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SEO for mobile: what really matters?

From the launch of Google’s mobile-first index to the continuing rise in smartphone users, mobile has been a hot topic on everyone’s lips for some time now — yet not everyone has got it quite right. In this blog post, we take a look at three of the most important factors that can impact mobile SEO performance:

Understanding the context of searches

Our devices are collecting more information about us than ever before and naturally, search engines like Google are using this data to further refine the overall search experience. Whether it’s the day of the week or information from calendars, this growing information base has resulted in more personalised search possibilities.

So what does this mean in terms of SEO? It demands a greater understanding of a user’s context and a lot of this can be targeted through content creation.

Start by breaking down the most accessed pages of your site by device type. By understanding the pages that are most visited by mobile users, you are able to tailor your content accordingly. Remember, on mobile devices, content needs to be shorter and more easily digestible to provide the key information to an on-the-go audience. Consider formats too — would image-based content work better for mobile users?

Time is of the essence

As we’ve already mentioned, time is of the essence when it comes to on-the-go mobile users finding the information they need quickly. Google launched its Accelerated Mobile Pages in early 2016, which essentially lets brands operate on strip-backed URLs, significantly reducing page load times.

In addition to adopting AMP, how can you improve the speed of your mobile site? Removing interstitial ads is a good place to start — they could lead to a Google penalty — as they add a roadblock between a search query and the content itself.

Make use of Google’s Mobile Testing Tool, which will analyse your site in terms of mobile usability. This will provide actionable advice on the aspects of your site that are hindering mobile performance, including speed.

Engagement metrics

Because a mobile website is used differently to desktop versions, it’s posing problematic for Google to index. For example, on a desktop, Google is able to crawl a site through links. On mobile where URLs are shared frequently across messaging apps and platforms, we’re witnessing a reduced focus on links.

The overall user experience is more important than ever before on mobile sites. Google’s new mobile-first index is expected to concentrate on ‘long-click’ and ‘short-click’ visits above the total number of clicks. A website could receive 5,000 clicks in an hour, but if 3,500 of these are short-clicks — meaning users click the link then quickly navigate away from the page — is the content really performing that well?

Again, this all comes down to content. If you’re producing genuinely useful content that answers user queries, you will in theory receive a greater proportion of long-clicks. Of course, other factors can influence this, some of which we’ve already mentioned, but this is a good signifier of the strength of your mobile performance. Monitor the performance of your content and review and test alternatives to find a mix that works for your audience.

Of course, there is still a place for links but again the focus is on quality rather than quantity. Instead of focusing on the number of links pointing to a page, consider the authority and traffic that will be passed.

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