How Important Is Mobile, Anyway?
Mobile optimization has been a ranking factor on Google for some time. But it's about to matter a whole lot more. According to a recent post on Search Engine Land, "Google said it wants sites to prepare [for mobile optimization]."
If certain pages or sections of your site are not optimized for your mobile audience, Google will take note and demote those pages in the search results for mobile queries. Google plans to roll this out April, 21 2015.
What is Mobile Optimization?
Optimizing a website for mobile users can mean implementing techniques like responsive design. But adding in some responsive breakpoints for tablets and mobile devices isn't all it takes.
And sometimes responsive might not be the best approach. There are times when a mobile-only page or website makes more sense. Measurable SEO Founder Chuck Price weighs the pros and cons of mobile-only and responsive design in this useful post.
Whether responsive or mobile-only, you'll want to factor in speed and usability when optimizing for mobile...
Your site speed depends of the server where its hosted and the files the user is required to download. I would recommend hosting your site on a virtual dedicated server or similar. You will pay more for this but its worth it.
Hosting on a shared server where you pay $10 a year for a service pitched by a race car driver is less than ideal. A shared server is one server with a bunch of other sites sharing the server's resources. The low cost host will load these to capacity for maximum profit. This will slow server speed as more websites are being access - eating up resources.
You also want to consider what loads when a page is called up on a browser. For example, as my friend Chris Penn put it, "Flash is bad." Ditch Flash in favor of an HTML5 solution.
You want the content on the responsive or mobile versions of the page to load quickly. Avoid situations where lots of pictures are loading in the background or there are large graphics. Use CSS (good, clean Cascading Style Sheets) everywhere possible.
Your developer should be able to control the amount of data being loaded for any given page.
The use of CSS, HTML5, and your website's speed all factor into a site's mobile usability. That said, there are other factors that matter.
Your mobile site should have clean navigation that factors in thumbs. Thumbs need an average space of 45×45 pixels for any site navigation. If you cram a bunch of links together in a small space, you get this...
Also, consider things like font size and readability. Make sure the mobile version of a page is legible. The easiest way to tell is to look at a page on a mobile device. Can you read it?
The content you create needs to be mobile friendly as well. This is very much a UX or user experience issue. Responsive design needs responsive content.
Newspapers use a format that translates very well on a responsive page...
- Headline - the attention grabber
- The lede - the hook
- Body - the meat
- Conclusion - the wrap up
With this format, the meat is still there, but the mobile user has enough at the beginning of the page to decide whether to stick around or not.
If your content rambles on and on before making a point, the mobile user will leave quickly, annoyed and unfulfilled.
Mobile's Importance to You
Mobile traffic is growing. According to a recent report from Cisco, "global mobile data traffic grew 69 percent in 2014." And it continues to grow.
From the same report, Cisco says that "by 2019 there will be nearly 1.5 mobile devices per capita." So, not only will everyone have a mobile device, many will have multiple devices.
Mobile is no longer something you can ignore. Don't take my word for it. If you have Google Analytics installed on your website, it's easy to see how many mobile visitors you're getting.
I asked our client, Visit Montgomery, to do a snapshot of their data as a sample. Their new website went live roughly 6 months ago. Since that time this is the device breakdown of the total traffic to the site...
As you can see here, mobile and tablet users account for more than half of the total sessions and about half of new users. Mobile was clearly factored into their website. Imagine if they ignored those numbers and did not optimize for mobile. That's a lot of frustrated users.
This data is available on your Google Analytics dashboard by selecting Audience -> Mobile -> Overview.
The good news is that Google will assess the mobile friendliness on a page by page basis. So, if a few pages are not considered mobile friendly, the site as a whole is not penalized, only those specific pages.
The amount of importance you place on mobile is up to you (and your website stats). But, don't ignore mobile! Your competitors won't.
What are your thoughts on mobile and Google's plans? Please share in the comments section below!
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