What is mobile optimization?

Mobile optimization is the practice of creating the best possible user experience for site visitors using mobile devices.

Best Practices for Mobile Optimization

Mobile optimization is the web design practice of creating the best possible user experience for site visitors on mobile devices. Obviously, designing content for smaller screens requires some compromises. For example, on-page SEO elements like titles and meta descriptions must be concise so that mobile search engine users can glean all they need about your content. 

However, mobile optimization considerations go much deeper than this. While creating quality content that is able to earn relevant, meaningful links still matters to an overall SEO campaign, the shift to mobile has major implications for all site owners. This article will explore some best practices for mobile optimization to help you improve your SEO and user experience with mobile users in mind.

Use Responsive or Mobile-First Design Principles

While the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, responsive design and mobile-first design are different approaches to the same concern. Your first step when optimizing your website for mobile devices is to choose to embrace either responsive web design or mobile-first design principles. While either methodology makes content more accessible on mobile devices, each takes a different approach to doing so.

Responsive design is an approach to web content that involves the use of dynamic screen sizes and orientations to suit the device being used to access it. Whether site visitors are on desktops, tablets, or smartphones, the contents of each page should automatically adjust to make elements of the site accessible. Regardless of the device being used, the same HTML is served to visitors — the page elements simply reshuffle to make them more legible and usable. 

Mobile-first design is quite different. It involves the creation of discrete pages for mobile users and desktop users. The HTML served to visitors is dependent on the type of device being used. Given Google’s shift to mobile-first indexing, it’s helpful to start development with mobile iterations, then modify or add to pages as needed to make them suited for desktop users.

Both approaches have benefits and drawbacks. Responsive design makes site updates more straightforward, but it doesn’t offer a truly optimized experience on mobile devices. Mobile-first design gives more control over the user experience, but it can also take a larger resource and time commitment. Once you’ve decided on an approach to your site, you can adopt the following tips for mobile optimization.

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Make Key Content & Features Easily Accessible

Mobile-optimized content must be easily accessible to users across a broad range of devices. No matter the screen size or resolution, content should be presented in a clean and understandable fashion. This means that key features must be clearly labeled and placed, as well as easy to access. Key content and features should be:

  • Organized on your domain in a consistent and predictable fashion. When testing your site, always assume the role of someone who has never visited your site before. If your content cannot be accessed intuitively, rethink your site structure.
  • Placed “above the fold” on the page. Users should not have to scroll down pages to locate and use key content and features of your site. If the need to scroll down to access content is unavoidable, make it abundantly clear to users that they must scroll down to see the content they visited the page for; they might otherwise miss it.
  • Easily accessed by users with disabilities (or large fingers). If your buttons or in-text link are too small to easily access, users may experience frustration. Gather feedback from a diverse range of users to ascertain whether your content is accessible.

Get Rid of Inessential Features & Site Elements

An excessive number of page elements like images and videos can hamper the user experience on your site, as well as your SEO. First, they can negatively impact page load speeds, which is a known ranking factor on Google as of July 2018. Secondly, they can clutter a site visually — making accessing key content and features more difficult. This can lead to user frustration and a higher bounce rate (which is also a ranking factor). 

A key example of this is intrusive pop-ups. Google’s Webmaster Central Blog plainly states: “Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible. This can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller.” As a result, they state, “pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.” Plus, they’re just plain annoying.

Trim such inessential elements from your site. Be intentional and economical with the elements you include, as allowing your design to get out of hand can hamper your site’s performance in regards to page speed and user experience. Keep in mind that mobile optimization demands lean pages that fulfill users’ needs as effectively as possible.

Improve Your Local SEO

If you are designing a site for a business that has a physical location, be sure to boost your local SEO efforts. This is because users are more likely to perform searches on mobile devices when looking into details about your business, such as your address or hours — all good signs that they may want to shop at your location soon. By improving your local SEO, you increase your chances of showing up in relevant searches, increasing foot traffic and, potentially, conversions.

On that note, don’t forget to add links to physical addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers. If a reader is already on a smartphone, they should be able to contact you by simply clicking on your relevant contact info. Forcing visitors to copy and paste this information to reach out to you is a needless barrier to communication.

Don’t Neglect Desktop Users

Finally, while more internet searches are performed on mobile devices than desktops, this doesn’t mean you should neglect desktop users. If you opt to use responsive web design, ensure that pages are aesthetically pleasing and easy to use for these users as well. If you choose a mobile-first design philosophy, your desktop site should have branding and information that is consistent with your mobile version. Continue to update desktop iterations of your site to ensure that guests on your site have an enjoyable experience.