Complete Guide on how to optimize mobile SEO

Mobile SEO in 2017: Complete Guide on How to Optimize it

Mobile searches surpassed desktop searches back in 2015. But even now that we are approaching 2017, it has become a necessity.

A Statista report predicts that out of all the mobile users in the world around 56% will use their mobile phones to access internet in the year 2016. That’s a huge number and it is only going to increase in 2017.

mobile vs desktop searches

All of these figures and statistics suggests that, as a marketer, you need to start looking in to your mobile SEO strategy closely ever than before. So, how to optimize mobile SEO for your site.

In this blog, we’ll learn about:

  • User behavior on mobile vs desktop
  • Key components of mobile SEO
  • Challenges you might face in mobile SEO
  • Tips on how to optimize mobile SEO

Before starting, I would like put a disclaimer that this is going to be a really long blog post. But if you really want to optimize your mobile SEO and eat its fruits, you will have to spend some time in understanding it.

User behavior on mobile vs desktop

Mobile and desktop users both behave differently. Think about how you use your mobile phones and you can relate to whatever I’m about to tell you very closely.

User activity

When you wake in the morning, what is the first thing or maybe the second thing you do?

Check your mobile or your desktop?

Ya right, 99.9% would say mobile phones. And research (by Microsoft and Financial Times) also shows that from morning 6am to 9am mobile activity is at its peak. Also, during evening from 6pm to 11pm when most of the people are commuting back to their home, they say a spike in mobile activities.

And during the day, desktop ruled.

mobile user activity pattern

Different nature of objectives of browsing

Mobile and desktop users, both have different nature of objectives when browsing internet. Mobile users tend to do more specific searches whereas desktop users just search to satisfy their curiosity.

Mobile users also tend to spend less time on a page, rather than desktop users. According to a test conducted by Forbes and Econsultancy, 71% of mobile users who were presented with a non-mobile-optimized website bounced back immediately from the site. While desktop users tend to wait 3 times longer than mobile users.

Standing in the line to get a Starbucks and planning of getting the best coffee they offer? You are only going to open your mobile and not your laptop, incase you are carrying both. Its simple, you’re not going to carry your laptop anywhere and hence the objectives differs.

Mobile Apps VS Mobile Site VS Desktop Site

It gets tricky here. Marketing Land has said many times that most of the internet activity happen on desktop or on mobile apps. Whereas very less amount of internet time is taken by mobile sites. 40% taken by desktop, 52% taken by mobile apps and a mere 8% by mobile sites.

Below are some statistics by Neilsen on monthly usage of mobile apps and mobile sites.

Nielsen monthly usage mobile app devices

There have been contradictions to this report. Since 80% of these users spent their time on top 5 most used apps – run by Google and Facebook.

According to Morgan Stanley and comScore, mobile browser users are 2 times the app users. So there is a lot of contradictions with the reports.

However, if you have to ask for my personal opinion, I’d say mobile sites and apps are very specific whereas desktop searches tend to be generic.

Searches and Conversions

Purchasing habits of consumers vary largely on mobile and desktop. I also tend to get information about the product on my mobile and then purchase it through my desktop later. I don’t know why but I don’t trust mobile browser security. But that’s just me. However, 37% of mobile users don’t make purchases on mobile but the reasons can be many.

Research conducted by Mastercard shows and increase of 250% in mobile purchases but that’s still less than desktop.

Now, that you have learned about the behavioral patterns between mobile user and desktop users, let’s get dig deeper and see what are the key factors that impact your mobile SEO.

Key components of mobile SEO

Optimizing mobile SEO is certainly new for many of us. It’s evolving and we will see many changes in future. However, there are some key components which will always impact it. Let’s look into it.

Core SEO optimization for ranking

Traditional SEO and mobile SEO works on the same algorithm for ranking. However, Google does has mobile-specific factors, the core remains the same. If you’ve not indexed your site, no amount of SEO optimization whether mobile or desktop can get it ranked.

The main factors like relevant content and its usefulness, site authority, page speed are going to get you rank higher in search results.

Page speed is one the mobile-specific ranking factors Google recommends to improve. You can check your site’s speed via Google’s pagespeed tool. The tool also shows issues if any and how to fix them.

I would recommend you to fix those issues ASAP to get higher in search rankings.

You can also check in Google Search Console > Search Traffic > Mobile Usability for any errors.

mobile usability errors in google search console

Mobile specific content and keywords

As I mentioned in the introduction of the post, that mobile searches passed desktop searches, it has led to search engines to tweak their mobile SEO algorithm. There are now mobile specific content and keywords which are given preference over normal sites.

Google reported that queries like ‘nearby’, ‘near me’ have grown by 34 folds. This means that local businesses will have a preference of related queries.

If you have any doubts, you can read this PDF on Search Quality Rating Guidelines second chapter on ‘Understanding Mobile User Needs’.

For example, when you are travelling, you tend to search for keywords like ‘Nearby gas station’ or ‘food mall near me’.

You will have to look up for keywords that are getting more mobile traffic than desktop traffic for your site to create content around it.

App indexing and optimization

Mobile apps do get indexed in mobile searches. If I do a Google search of Pokemon Go on my Android device, this is what I get.

pokemon go google search result

It shows me the apps suggestions related to Pokemon GO (Yes, I play Pokemon GO in case you’re wondering).

Once, an app is made live on any store, the nest thing is to get it optimized for the store’s search engines. Yes, app stores do have search engines and they work in similar manner only. If you have an app, make sure to index as many pages as possible and create keyword-rich content.

There are case studies available online for app store optimization tips, if you want to do it.

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

While not a big component, it certainly have its advantages since Google has been evolving it regularly. Google Accelerated Mobile Pages are definitely getting more visibility in mobile searches, hence giving a ranking boost on mobiles. However, ranks will defer for desktop searches.

Here’s an example of a search result I did for the keyword ‘Hillary Clinton’.

desktop search result

Then I searched the same keyword on my mobile device. Here’s a screenshot.

mobile search result

You can see Google is giving preference to AMP and this may continue in future. However, AMP is for publishers only and if you’re in Google News.

Challenges you might face in mobile SEO

In order to optimize mobile SEO, you need to first learn about the challenges that you might face. So that you can prepare yourself for it. This section will look into just the challenges and solution for them would be provided later.

Local Search Optimization

As I’ve mentioned earlier, that local business will benefit from it. But it a challenge too on how to optimize the site to get it high up in the rankings. A study done by Google reveals that 4 out of 5 users wants to be shown ads which are location specific and near to their surrounding.

So, you know people are searching for location specific results and it is crucial for local businesses to utilize this opportunity.

Slow loading time

This is a no-brainer if you know about traditional SEO. Slow loading sites is definitely a big challenge one could face in optimizing their site, whether desktop site or mobile site. Qubit did a research and found that around $2.59 billions are lost in sales by businesses just because of slow loading sites.

qubit slow loading study

Think of yourself only. Suppose you are opening a site and it takes 10 seconds to load it. Won’t you just leave the site and go back to the search results?

All this impacts the bounce rate of a site and hence decrease in rankings. So, it is crucial for marketers to work on their website speed for getting up high in the rankings.

Mobile-Only errors

Google has said that two of the most common mistakes that they see on mobile sites are faulty redirects and smartphones-only errors.

In order to improve search experience and improve your SEO, you need to take these two factors seriously.

Faulty redirects frustrate a user and could be troublesome in finding the right page.

faulty redirects

Source: GoogleBlog

Smartphones-only errors occur when an error page is shown to mobile users and not for desktop users. These could be soft 404 error pages or incorrectly handling Googlebot or unplayable videos on mobile phones.

These were some of the most common challenges that marketers face during optimization of their mobile sites. Now, its time to find out how you can overcome these challenges and what you have to do in order to optimize your mobile site’s SEO.

Tips on how to optimize mobile SEO

We saw all kinds of studies and researches conducted, and all these provide crucial points on what needs to be considered while optimizing mobile SEO. In this section, I’ll cover tips and solution to the challenges we read earlier.

Improve Page Speed

Time and again I’ve mentioned in the article that page speed impacts and many are facing the challenge. For starting this, just go to use the Pingdom Website Speed Test and check your website speed. If your website loads somewhere in the range of 2-3 secs then you have a fairly optimized site in terms of page speed. However, there will be factors which you can improve to bring it down to less than 2 secs which are consider the ideal load time.

Industry average load time is between 3-7 seconds and if you come under the bracket, you need to follow the following steps:

  • Host your media files using a content delivery system – This will drastically reduce your load time and you can save around 60% of your bandwidth.
  • Switch to faster hosting provider –  Some sites may load slowly even after doing everything. The problem could be your hosting provider. LiquidWeb, WPEngine and BlueHost are some of the best hosting companies that are fast and reliable (We use LiquidWeb as our hosting provider).
  • Minimize image sizes – Images are a huge defining factor in page size and page size defines page speed. If you are using high-resolution images, there are very high chances that your site is slow to load. It is a good idea to either avoid using images on landing page or use lesser-resolution images. If you want to use images, try using tools like, Online Image Optimizer or SuperGIF.
  • Use Google AMP – AMP gives your pages a boost in rankings and Google is giving preference to them. I won’t go in detail as we’ve already discussed it.
  • Have responsive design – Google prefers responsive design but support all types of site configurations. Here are some pros and cons of each provided by Moz.

    Source: Moz

Optimize for Local Search

Since many of the mobile searches are location specific, there is huge opportunity for local businesses. So, if you want to optimize your site for to come up high in search ranking, I recommend you follow these tips.

  • Relevance of your business – Provide complete and detailed information about your business to Google. This will help Google understand your business better. Don’t forget to use relevant keywords for which you want to get searched.
  • Distance from user – Google takes into account the distance of your business and the user who had search for the query. For this you need to register to Google My Business and other local directories from Yahoo and Bing. This will also make your business visible if you have a popular local business without a website. You can check Get Listed to see where do you stand.
  • Customer Reviews – Think is this way, there are around 10 similar businesses like your in your neighborhood. Where will the user go if he/she searches for it? The first thing I do is look for customer reviews. Ask your customers to give your business a review on Yelp or other sites. To show reviews on the SERP, you need to use rich snippets on your site. If you don’t know how to use it, read my article on how to add rich snippets using plugins.
    customer reviews screenshot

Fix Mobile-Only Issues

We discussed the most common mobile-only errors and now you’ll learn how you can fix it. Google recommends the following solution for the problems.

  • Fixing Faulty Redirects –  If you have registered with Google Webmaster, Google Search Console will automatically detect any faulty redirects and inform you. You can also see it yourself from Smartphone Crawl Errors section and then you can debug it to know where the problem lies with your server configuration.
    • Redirect users to your equivalent mobile site
    • If you don’t have an equivalent mobile page, redirect them to the desktop page
    • Use responsive design for your website
  • Fix soft 404s –  To fix soft 404 errors for your smartphone site, you can follow the above steps only.
  • Avoid fullscreen popups – Popups or banners that cover the whole page on the mobile negatively impacts user experience. And Google give high priority to user experience. If you want to have banners, display small ones which do not cover the whole display.
    banner popup on mobiles

    Source: GoogleBlog

  • Touch Elements – If you have touch elements stuffed in a small space, chances are that user may tap onto the wrong element. To fix these errors, make sure to size and space buttons and navigational links suitable for your mobile visitors.

If you implement these tips, it is sure that you are going to improve your mobile SEO.


Mobile usage is only going to increase in coming years. If you don’t catch up with the change, you will fall behind just like Nokia.

Lastly, I’d like to say that thanks for reading such a long blog. If you’ve any questions, feel free to ask in the comments section.

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  • Complete Guide on how to optimize mobile SEO

    Mobile SEO in 2017: Complete Guide on How to Optimize it

    Mobile searches surpassed desktop searches back in 2015. But even now that we are approaching 2017, it has become a necessity. ...
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