Skip to main content

Mobile SEO: How to Optimize Your Site for Users on the Go

Mobile SEO

If you ask a crowd of 1,000 people what is the first thing they do when they wake up, there’s a good chance that most of them will say they check their phones.

In our digital age, it’s like our smartphones are attached to us at the hip—literally.

As a result, when it comes time to look something up, we often grab our phones and start typing up a query to put in Google search.

The answers that come up are a result of mobile SEO. The websites that optimize for mobile search are the ones that rank in the search engine results pages (SERPs). If you want search engines to pay attention to your site, too, that means optimizing mobile and desktop versions of your website.

Mobile optimization means the pages of those sites look great on smaller screens, offering a seamless mobile user experience.

To attract more mobile users who are on the go to your mobile site, follow this mobile SEO guide to responsive design and ranking factors.

Mobile SEO: Why does it matter?

So, why is mobile SEO important?

In today’s digital landscape, where most people use their phones to browse the internet, optimizing your mobile site for seamless user experiences is non-negotiable.

Whether your audience accesses your content on smartphones, tablets, or other devices, prioritizing mobile SEO is key.

By early 2023, mobile devices (excluding tablets) accounted for nearly 60% of global website traffic.

This highlights that people constantly use their mobile devices to complete certain tasks. And one of those tasks is performing an online search.

Whether they’re driving, walking, doing household chores, or just lounging around, people often get on Google. Maybe they need to find directions. Or maybe they want to look for a restaurant in their area.

Whatever the case, your business’s website should be optimized so that mobile searchers have a smooth user experience.

A key part of this optimization lies in using different mobile SEO strategies to ensure your content shows up prominently in the mobile SERPs for target keywords.

You can also use powerful SEO tools like SurferSEO and Google Analytics to maximize online visibility.

These tools not only streamline the optimization process but also empower you to craft content that resonates with both users and search algorithms, resulting in improved rankings and increased organic mobile traffic.

Let’s look at an example that highlights the importance of mobile SEO. Imagine you’re a bank, and you allow customers to open an online bank account.

Many people use their mobile devices to sign in to their accounts. This gives them a convenient way to check their balance, transfer money, and track transactions.

Chime is an example of an online bank that allows customers to manage their money with an easy-to-use interface.

Mobile SEO

By taking a mobile-first approach, you can enhance the user experience for mobile users. You can also implement a responsive design so that users can access your services seamlessly, whether on a mobile device or desktop.

Because the user experience is a major ranking factor, this can help you achieve higher visibility in mobile SERPs and, ultimately, a stronger online presence.

Mobile SEO vs. desktop SEO: Understanding different audiences

Mobile SEO is a strategy that makes it easy for smartphone users to browse and use your website. The goal is to have an optimized mobile site that loads quickly and is easy to interact with on smaller screens.

Mobile and desktop SEO are similar in that they both involve keyword research, content optimization, and technical SEO strategies.

However, a key difference is that mobile SEO focuses more on the user experience. Mobile SEO focuses on readability.

This involves taking measures to ensure mobile users can easily read the content even though they’re on a smaller screen.

Another example is how Google displays mobile search results as an app-like interface that allows users to easily navigate results.

It also tailors mobile search results to a user’s location (if location is enabled), which allows them to find nearby places more quickly.

This is why local SEO is a big part of mobile SEO. Approximately 57% of local searches come from a mobile device or tablet.

Voice search is another key factor in mobile SEO, as 27% of online users use voice search on mobile. By using the built-in voice assistant on their smartphones, users can easily conduct an online search hands-free.

Another key difference between mobile SEO and desktop SEO is that mobile SEO strategies often aim for mobile-first indexing. This involves optimizing your site so that Google primarily uses its mobile version for indexing and mobile rankings.

To achieve mobile-first indexing, your site must:

  • Have images that are optimized for mobile
  • Be mobile-friendly and responsive
  • Be crawlable

Mobile-first indexing explained

As we shared in the section above, to optimize your site for Google’s mobile-first indexing, it must have a mobile-friendly and responsive design, be crawlable, and feature images optimized for mobile.

A responsive web design means your website should automatically adjust to different screen sizes, orientations, and devices.

It displays elements in a way that makes sense on smaller screens.

For example, your mobile-friendly site may have a hamburger menu so that it doesn’t take up the whole screen, or it may feature one column so that visitors can easily read and interact with the content.

For inspiration on how to make your site more mobile-friendly, take a look at the screenshots below. There’s a considerable difference between Allrecipes’ desktop site and its mobile version:

Mobile SEO

The next factor of mobile-first indexing is crawlability. This ensures that Google can find your mobile pages, index them, and then (hopefully) rank them, especially on mobile.

You can implement structured data markup and regularly audit your site to ensure that it’s crawlable, which is a critical mobile SEO ranking factor.

Using high-quality images and compressing them to decrease load times can also help you achieve mobile-first indexing.

Consider using an image sitemap and structured data for media to help Google better understand the content of your images, which can boost your mobile SEO strategy even more.

Mobile SEO: How to optimize your website for users on the go

Now that you understand the importance of optimizing your site for mobile users, let’s explore some mobile SEO strategies.

Choose a mobile-friendly design

Your site may have the most stunning design on a desktop, but have you tried opening it on a smartphone?

Being desktop-friendly doesn’t automatically make your website mobile-friendly as well. Instead, the mobile version of the site may be virtually unusable.

The content may be in multiple columns, making it difficult to read.

Your site’s mobile version might take forever to load. Images may look blurry or may not show up at all. These mobile SEO elements make up a negative mobile user experience.

On the flip side, here are the elements of a mobile-friendly design:

  • Easy navigation (e.g. hamburger menu, breadcrumbs, etc.)
  • Fast loading times (2–5 seconds)
  • Clear calls-to-action (CTAs)
  • Optimized images
  • Readable fonts
  • No popups

With this in mind, follow these best practices to ensure your mobile site delivers a pleasant browsing experience:

  • Make buttons and checkboxes large enough that they’re difficult to miss.
  • Use shorter paragraphs to allow for white space and readability.
  • Use large, easily readable fonts.
  • Don’t use popups.

Take a look at Mailchimp’s homepage for its mobile site. Its cookie opt-in message doesn’t take up the whole page like it would if it were a pop-up. This ensures a positive mobile browsing experience.

Mobile SEO

Increase mobile site speed to engage users

When people use their mobile devices to conduct an online search, they’re likely trying to get results as quickly as possible. Often, they’re out and about, trying to find a quick answer to their question or solution to their problem

So, if your site’s mobile version doesn’t load quickly enough, chances are, they’re clicking off and going to another site.

To increase the speed of your mobile site, follow these quick steps:

Optimize and compress images

Large and high-resolution images can look beautiful on desktop screens. But on mobile devices, they might make your pages load more slowly.

To increase page loading screens, you can compress and optimize your images. Try changing file formats, enabling lazy loading, and compressing images.

If you use WordPress as your content management system (CMS), you can also use plugins like WP Smush to optimize your images.

Use lazy loading

Lazy loading helps improve mobile page speed by only loading the section of a site’s page that a visitor is using or interacting with.

It only loads other parts of a web page when a user needs it. This reduces page load time and memory usage, which optimizes content delivery.

Cache your web pages

Caching can be an effective way to speed up your website. This works by storing copies of your site’s files, which means the server doesn’t work as hard to generate and serve a web page to mobile visitors.

In other words, the server uses fewer resources to load the page.

Use Google Search Console to measure mobile page speed

A key feature of this tool is that it makes suggestions on how you can increase page speed, such as optimizing image size or uploading videos to an external video platform and embedding them on your site.

Optimize your images for mobile SEO

As we talked about earlier, just because an image shows up well on the desktop version doesn’t mean it’ll be on the mobile version.

Here are some tips for optimizing your images for your mobile website:

Optimize image size and resolution

If you have WordPress, you can use a plugin like Imagify to reduce the size of your images. You can also use the native photo application on your desktop’s operating system to reduce image size.

Use faster-loading image formats

The size of your images isn’t the only thing that can drain storage space and bandwidth. The file types can make a difference, too.

File types like PNGs and GIFs use lossless compression, which means they reduce the size of an image without sacrificing quality.

Use lazy loading

Lazy loading defers the loading of big elements like images that aren’t needed immediately on mobile devices.

Use a content delivery network (CDN)

A CDN can help you optimize image delivery on mobile devices. CDNs create a shorter connection distance between the user and the original server.

Cloudflare is an example of a CDN that allows your mobile visitors to access your content quickly.

Mobile SEO

Target mobile-based keywords

When people conduct mobile searches, they often use certain keywords to find what they’re looking for. For example, mobile users might use shorter keywords than they would on a desktop because they don’t want to type as much.

They might also use voice-driven search. Plus, mobile users often walk or drive while conducting their searches, which means they likely use the voice assistants on their smartphones to conduct their mobile searches safely.

As a result, mobile searches are often more local-oriented than desktop searches.

For example, maybe you’re searching for a coffee spot while you’re on the way to work because you ran out of coffee at home. Plus, you’re running late, so you’re in a hurry to find a location.

However, if you’re casually browsing at home on the weekend, the need isn’t as pressing.

You just used your last coffee beans, but you don’t immediately need more coffee (despite how it feels). This can greatly affect your search engine input.

For the mobile search, while you’re on the go, you might look up “coffee shop + [city you’re in].”

Mobile SEO

But on your desktop at home, you might search “buy coffee.”

Mobile SEO

And you don’t really care if you get it from a local grocery store or not. You could easily get it from a grocery delivery service like Instacart.

As you’ve probably gathered from the example, mobile users tend to have a higher search intent, which means they’re more likely to be ready to convert.

So, with that said, to optimize for mobile SEO, use keywords that people are likely to use when conducting a mobile search These often include:

  • Where are [business] in [specific location]?
  • [Product/service/business] + [specific location]
  • [Product/service/business] + near me
  • [Product/service/business] + nearby

Ensure readability to boost mobile SEO

Because many mobile users are trying to find information as quickly as possible, and because mobile screens are smaller than desktop screens, it’s important to optimize your mobile website’s readability.

Follow these mobile SEO tips:

  • Use headers, emphasize text with bold and/or italics, and leave plenty of whitespace for easy readability.
  • Use a responsive design that automatically adjusts to different screen sizes.
  • Optimize contrast and color to make content easy to read.
  • Simplify layout and navigation.

Check out this example on sales planning from HubSpot’s blog. It features striking visuals, optimal color contrast, headings, and more to make it easy for mobile readers to interact with the content.

Mobile SEO

Staying ahead: How to preserve mobile SEO success

Have you implemented a mobile SEO strategy? It’s important to keep it updated by regularly testing your mobile site and tracking mobile analytics.

Use tools like Google Search Console to ensure your mobile site performs optimally. Also, take advantage of web mobile analytics tools like Google Analytics to measure your site’s mobile traffic and search engine rankings.

Using structured data and updating your mobile pages is also an important strategy for maintaining mobile SEO success. By constantly improving your mobile SEO strategy, you can ensure a positive customer experience no matter what device your visitors are logging in from.

Content Strategy Course CTA
Alberto Moreno

Alberto plays a key role on the Link Building Team at Omniscient Digital, focusing on SEO outreach and crafting effective link-building strategies. With a genuine passion for digital marketing, he loves diving into topics like SEO, content operations, e-commerce, and social media marketing.