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Maximizing Mobile Search Opportunities

Posted on 9.29.2017
Consumers are increasingly “mobile” these days – particularly when it comes to how they find the information they need on the search engines.

In fact, according to recent BrightEdge research, 57 percent of all online traffic now comes from mobile (and tablet). Couple that data point with the fact that Google’s mobile-first algorithm is coming (expected early next year) and it should be abundantly clear that enterprise search marketers should be concentrating today on maximizing their mobile search opportunities.

It does not take an SEO master to realize that the current “experience” Google provides is continually changing. What has become absolutely clear is that enterprises who have long thought about the best way to deliver a mobile-optimized experience for users and the search engines simultaneously are those best positioned for success in the future. So what then is the best way to optimize for the mobile consumer and the inevitable mobile-first, mobile-friendly index of Google?
 

Use Schema.org Structured Data
As a result of the limited screen space, a mobile search result with rich snippets (structured data) is even more likely to help a website stand out on mobile than on a desktop. Discover three best practices for using Schema.org structured data on Web pages to capitalize on every mobile search at wsm.co/mobileriched.

 
THE MOBILE OPPORTUNITY IS COMPLEX

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of SEO today is that many Web professionals are forced to optimize for two separate search experiences.

What that means is that the results pages and the individual site rankings they feature are quite different for mobile and desktop even for the same query. Essentially, those Web pages that rank for a particular query on desktop are often not the same as they are on mobile – and upwards of half the time too. Don’t believe it? Check for yourself – you just might be surprised. What’s more is that the presentation of the results also varies widely between desktop and mobile, creating a perfect digital storm for an already overwhelmed and confused industry.

So what is it that search engine optimization professionals should do considering the limited amount of control (or lack thereof to be more specific) that they have on the indexing of listings and the presentation of those listings on mobile and desktop results pages? Simple. Focus on what is in their control. In other words, go back to basics and optimize for users and not search engines.

The Technical Opportunity

One of the most significant opportunities that is in the control of SEOs is that of the technical presence they present to users. Page load time, for this reason, is a topic of immense interest. Google continues to emphasize the role of quick loading pages but has openly admitted that while it does not currently use page speed as a mobile ranking factor (that often seems to change from day to day and from source to source), it likely will when the mobile-first index becomes the default. Ultimately, however, optimization is about improving the user experience as much as it is improving rankings so there is a genuine and direct benefit from accelerating the digital experience from a technical perspective in whatever way possible.

If website managers are still interested in speeding up their digital presence (as they should be), concentrating on the compression of JavaScript, minifying CSS code, minimizing image size and prefetching resources are some of the tried and true recommended first steps. For more, review our roundup of page speed optimization practices at wsm.co/speedypage.

The result of maintaining a high page speed score, however, has never really been shown to ensure a high ranking (slow sites regularly outrank faster sites). Could a better design be the key to maximizing mobile search?
 

Popups & Mobile SEO

Many search marketing professionals are under the impressions that using popups on a mobile site will harm search rankings but is that true? Discover the best practices for using popups in the age of mobile SEO at wsm.co/popaway.


 
The Design Opportunity

Few things matter more to the mobile experience than that of design.

While the accelerated mobile pages (AMP) project is certainly an intriguing option for websites willing to invest in such an integration (get up to speed on AMP and how to implement it at wsm.co/readyamp), building a responsive site is likely a sufficient alternative (at least for now).

What a “responsive” approach does is enable websites to provide a more consistent experience for consumers across devices and use fewer technical resources in general. A word of caution though, if Web pros are looking to use “responsive design” as a means to influence rankings, know it has been shown that there is really (once again) no evidence whatsoever it will work, despite Google saying repeatedly that it is its “preferred” approach to mobile design.

Design is obviously important, but mobile search optimization is going to need to rely on some other, more tangible element to determine ranking – and content is likely it.

The Content Opportunity

The manner in which content is presented to users also provides a significant opportunity to maximize mobile search initiatives. For example, showing infographics whose size cannot be increased can certainly play a negative role in the user experience, and many sites are still featuring functionality (charts, etc.) that do not render (at least well) on mobile devices. Engaging in an audit of content within the framework of mobile devices will likely pay big dividends for any site hoping to get more mobile traffic in the future and maintain a high quality experience for users.

A fresh round of keyword research can also prove to be critical in mobile optimization efforts as mobile changes the way users search. With voice search playing such a predominant role on smartphones by consumers, it will be useful to employ a new strategy that focuses on answering consumer questions quickly.

OPTIMIZING FOR THE MOBILE OPPORTUNITY

Google’s mobile-first index will not come at the end of 2017 as it would likely cause far too much movement in the search results at one of the most important times of the year. When, however, should SEOs expect it to launch? An immense amount of work clearly still needs to be done but at the earliest it will likely be in the first few months of 2018 (March or April is probably the best guess as it is a traditional time for Google to roll out significant updates). In the meantime, SEOs must focus on what is in their control (technical reliability, digital design and content) to ensure long-term SEO success. 
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