Mobile Search Best Practices

Written by: Jason Bayless | June 24, 2016

Search engine optimization has long been concerned not only with the desktop, but also with mobile devices that are increasingly used to access key information on major websites. The best practices associated with accommodating mobile users have changed over time, evolving alongside devices that have gotten more advanced with each passing generation. Today, a new set of best practices embraces the full richness of the mobile web, many aspects of desktop browsing, and some innovative methods that will ensure a page is at or near the top of relevant search engine results.

Focus on Fast and Consistent Page Speed

One of the most important rules of today’s “best practices” for mobile search is to optimize a website to load in as little time as possible. The website, however, should load quickly while embracing rich content like pictures, videos, and pleasant typography. The reason for this emphasis on page load times has much to do with how today’s search engines view fast-loading and slow-loading pages.

Specifically, Google’s latest set of guidelines place a great deal of emphasis on how long the page takes to respond and fully load in a typical web browser, either mobile or desktop. Pages that load slowly are viewed with suspicion and therefore rank behind their fast-loading competitors. On mobile, this can be a challenge, but efficient, CSS-based designs that embrace HTML5 can still beat the clock and impress search engine algorithms.

Embrace Rich Content, CSS, and Even JavaScript

There was a time, not too long ago, when the best practices for mobile search engine optimization stated that a mobile site should be skeletal in order to attract the attention of search engine algorithms. This advice was based on an era of 2G and 3G mobile connectivity, not one of larger screens and mega-fast LTE connections. Today, mobile web browsers can handle CSS, JavaScript, images and video just as well as their desktop counterparts.

In fact, websites that embrace these rich elements have been shown to attract more visitors, to retain those visitors for a longer period of time, and to convert those visitors to customers at a greater frequency than the barebones websites of a bygone era. Google, Bing, and other search engines recognize this fact and reward it in their rankings of relevant results for each mobile search.

Have a Mobile-Friendly Website

Perhaps this should be the first rule of mobile search, but it’s so obvious that most site administrators have probably already embraced. For those that haven’t, however, it’s worth diving into the merits of a mobile website. First and foremost, websites designed for the mobile web embrace the limited width and longer page length of the typical mobile device. This shifts how content is displayed, where the “hot areas” of the website are for taps and clicks, and how content is perceived on the go.

Another key thing to understand about the mobile web is that it’s a touch-based ecosystem, not a click-based one. Mobile websites accommodate “fat finger syndrome” by having larger clickable areas and touch-friendly navigation. This is key to mobile search optimization. It’s also an essential way to encourage further exploration and conversion within a site after a customer lands there from a relevant search.

Best Practices: Embrace the Most Modern of Today’s Technologies

It’s time to cast aside the notion that the mobile web should be some kind of basic, barebones, un-engaging environment. The best practices associated with today’s mobile websites, and mobile search optimization, focus on creating a rich experience that’s touch-friendly, full of images and video, and designed specifically for the unique viewport of a mobile web browser. By embracing these best practices, a site can plausibly rise through the rankings in mobile searches and perform better over time.