Starting tomorrow, digital marketers will experience one of Google’s largest search engine algorithm updates ever. The search engine giant will start rewarding mobile-friendly sites (in mobile search queries).
Why Mobile SEO is Crucial for Your Brand
Last year, mobile internet usage surpassed desktop. (iProspect colleague Michael Martin documented this in his excellent mobile article.) Yet the skeptic may ask, “How much does organic search from mobile matter?”
Organic search is the dominant traffic source for the world’s most prominent sites. BrightEdge and other marketing platforms have documented that organic search contributes over 50% to web traffic.
Organic search also contributes the most revenue in 4 out of 5 major verticals, on top of its traffic share. In short, the mobile update and organic search matters to your brand because of its prominence compared to other digital acquisition channels.
Impact of the Algorithm on Mobile SEO
This algorithm update is one of the most significant in recent SEO history. According to a Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, the mobile update will have a larger impact than Panda and Penguin updates. For reference, the larger of those impacted 14% of English queries. Unlike the Panda and Penguin updates, this update boosts sites that are mobile friendly. Obviously, Google has mentioned that this won’t (directly) impact AdWords. However, organic click-through rates greatly differ from desktop vs. mobile. Loss of organic traffic on mobile organic product pages could mean higher paid search costs by attempting to recoup lost traffic share.
The History of Mobile
Over the past 15 years, mobile revolutionized the search landscape with different types of websites and responsive designs. In 2000, .mobi was launched for mobile users and lasted roughly 10 years until dedicated mobile sites (m.site.com) were developed. This workaround has been messy at best, with errors ranging from duplicate content, increase of smart phone 404 errors and other technical faults one could see on a website. In 2012, responsive web design was introduced. This method is currently favored by Google. New and unproven technology such as dynamic-serving HTML may usurp responsive design. However, only time will tell when dynamic HTML or another platform will be the next change to benefit a mobile website.
Make Your Site Mobile Friendly
There are several technical aspects to consider for a mobile friendly site. The three major aspects are: page speed, simple navigation and content optimization. Combined, these three set your mobile presence up for mobile friendliness from Google’s perspective.
Pro tip 1: Add “async” as an attribute to 3rd party and non-critical scripts. (E.g., <script async src="my.js">)
Simple navigation and usability are factors that are seen on the backend include: touch elements being too close, viewport not properly configured, small font size and content not sized to viewport.
Pro tip 3: Size your tap targets at least 50 CSS pixels tall and wide to avoid accidental links taps on your mobile site.
Mobile content optimization is another important factor: keep forms to a minimum. The importance of making content more concise and accessible on mobile is even greater compared to desktop. The viewport sizes are much different on a desktop site, compared to what can be seen on a mobile device.
Google also shows us specific mobile URL errors in Webmaster Tools to help remove not found and faulty redirects. With this data, a site can be surgically enhanced for mobile users.
Is your site ready? Data will tell soon. In less than a week proof will arrive. Share your preparations or concerns in the comments!
Zach Doty, SEO Leader, contributed to this article.