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mobile seo

Welcome to the last post of a series of four 4 on Mobile SEO:

  1. First post How are you chasing your rabbit? discovers the technology shift beneath Mobile SEO.
  2. Second post Top 7 Advantages of a Mobile-Optimized Website shows how your online business takes advantage of a mobile-friendly website.
  3. Third post Why Mobile SEO affects your Google ranking? tells you how Google is pushing developers to make mobile-friendly websites.
  4. Today’s post will show you Google Webmaster’s tools to maximize your website Mobile SEO.

At this point you should already know that internet users will shortly use indifferently a PC, a laptop, a smartphone or a tablet, and that this trend will speed up in the next 5 years.

Also, you should know why your business must take advantage of this shift. If you improve your Mobile SEO you maximize the chance to be found by your users through their preferred device and you also get a higher rank in search engines, a better performing website, and an improved user experience.

Since 2013 Google is pushing his webmasters community to become more mobile-friendly. They initially labelled websites as “mobile-friendly” or “non-mobile-friendly” in mobile searches. More recently, they announced that starting April 21st they will be expanding their use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. In other words, your mobile-friendliness affects your overall Google ranking, in both desktop and mobile searches.

«Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.» – Webmaster Central Blog

Now, how’s to make sure your website is mobile-friendly?

Let’s see few tools available in Google Webmasters to make sure that your page meets the mobile-friendly criteria.

First thing is to check you page with the Mobile-Friendly Test. This test will analyze your URL and report if the page has a mobile-friendly design.

Then get a deeper insight on your full website through the Mobile usability report in Google Webmaster Tools. This will highlight major mobile usability issues across your entire site.

Then you may want to review Google Webmasters Mobile Guide on how to create and improve your own mobile site.

Is your website hosted by a third-party, like WordPress or Joomla? Check out Google’s how-to guide for third-party software in order to use a mobile-friendly template for your website.

Are you working with a developer? Review Google’s advice for working with a developer.

But what exactly Google is looking for, while assessing your website mobile friendliness?

An awesome resource is the Avoid Common Mistakes of Google Mobile SEO guide, which not only identify the top 7 errors with examples for each one, but give you recommendations on how to fix them.

BLOCKED JAVASCRIPT, CSS AND IMAGE FILES

«For optimal rendering and indexing, always allow Googlebot access to the JavaScript, CSS, and image files used by your website.»

This means that you need to allow Googlebot to see your site like a user, let crawling of JavaScript, CSS, and image in your site’s robots.txt.

Blocking this prevents Google algorithm to render and index your page, which means you will be marked as non-mobile-friendly.

Google recommendations:

  • Make sure that Googlebot can crawl your JavaScript, CSS and image files by using the “Fetch as Google” feature in Google Webmaster Tools. It will help you identify and fix a number of indexing issues on your site.
  • Check and test your robots.txt in Google Webmaster Tools.
  • Test your mobile pages with the Mobile-Friendly Test to see if Google can detect your website as compatible for mobile users.
  • If you use separate URLs for your mobile pages, make sure to test both the mobile and the desktop URLs.

UNPLAYABLE CONTENT

Some types of content (especially videos) don’t work well on mobile; for instance, license-constrained media and Flash content.

They serve a poor mobile user experience because users, instead of the content, will see an error page.

Google recommendations:

  • Use HTML5 standard tags to include videos or animations, and use Google Web Designer to replace Flash content with HTML5 animations.
  • Make video transcript available, in order to facilitate people using browsers that can’t display your content and those who need assistive browsing technologies.

FAULTY REDIRECTS

«If you have separate mobile URLs, you must redirect mobile users on each desktop URL to the appropriate mobile URL. Redirecting to other pages (such as always to the homepage) would be incorrect.»

Examples:

  • Any page of your desktop site redirects to mobile homepage.
  • Your dynamic desktop pages don’t map well with the equivalent mobile page (example: a user who is looking for a train timetable on a specific date on the desktop site is redirected to the general timetable search page on the mobile site).
  • Your redirection works well only with some devices (e.g. iOS is OK, Android is KO).

Google recommendations:

  • Google verified users can use Google Webmaster Tools to detect faulty redirections.
  • Set up your server so that it redirects mobile users to the equivalent URL on your mobile site.
  • If a page on your site doesn’t have a mobile equivalent, keep users on the desktop page.
  • Try using responsive web design, which serves the same content for desktop and mobile users.

From this extent (2 websites, one desktop and one mobile), you may want to check Top 7 Advantages of a Mobile-Optimized Website to understand why having 2 different URLs, despite being compliant with Google recommendations, it is not a best practice.

MOBILE-ONLY 404S

Some desktop sites show an error page to mobile users.

If a mobile user is visiting such a desktop page and you have a mobile equivalent, redirect the user to the mobile instead of serving a 404 page. Also make sure that the mobile-friendly page itself is not an error page.

Google recommendations:

  • If you have 2 different sites (desktop and mobile) set up your redirection on your server.
  • If you use dynamic serving, ensure your user-agent detection is correctly configured.
  • If a page on your site doesn’t have a mobile equivalent, keep users on the desktop page.
  • Use responsive web design when possible, in order to serve the same content to users, whatever the device they use.
  • Check the Crawl Errors Report in Webmaster Tools; the Smartphone tab will show a list of detected URLs that return mobile-only 404 errors.

 APP DOWNLOAD INTERSTITIALS

Promoting your app to your mobile website visitors is OK, as long as you serve users a seamless experience (i.e. once they move to the app, they do not need to start over again the task they were performing in your desktop website).

Google recommendation:

  • Use a simple banner to promote your app within the page’s content. This banner can be implemented using: 1) the native browser and operating system support; 2) an HTML banner or image that links to the correct app store for download.

IRRELEVANT CROSS-LINKS

A common error when a website serves users on separate mobile URLs is to have mobile links point to an irrelevant desktop page (such as homepage).

Google recommendation:

  • Check your mobile links to make sure that they point to the right desktop page.

SLOW MOBILE PAGES

You must ensure your mobile site loads quickly.

Google recommendation:

This is the end of our Mobile SEO series. To better understand why you must be mobile-friendly you may want to read few success stories here: Multi-Screen Resources.

Otherwise go ahead and offer your users an awesome mobile-friendly website!

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