer to the current year because this can improve clickthrough rates as visitors quickly understand the content is current.
One question on marketers' minds this year is the relative importance of Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) program in getting solid mobile SERP rankings. While Google hasn’t made an official statement that AMP affects SERP rankings, Spring said marketers should keep a few points in mind:
- Mobile-friendliness is significant factor in mobile SERP rankings on Google search.
- Page speed is another significant factor and AMP is designed to increase load time. Google says AMP pages load 85% faster than standard mobile pages.
- To date sites that have implemented AMP have received more exposure.
Getting it right
Allrecipes and Yelp are two examples of mobiles sites that are getting SEO right by including a large amount of user-generated content. Allrecipes tends to show up in the top three for any recipe search largely based on the sheer amount of content its users generate while Yelp pairs content with simplicity for a strong showing.
“Yelp's mobile SEO is on-point,” said Huang. “The curated user-generated content paired with a simple user experience allows Yelp to dominate Google's search results. Notice the footer that asks if you want to download the app? That's a great mobile-friendly way to push web traffic into app installs.”
Despite mobile SEO's unique aspects, there is one important shared strategy with desktop that marketers are getting right: providing the most relevant content to searchers .
"At the end of the day, capturing search traffic is all about providing the best answer to other people's questions," said Huang.