It’s been a common belief for quite a while now that mobile SEO is an important thing to focus on when building your site’s authority. However, not much has been said about the exact things you should do to make your site mobile-optimized and attract more mobile viewers.
So let’s fill the gap and present just that – our SEO recommendations and a step-by-step technical guide to effective search engine optimization for mobile.
Mobile Experience is a Factor
Let’s start with the elephant in the room. Quite recently Google actually admitted that they do consider the overall user experience your site provides to mobile viewers as a ranking factor.
In plain English, this means that if your site fails to deliver good experience to mobile viewers, Google will stop displaying it for mobile searches.
And frankly, why wouldn’t it be a factor? It is a really intuitive step on Google’s part. Let’s not forget that Google’s main business is to provide people with relevant and accessible answers to the questions they’re asking. So, if a site looks bad on mobile then why would Google show it to a mobile user? It’d be just bad user experience.
Just to recap this paragraph, mobile SEO does matter, and it matters a lot. In fact, and this is just our opinion, if you don’t pay any attention to mobile optimization, your site may become completely irrelevant (both to users and Google) in just a couple of years.
Responsive Designs vs. Redirects
There are two main approaches at mobile optimization these days. One is a relatively new thing in web development, and the other has been with us for years.
The old player is URL redirection and mobile-specific versions of your content. The new player is responsive design.
Although Google is still more or less happy with both of them, the old approach of redirecting mobile viewers can soon become obsolete as it has its individual problems that will be tough to deal with. Mainly, a mobile-specific version rarely delivers the same value as the desktop one. Moreover, the branding is much less noticeable, which creates some confusion for anyone who views a mobile version of your site for the first time.
Responsive design it is, then! (We’re still going to discuss redirections in a minute.)
How to Make Your Site Responsive
Unfortunately, it’s quite difficult to make an old and unoptimized design responsive. Truth is, it’s way easier, quicker, and cheaper to change the theme you’re currently using to a modern one that does support responsive structure right from the get-go.
The easiest way of finding out if a theme you’re thinking about is responsive or not is to fire up a live demo that all theme stores provide, and start resizing your browser’s window to notice how the design reacts to this. If the design remains unchanged and scroll bars start appearing then the theme is not responsive. On the other hand, if it does react, and the content remains to be perfectly visible no matter the viewable area then you’ve got yourself a responsive design.
For example, if you go to one of the themes we recommend here for online gambling affiliates – DoubleUp Theme by Flytonic – and fire up the demo, you’ll see this:
But if you try making the browser’s window smaller, you’ll see an adjusted, mobile version:
This means that the theme is responsive.
Now, taking your old theme and making it responsive, as we’ve pointed out a minute ago, will take a lot more effort and funds. The thing is that the degree to which a theme is responsive depends on the structure of the code that makes up the theme. If the code is old then it needs to be replaced with a more modern version. In the end, making an old theme responsive usually means totally re-writing its code. That’s why it’s never going to be worth your while (budget-wise).
Minimize Your Site’s Footprint
Apart from making your design look nice on a mobile device, your optimization process should also address the issue of how long it takes to load the site.
It’s no secret by now that sites that take longer to load have higher bounce rates; with some viewers not even waiting for the loading process to complete.
This becomes even more brutal on mobile devices. Quite simply, people on mobiles don’t have time to wait for stuff to load. If it takes more than 2-3 seconds, they will leave and never come back.
One way of reducing your site’s footprint is simplifying your design, but we’re not very supportive of the idea as it will make your branding more difficult.
Another way of approaching the topic is to use some optimization plugins for WordPress. There are many of those available, but here we just want to recommend two:
It will take the JS and CSS files that your site uses, and combine them to improve the load time and reduce the number of requests needed to fetch your site’s whole content.
After installing the plugin, all you need is to activate it and it will automatically start making your site more optimized. Here’s what you’ll see when you go to Settings > WP Minify in the WP Admin:
This other plugin is all about making your images more optimized without losing any of their quality.
WP Smush.it is almost as easy to use as the previous plugin. All you have to do is install and activate it. Then, when you go to your Media Library in the WP Admin you’ll see an additional column where you can “Smush” or “Re-smush” every image on your site:
Depending on the image, disk space savings of 5%-20% are not uncommon. This sort of minor change can make a huge difference for your mobile optimization when you think about how many images you have in total on your site.