Many webmasters and business owners already know that it’s important to have a mobile-optimized website, but few are truly conversant with the differences in ranking factors for mobile search and desktop search. Such people adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to SEO, applying the same techniques for mobile search optimization as they do for their desktop sites, and they often neglect their mobile ranking metrics during performance analysis.
In a world that is growing increasingly mobile, this is a very dangerous strategy, and one that prevents many businesses from realizing their full online marketing potential. Google revealed in May 2015 that in ten countries, including the USA and Japan, the number of Google search queries on mobile exceeded the desktop search queries, and many countries continue to follow the trend. In fact, overall analysis reveals that mobile searches are more than desktop searches globally.
Any astute marketer/business manager would see the importance of having a separate strategy to track mobile search ranking performance. This is especially true because Google does not use the same ranking algorithm to provide mobile search results as it does for desktop. There have been numerous reports in the last few months revealing various factors that influence mobile search ranking, particularly after Google released their ‘Mobilegeddon’ update to making mobile friendliness a key ranking factor for mobile search results last April.
This article reveals the most important element search marketers should be following during mobile search optimization, revealing inherent differences between mobile and desktop search optimization strategy. Read on to find out more.
Highest ranking domains must also be mobile friendly
According to research done by Searchmetrics, the Google mobile-friendliness update resulted in a higher fraction of mobile-optimized domains within the first ten pages of search results. Before the update, approximately 80% of the top 100 websites ranked were mobile-optimized, a number that increased to above 90% in the months following the update’s release.
These are just statistics, which, while helpful, do little to practically arm marketers looking to improve their mobile search performance going forward. This post breaks the findings from Searchmetrics’ report.
The report shows that technical components significantly contribute to mobilerankings, probably owing to the smaller screen size and limited bandwidth available for mobile devices. Technically speaking, these are the most important ranking elements:
- Site speed – you can use the PageSpeed Insights tool from Google to gauge your site’s loading speed. On average, page one ranking sites have an average loading speed of 1.10 seconds.
- Flash elements– use of flash elements has been on the general decline, even before the Mobilegeddon update was released. Instead, HTML5 is recommended to enable proper content display on both desktop and mobile.
- Keywords within domain – use of keywords in domains’ significance has fallen in the last three years since Google instituted the Exact Match Domain Update. The report reveals that significance of keywords within domains is even less for mobile search result placement than desktop. Therefore, choose your domain name according to your branding strategy, and forget the keywords.
Mobile devices have limited screen sizes, and so optimizing fonts, images and other elements for proper rendering is important for creating positive user-site interactions. The following are the most important factors considered under user experience:
- Unordered lists – high-performing mobile sites utilize more unordered lists compared with their desktop counterparts. However, the lists are shorter for the formers than the latter. Use of bullet points improves content scan-ability, but keep the lists short and sweet.
- Internal linking – mobile content has fewer internal links compared with desktop content, even though this number has increased significantly in the last year since the update. Ensure that your internal links are meaningfully used and placed in such a way that mobile users can click on them accurately.
- Images – top-performing mobile search results have fewer than four images per page on average, unlike desktop sites which have at least nine. Mobile content should include sparing use of images, and the images should be optimized to ensure fast loading.
Content remains significant as a ranking factor for both desktop and mobile search. These are the most important factors to consider when building mobile-optimum content:
- Body keyword use – keyword use within the body of content increased from 2.7 to 5.48 between 2014 and 2014. It is notably lower than desktop averages which are around 10.22 within the same timeframe.
- Word count– desktop results have an average word count of 1285 compared with mobile’s 868. Understandably so, mobile content should be shorter to avoid tiring out readers, but long enough to provide adequate information on the subject.
- Proof terms – high-performing mobile sites utilize more proof terms – words related to a page’s main/target keywords. These are easy to include naturally if your content adequately covers the subject in discussion.
These are the most important mobile ranking factors. However, things like social signals and inbound links still play some role in mobile ranking, although their part is not immediately clear. However, if you begin with these as you draw up your mobile SEO strategy, you are likely to see great improvement in the coming months.
Michael Bentos is a highly experienced online marketer currently working with the team at ParadoxSEO.com, an SEO company with a powerful platform that aims to simplify SEO. He provides internet marketing and SEO service to businesses worldwide. Connect with him via LinkedIn.