A Guide To Optimizing Your Website For Mobile

By Cristina Ferrandez Aug 29, 2017

We live in an era where people spend over five hours every day on their smartphones. From the moment that we wake up to the moment that our heads hit our pillows, we are attached to our mobile devices. In fact, this attachment is one of the reasons that Google (and other search engines) has increased the importance of mobile optimization in search results. In other words, if you want your website to be displayed in the first page of search results, then you need to make sure that it is optimized for mobile use.

What Is Mobile Optimization?

Mobile optimization refers to the process used to ensure that site visitors have the "optimal" experience when they visit your site. This user-friendly experience could be achieved via a designated mobile site that is automatically populated when a mobile (or tablet) browsing device is detected. Alternatively, a responsive website design can be used to automatically adjust website content so that it is compatible to mobile use. In short, mobile optimization is an in-depth process that examines every component of the site. From the design to the site structure, the page speed to the actual content, mobile optimization must be maximized if you want to successfully appeal to mobile site visitors.

Mobile Website Best Practice Tips

Optimizing your website for mobile viewing is made easier when you keep the following best practice tips in mind. No matter what type of mobile site you design, remember that the key to mobile optimization is creating a user-friendly site that is easy to read, engage with, and navigate.

Best Practice Tip #1: Design For Mobile

Mobile devices are inherently smaller than laptop or desktop devices. With this in mind, your mobile website should clearly be designed for a smaller screen. In other words, you have a smaller amount of "screen real estate," which means that you must design with a limited number of pixels in mind. To help you do this, here are a few small screen pointers that can have a big impact:

  • Use shorter sentences. Keep your sentences to 20 words or less. Why? Just as we are doing right now, you want to make it easy for your visitor to read and digest the information.
  • Speaking of bullets ... lists are your friend! Through bulleted or numbered lists you can quickly display important information on a small screen. Remember that smartphones feature touchscreens. Combine touchscreens with the tendency to scroll on social media sites and suddenly lists make strategic sense for quickly displaying written content.
  • Keep paragraphs short. Ideally you want to your paragraphs to be between three to six sentences. In other words, keep it short, keep it simple, and always get to your point.
  • Structure long-form content so that the most important information is placed at the beginning of each new section. To use an old school trick, you should be able to understand each section of the site by reading the first and last sentence.
  • Don't be afraid to use headers and subheadings to break up the text for mobile visitors who are interested in quickly scanning the site.
  • Make sure that images are formatted for mobile viewing. Additionally, ensure that the quality is optimized for fast page load times.
  • Use a readability tool to ensure that the Kincaid score remains between a 6th and 10th grade reading level. The reading comprehension level for the average person tends to reduce in accordance with device size.
  • Use easy to find Call To Action (CTA) buttons. Make sure that these buttons are linked. For example, your phone number should be "click to dial," while your contact page CTA should automatically load as an email that can be sent.
  • "Above the fold" doesn't have a meaning in a digital world where we are prone to scrolling on mobile devices without thinking. What does this mean? It means that you should have a search console that makes it easier for mobile users to find the information they want to see.
  • Remember your audience. Mobile users are often interested in instant gratification. In other words, you should design your mobile site with easy navigation so that searching the site is seamless and practically second nature (even to first time site visitors).

Whether you choose a responsive web design or a separate URL, creating a dynamic design that is suited for small screen viewing is imperative to mobile optimization efforts. Remember that while responsive, dynamic serving, and separate site configurations all have their advantages and disadvantages, the best option is often the simplest solution. Through a simple, easy to follow layout you can create a positive user experience. Finally, if you do decide to design a separate mobile site, then you should be sure to include a link to the desktop version. The reason behind the latter design choice is simple -- many mobile sites display less content than their desktop counterparts. To once again provide an enhanced user experience, you want to make it easy for your visitors to find the information that they desire, which might mean giving them the option to click a link for your dynamic desktop site.

Best Practice Tip #2: Pay Attention To Page Speed

Did you know that the average Internet user has the attention span of a goldfish? This means that your average site visitor will decide in nine seconds or less if they want to "stick around." Unfortunately, this statistic falls even lower when visitors are browsing on a mobile device. To accommodate for shorter attention spans, you need to ensure that your mobile site is optimized for fast load times. The following tips can help you to decrease the load time for your mobile site.

  • Google PageSpeed is a great tool that can be used to find out what elements of your mobile site are slowing it down. PageSpeed provides insights into the network independent aspects of your mobile site, so that you can accurately identify what areas are negatively impacting your page load times. Typically PageSpeed will examine the performance of the HTML structure of the page, the external image resources (such as JavaScript and CSS), and the server configuration.
  • Avoid page redirects, which can greatly reduce the speed of your mobile pages. In fact, with each page redirect your site can receive an increased overhead, which results in delays to the page load time.
  • Use browser caching to further reduce the speed of your mobile pages. In short, browser caching can be used to retain a lot of the information on your site, so that it doesn't have to reload each time a visitors lands on one of your pages.
  • Make sure that your images are only as large as they need to be. Too many high quality (and high definition) images can greatly increase the page load times for mobile sites.
  • Don't block CSS or JavaScript. A smartphone GoogleBots wants (and needs) to be able to see and categorize the content on your site. If you block CSS or JavaScript, then the GoogleBots won't be able to see the content in the same way that users do, which means that they won't properly categorize your site. Additionally, CSS and JavaScript can help search engines better understand if you have a responsive site or a separate mobile solution. Finally, it is advisable that you avoid using Flash. The plugin might not be available on all mobile devices; instead, use HTML5 for creating mobile-friendly special effects.

Best Practice Tip #3: Mobile SEO

Once you have optimized your mobile design and page speeds, it will be time for you to explore mobile-centric SEO. When it comes to mobile SEO, the same best practice approaches that you took for your desktop site will apply. However, just in case you need a refresher, here are a few tips that you should always implement.

  • Optimize for mobile viewing. - Whether its on a mobile or desktop device, SEO is all about creating a user-friendly experience. In this vein, don't use pop-ups. Pop-ups create a negative user experience that will not only reduce the number of site visitors, but will harm your ranking. Additionally, mobile site pop-ups can lead to higher bounce rates, which can negatively impact your SEO ranking.
  • Optimize page titles. - Page titles should be written to focus on one keyword or keyword phrase. In 10 words or less the page title should clearly tell users what the page is about.
  • Optimize meta descriptions. - Remember that mobile users have a limited viewing screen; this means that your meta descriptions must be simultaneously concise and engaging. Once again, you should focus on one keyword or a synonym.
  • Optimize images. - As mentioned in the previous section, your images should be optimized for mobile viewing. However, when it comes to mobile SEO, it is important that you take a moment to add an additional title. For example, let's say that your company sells technology products. Instead of using the automatically-generated image name of "IMG.784959," you should give your page an SEO boost by changing the name to a succinct description that leverages the following format, "your company name_page keyword_description of image."
  • Optimize for local searches. - Generally speaking, many mobile Internet users are searching on the go. Whether they are searching for a restaurant or a business, they are often looking for local solutions. With this in mind, it is important that your mobile site is optimized for local searches by including the following information: your company name; business address; phone number; and the city and state name. The latter information should be included within your site's metadata. For clarity and maximum effectiveness, your local data can be added to the header or footer for each page of your site.
  • Optimize for keywords. - Mobile sites might have a limited amount of "screen real estate," but that doesn't mean that keywords should be ignored. Instead, you need to ensure that each page is written with a specific keyword or keyword phrase in mind (without committing the cardinal sin of keyword stuffing).

The Bottom Line: Mobile Optimization Is Key For Business Success

If you want to reach an awaiting audience of potential customers, then you need to ensure that your site has been properly optimized for mobile consumption. After all, over 51 percent of Internet media is consumed by users via a mobile device, and the average person prefers to browse the web via their mobile device, rather than using a desktop solution. In conclusion, by implementing the above best practice tips, you can and will create a user-friendly mobile site that is perfectly designed to sell your company's products or services.


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