Optimising your website for mobile devices has never been more crucial, following Google’s transition to the mobile-first index.
What is the mobile-first index?
Fundamentally, the mobile-first index means that Google will now index and rank your site based on the mobile version of each page.
This is purely mirroring user behaviour, given total searches on mobile devices have now overtaken desktop searches.
As a result, it’s imperative that all website owners comply with the latest guidelines and make their website mobile-friendly.
How different are desktop and mobile search engine results pages (SERPs)?
Google will retrieve different search results depending on the device you are searching from.
According to data from BrightEdge, 79% of overall keywords and nearly half (47%) of keywords in positions 1-20 rank differently in searches on desktop and mobile devices.
What to look out for when optimising for mobile devices
Common errors to look out for when optimising your website for mobile devices include:
Using incompatible plugins such as Flash. Google recommends using HTML5
Content that is wider than the screen – we recommend using a meta viewport tag to tell browsers how to adjust the page’s dimensions to suit the screen size
Text that is too small to read – ensure that all text is legible and users don’t have to zoom in to read the text. We recommend using font size 14 as a minimum
Paragraphs that are too long – we recommend using short paragraphs with a maximum of 2-3 lines for each
Excessive white space – ensure that all blank white spaces are removed and there is a clear differentiation between text and background
Matt Kersley’s responsive web design testing tool
Google doesn’t include tablets within mobile SERPs and as such will display the desktop version of your website.
Matt Kersley’s responsive web design testing tool reveals how your website would look across mobile, tablet and desktop devices.
Assuming that you’re building a mobile website that is responsive – which Google recommends – you can test the aesthetics of the website on various devices using the tool.
You can compare the design of your website in pixel widths of 240, 320, 480 (mobile) and 728 (desktop) as you make changes.
The tool is free and simple tool to use. but you must host the testing tool on your website’s own hosting in order to navigate around your site.
User experience (UX) is key to mobile optimisation. It is especially important as Google’s RankBrain algorithm is specifically designed to see how Google users interact with your website.
If you wish to test your mobile’s UX, Mobile Moxie is a paid tool we’d recommend. You can access a free 7 day trial when you sign up.
Mobile Moxie allows you to experience your site as if you were a user as you navigate around the mobile version of your site, testing and analysing changes as you go.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console (GSC) is a useful tool to visualise how Googlebot views certain pages of your mobile site.
Simply add the prefix of the URL you wish to check in the ‘Fetch as Google’ function (remember to to change it to the ‘Mobile: Smartphone’ dropdown), then select ‘Fetch and Render’:
Finally, check to see whether any key components of your website are missing.
GSC features mobile usability functionality and mobile-friendly testing tools that produce reports on all the usability problems which occur on mobile devices.
We can see an example of a usability report below:
You can access your own report by navigating to ‘Search Traffic’ then selecting ‘Mobile Usability.’
Our three recommended mobile testing tools can help you to better understand your mobile site’s SEO performance, but one of the best ways to audit your mobile website is to view it on your own mobile device in order to accurately see how this site is appearing and functioning.
Ask members of your team – or even your friends and family – to view the site on their own mobile devices, noting what they do and don’t like about the mobile version of the site.
Tailoring your site experience to each user and the device they are using to browse is key to effective mobile SEO and they may notice errors or potential areas of improvement that you have missed.