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SEO best practices exist in a continually shifting landscape. As a result, business owners in all niches can have a hard time tracking the latest developments and changes. But, in order to surface in the SERPs, being “in the know” is a must.
Sites that achieve optimization generate more clicks, traffic, leads and sales than those who fail to implement such tactics effectively. Without a well-formulated SEO strategy, consumers won’t be able to find a site.
However, the search engine ecosystem has seen significant changes over the last couple of years, namely a transition towards mobile. Where consumers used to prefer desktop devices, small screen gadgets have taken hold of the market. According to Google, more than 50 percent of all web traffic comes from smartphones and tablets.
Because of this monumental transition and the continuing trend toward a mobile world, Google has adapted its SERPs to adhere to the new digital order. In 2018, the search giant rolled out its new mobile-first index, forever changing how search works and which strategies help to push sites into more visible positions.
Before diving into the mobile-focused strategies for better SEO performance, let’s explore what mobile-first indexing is and how it can impact SEO rankings.
Google’s index is a gargantuan catalog of web pages that the company utilizes to configure search results, based on the query entered.
Until recently, Google considered desktop web pages to be the most critical real estate, with mobile destinations being considered a secondary–albeit important–resource. However, Google’s mobile-first indexing has flipped this notion on its head. The search engine is now treating mobile pages as the primary destination to index, with desktop considered as an auxiliary.
This new method of indexing now treats mobile pages as the baseline for how pages will be ranked. However, this doesn’t mean that sites without mobile capabilities are precluded from the SERPs.
However, the lack of a mobile-friendly website will likely impact a site’s rankings negatively. Yet, this also means those with mobile-optimized sites will enhance their visibility standings. For those utilizing responsive designs, fluctuations in rankings are dependent on how the site performs on mobile devices.
Google’s Mobile-First Future
Google’s mobile-first index is just the latest in a string of events that shows the company is gearing toward a mobile-dominated future. Over the past several years, the company has been continually rolling out new mobile-exclusive features to the SERPs and its ad platform.
Some of the more notable mobile undertakings by Google include the infamous “Mobilegeddon,” Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs), app streaming, the introduction of the Google Pixel smartphone and a variety of other pushes.
Moreover, as the importance of voice search functionality (a primarily mobile feature) continues to grow in prominence, it continually influences the SERPs to a greater degree as the format for queries is altered. We’ll come back to this point a little later.
Google is clearly heading in a definitive direction with its products and services. Therefore, it is necessary for retailers to focus their optimization efforts squarely on mobile devices.
So, what strategies should retailers seek to employ for the small screen SERPs?
Optimizing for Mobile Performance
Now that mobile web pages are the indexing priority, sites must adapt and craft an outstanding experience for such devices. While a mobile responsive design is a start, retailers must go above and beyond to create a genuinely optimized mobile website. Here are several important factors that contribute to that end.
Some of the most common issues slowing down mobile sites include unoptimized images and large file sizes. There are numerous tools for resolving such matters, including TinyPNG or Optimizilla. These services assist in compressing file sizes without diminishing the image’s quality.
Moreover, mobile load times can be enhanced by employing a reliable caching plugin or adopting the previously mentioned accelerated mobile pages.
If files do seem to be blocked, check the robots.txt file to ensure this is the case. If resources are in fact blocked, go to the “Blocked Content Report” in the Search Console and provide Google access by clicking on the related URLs and follow the guidance on the popup.
Employ Mobile-Friendly Popups
Digital merchants want to promote new products, current sales and other relevant promotions for consumers to enjoy. However, how these pushes take place matters to Google.
Popups have always been considered an annoyance for desktop users. However, on mobile, popups can downright wreck a user experience. Because of this impact on mobile users, Google introduced an update targeting intrusive popups. Now, the use of giant popups can damage mobile performance in the SERPs.
Therefore, retailers should aim to minimize their use of popups. In the occasions that they are employed, they should be quick-loading, easy to remove and minimally invasive. Hello Bar is a great tool for applying non-intrusive popups to an eCommerce site.
Easily Readable Content
Few things are more annoying on mobile than having to scroll from side to side because of unoptimized text.
The content on mobile sites should be easily readable and not require users to scroll sideways or zoom in to consume.
Fortunately, responsive sites resize their text automatically. However, for those that have a dedicated mobile destination, some tips for increasing readability include:
Utilizing a 14-16-point font
Keeping paragraphs short
Ensuring proper contrast between the text and the page’s background
Prepare for Voice Search
According to a report from comScore, half of all smartphone users leverage voice-activated assistants, and one-third of users access this technology daily.
For several years, this technology has been increasing in prominence and altering SERP results via the form queries take, the types of keywords used and the emergence of answer boxes and featured snippets.
Presenting answers that are the correct length (these tend to be 29 words, on average)
Correctly formulated answers
Some tips for optimizing mobile content to surface in the answer box include:
Using questions as subheadings
Formatting articles as lists
Including tables in content
Answering questions comprehensively yet concisely
Keep these tips top of mind when optimizing mobile content for the voice-fueled future of search.
As the mobile age of the internet begins to blossom and mature, Google will continue to focus more of its efforts on enhancing the mobile experience for search users. Therefore, the sites present in Google’s index must do the same.
However, mobile optimization efforts are no walk in the park. Expertly crafting a mobile retail experience that will woo visitors and search engines alike may require a deft team of eCommerce SEO experts to guide merchants through the ever-changing mobile search optimization landscape.
Remember: Mobile is the future of eCommerce and search. Don’t neglect this vital aspect of your business.
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Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
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