If you’re like much of the US population, you’re likely to be reading this post on a mobile device, whether you found it through a Google search or it came to you in your email. Here and abroad more users access the internet from mobile devices than ever before. In fact, since 2014, more of us access the internet via mobile than our desktop computers.
The point is: Today, you must make optimizing for mobile traffic a cornerstone of your website strategy.
Optimizing a site’s mobile experience involves adapting to specific mobile devices and ensuring a seamless experience through mobile for your visitors. Let’s discuss a few of the important questions you should be asking about optimizing your site for mobile in 2016.
1. Google’s latest announcement about mobile search and what it means to you
On Google’s Webmaster Central blog last month, Google announced their efforts to improve usability on mobile sites and in mobile search. When searching on mobile have you seen “Mobile Friendly” show up in the search results? This will no longer show for most users online, as Google is cleaning up the experience and taking back that valuable real estate.
Google is also looking to “punish” websites that use those annoying full-page pop-up ads. Google’s purpose is to help searchers find the content they’re looking for more easily. “Intrusive interstitials” (those pop-ups that obstruct the view of background content) present a poor experience to users and therefore Google will start to take action. This may involve showing your site lower in rankings, or quite possibly not at all for certain terms. Google made it very clear in this statement:
“After January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.”
If you’re currently using a functionality that may be considered “intrusive interstitials” find an alternative for mobile users before January of 2017.
2. I’m not sure how well my website is optimized for mobile. Where do I start?
Start testing! A simple place to start is on your own mobile device. Go ahead, hop on and start browsing. I’m not going to do an exhaustive list of every single problem, but here are a few things to look for, which can give you an idea of how much work may lie ahead.
- Areas where mobile users might have trouble accessing certain pages, buttons that don’t function or are hidden from view, navigation that doesn’t show or isn’t easily clickable.
- Elements of the page that overlap such as hero and banner images, copy, headers, logos and other elements.
- Are images rendering correctly on your pages, or are they pixelated, too small, or otherwise hard to see and understand at a glance?
- Test videos to ensure they play correctly, are able to be paused or stopped, that the audio can be heard and doesn’t skip or seem inaudible.
- Review form functionality. Do they submit properly, do they allow autofill, are they easy to fill in, etc.
- Look at accordions, drop downs, audio plays and other aspects that are involved when a user takes “action.” Do they function properly and are they easy to use?
Tools exist to take your testing much, much farther to help you see how your site is served on the variety of devices that people use, not just the cell phone you happen to have.
Android, Windows and iPhone mobile devices offer vastly different experiences and therefore should be examined to complete a thorough test. Phones use different browsers just as desktops do. Tools will aid in testing the configurations of new phones and older phones, along with the browsers they utilize.
3. What mobile testing tools exist to help test the mobility of my website?
Google offers a free Mobile-Friendly Test, which can help diagnose some issues, but it doesn’t report across specific browsers. Cross-browser testing tools often come with the capabilities of testing on mobile devices and browsers, each offering their own toolsets and associated cost. CrossBrowserTesting.com, Browsershots, Browser Sandbox, Browsera and BrowserStack are the best-of-class options ranging from $10-$100+ per month depending on your needs.
Tools will simply show you what the page looks like via mobile. It’s up to your web design team to diagnose the reasons why the page isn’t working. This careful review can take a lot of time and resources.
If you must prioritize, take into consideration data from Google Analytics that will help tell you the most common browsers and mobile devices used to access your site. Tailor your plan to your actual visitors.
4. How should I prioritize the mobile optimization fixes needed on my site?
It depends. The goals of your site and the severity of your mobility issues should be taken into consideration when prioritizing efforts to optimize. Areas of your site that don’t allow conversions to take place should be prioritized over fixing a few misaligned images, for example. A complex development project to fix areas of your site that cannot be clicked should be prioritized over a few misaligned images as well.
Evaluate your site manually and with the tools listed above and start chipping away at any optimization issues.
5. Can I optimize my site for mobile search, as in mobile SEO?
Last year we wrote about this very topic – the nexus where mobile usage and search trends meet – in our article, “Mobile Search Engine Optimization Best Practices.” Mobile best practices for SEO don’t vary too much from the traditional best practices with SEO.
User experience is extremely important, along with page load speed. The slower your site is and the harder it is to navigate and use, the less your site will show up in either mobile and desktop search results. Metadata is important so don’t forget those unique meta titles and descriptions, too. Entice users to click on your search results, and test, test, test!
Consider using Schema structured data and take advantage of that teeny tiny screen. Structured data aids in ratings showing as rich snippets in search results. In the example shown below, you can see reviews, hours, time and so much more.
Visit Schema.org for more information on the structured data options available for your site. Not sure if you have structured data implemented? Visit Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool available for free to test pages on your site.
Optimizing your site for search engines and mobile is an iterative process, one that can require testing, monitoring and analysis ongoing. Google’s Search Console provides information about your mobile performance such as the number of clicks, impressions and the click-through rate of your mobile search results, as well as the mobility of your site and any issues associated.
Optimizing for mobile search goes beyond just being mobile responsive and really forces you to understand how your users are actually using their mobile devices to engage with your company.
6. What resources exist to help my developer fix mobile issues I uncover?
- WordPress Mobile Dev Handbook
- Magento for Merchants and Developers
- Google Mobile Friendly Website Resources for Developers
- Common Mobile Mistakes Google Resources for Developers
- Mobile Optimization Guide for Developers
7. Are there design features I should consider integrating on my site today?
Mobile-specific features are a great addition to your website and can add to the user experience for your visitors.
Design for “Fat Finger.” Designing for fingers that are 44 pixels wide is considered designing for the “Fat Finger.” This will allow the elements on your page to be accessed and clickable by all users. It’s common that mobile design accounts for smaller fingers and therefore some elements of your page may be harder to click and access.
Tap to Call/Click to Call Feature. When a phone number appears on your site, it’s a best practice to allow those numbers to be tapped so users can call directly from the number listed. It is very hard to copy/paste or write down phone numbers while on the go. Make it easier for your customers and enable tap-to-call features on numbers throughout your website.
The process of optimizing your site for mobile is part-and-parcel of a user’s experience online. Today’s connected world has tasked marketers with thinking outside-the-box. As the connected world becomes more mobile, our job as marketers will require us to continue this line of thinking and focus on usability. We hope you can use the topics discussed in our blog post to optimize your online assets for mobile, to achieve more success and work toward the ultimate goal of optimal website usability and user experience.