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Mobile devices are already the most commonly used Internet devices and that popularity will only continue to grow. Despite this, however, not all websites take into account what is needed to optimize for mobile sites, resulting in mobile users getting a poorer experience than desktop users, even on the same website. This will start to be a problem for websites in 2019, as Google rolls out its mobile-first indexing.

What Is Mobile-First Indexing?

Mobile-first indexing is a new strategy that Google is gradually implementing. Because mobile versions of sites often had less content than the desktop version of the same site or were designed for desktop use and so didn’t take into account the different loading speeds and screen sizes of mobile devices. In order to provide more useful search rankings for mobile users, Google is changing their indexing so that it will be based off of the mobile site instead of the desktop one.

Mobile User Experience

The idea behind the mobile-first indexing is that under the old indexing system, the search rankings weren’t based on the sites that mobile users actually saw and experienced. If there were issues with loading, with less content, or with the site not fitting the screen, the search rankings wouldn’t reflect it. Google has been gradually testing this and rolling out the change slowly to ensure that user experience would remain just as good on desktops as they worked to improve user experience (UX) on mobile devices.

SEO for Mobile

If your website is already optimized for desktop searches, then you’re most of the way there. But there are some adjustments you’ll need to make to optimize your site for mobile use if you want to maintain your search rankings as Google rolls out its mobile-first indexing.

Design Your Site for Mobile Use

Google’s main concern is UX, or user experience. This goes hand-in-hand with the content of your website in that it doesn’t matter how well-optimized your site is if users don’t have a good experience once they’re there. With mobile usage, there are a few more things to keep in mind to ensure that users stay on your site:

mobile optimization

Use HTML5 instead of Flash for special effects Design buttons and links for mobile No pop-ups
Flash plugins may not be available on mobile devices, so you should use HTML5 instead. If buttons or links are too small, too big, or in the way of scrolling, users may accidentally click when they’re just trying to scroll down the page. These can be annoying on a desktop, too, but on mobile devices, they can be difficult to close, leading to a high bounce rate.

Create a Mobile Version

The best option for SEO is to use responsive design so that your mobile version and desktop versions of your site are the same site. However, for some, that would require a complete redesign of the site and that’s not always possible to do. There are some other options to make your site more mobile-friendly in the meantime.

  • Responsive Design – this uses CSS3 to automatically adjust your site to the width of the user’s screen.
  • Dynamic serving – this displays different content from your page depending on the user’s device.
  • Separate mobile site – this is a completely separate URL for the mobile version of the site that uses the m. domain.

[tweetshareinline tweet=”Both dynamic serving and having a separate mobile site have pitfalls with users seeing the correct version, so it’s advisable to make it easy for users to switch to the version of your site that they want to see.” username=”BrainVineSEO”]

Concise Optimization

When you’re creating meta descriptions and titles, it’s best to keep everything concise. Mobile screens are much smaller, so you SEO will benefit from being as short and sweet as possible, but without losing any of the information or quality. For the same reasons, using Schema structured data will help your site stand out.

Don’t Block Site Elements

When mobile devices first came out, many of them weren’t able to load certain site elements, including some CSS, Javascript, and even images. It was thus common practice for webmasters to block any or all of these page elements. However, that is no longer necessary and it’s much more important for the same content to be on both the mobile and desktop versions of the site.

Speed Up Your Page

Due to hardware limitations, mobile devices often just aren’t as powerful as desktop computers are. In addition, connectivity may vary as users move in and out of different wifi and 4G connections. Therefore, page loading speed is very important in mobile optimization. What loads quickly on a desktop may not load quickly at all on a mobile device. Improve your page speed by:

  • Minimizing the number of redirects
  • Optimizing images
  • Taking advantage of browser caching
  • Minifying your code
  • Enabling compression
  • Removing Javascript that can block rendering
  • Using CDNs (content-delivery networks)
  • Improving your server response time

Mobile-Ready for 2019

Optimizing for mobile devices will play a huge role in ensuring that your site maintains its search rankings going into 2019 now that Google is indexing sites based on the mobile version first. It will also help future-proof your site, because more and more Internet usage will be on mobile devices. Focusing on improving the UX of the mobile version of your website will go a long way towards increasing traffic and reducing bounce rate.

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