In 2014, it became official: There were more people using mobile devices than desktops. Consider this, 32 percent of consumers start the hunt for their next purchase on a mobile device according to Econsultancy. This means that a big chunk of your potential customers and clients might be skipping over your website if you’re not mobile ready. Even Google’s on board with this, updating algorithms to give a higher ranking to sites that are mobile accessible, and a number of other search engines are doing the same.
This means you need to ensure your SEO strategy includes mobile readiness as well as—not in lieu of— desktop readiness. However, don’t panic just yet. The silver lining is that the bar is set pretty low right now, with very few businesses boasting premium mobile SEO. This gives you just enough of a window to surpass the competition and rake up those new consumers. But you have to move fast.
Responsive isn’t Mobile
You already follow responsive design best practices, so it’s the same thing as mobile readiness, right? Wrong, or at least it’s not completely right. It’s kind of like how all sugars are carbs, but not all carbs are sugars. All mobile readiness is an element of responsive design, but not all responsive design best practices lead to mobile readiness. Google has explicitly stated that responsive design is preferred, especially for sites designed for mobile use. After all, it’s easier to share content and quickly load pages when there’s just one URL.
However, thinking about these two strategies from a business owner’s perspective really highlights the bottom line—literally. A complete responsive design overhaul can take a lot of time and cost a lot of money. Plus, if something goes wrong, it might end up making the experience much slower for those on mobile devices. Google isn’t saying that having a different mobile domain means you won’t score the highest rankings, but simply that it’s easier for Google to scour one page set for indexing rather than two.
It’s easier to offer a mobile site that’s customized with content, but there are risks. Specifically, duplicate content and split link authority issues can come into play, especially for companies that aren’t savvy with black hat tricks and might mistakenly use them.
For some businesses, adaptive web design might be a better option, where devices intuitively figure out which of a business’ site is designed for which gadget. Adaptive design uses the best parts of responsive design (including zero duplicate content, shareable content, and one URL), and blends them with mobile readiness elements like fast load times and customization. Of course, this is also very expensive and complex.
If you’re ready to get “mobile ready,” start by verifying your website with Google Webmaster Tools mobile settings. This provides you with details on search queries that might pop up as “not provided.” Whenever you upload sitemaps to Google, you’re now uploading that mobile sitemap as well. Ensure your page load speed is as fast as possible, and avoid HTTP redirects which are notorious for slowing things down. This is another potential argument for not having a different mobile site.
Get control of your Google Local profile if applicable, since those Google Local details really stand out on mobile devices. It also shows you on Google Maps and the linked app, so you need to make sure that information is comprehensive and accurate. Finally, follow mobilization best practices such as properly sizing content so it scrolls vertically, choosing font sizes wisely, ditching the plug ins, and using buttons which can be tapped only when your readers want to—not in frustration when they’re trying to do something else.