Think Your Site is Optimized? Follow These Five Tips to Search Engine Success

Jul 06, 2018

Article ImageA major shift recently announced by Google may be the downfall for small businesses in their quest to have their sites easily found. Google will now prioritize mobile websites when indexing and determining rank, making the mobile experience online more critical than ever.

What’s behind the shift? Today’s consumers increasingly prefer their phones for browsing the internet and consuming media. With over half of searches happening on mobile, and more media time being spent on mobile than on desktop, Google is focusing on sites that provide a quality mobile experience.

Falling rankings can have a major impact on your top line, and on customers’ ability to find your business. Seventy-four percent of consumers search online when looking to make a purchase according to Forrester.

The days of merely having a mobile responsive site are gone, and businesses must now consider a number of backend factors, to maintain their Google rankings and drive traffic.

Google “rewards” sites that it believes have implemented best practices for a solid consumer experience and penalizes those that are not completely optimized. While they are promoting sites that do it well, they are also looking for reasons to decrease rankings when some of these basic recommendations have not been met.

Here are five keys to ensure your site is fully optimized for mobile:

  1. Make sure your mobile site content matches the desktop site exactly--In an attempt to increase site speed, companies developed smaller mobile friendly sites that block resource heavy content. Although speed may be impacted having all of your content crawled by Google will increase the relevancy for ranking. If Google’s indexer sees that your desktop and mobile sites don’t match, it may interpret the limited usefulness of the mobile site and penalize your site. It is critical to audit all of your site content and make sure it is accurate and visible on both mobile and desktop. This also makes for a more seamless user experience for those who visit regularly on a variety of devices.
  2. Find additional ways to trim your site and increase page speed--According to Google, if people have a negative experience on mobile, they’re 62% less likely to purchase from you in the future. Speeding up the delivery of your content decreases that frustration consumers may feel. There are a few ways to achieve this. First, ensure sure you compress and optimize your site content, especially images. Images site-wide should be 72 dpi, and no larger than 1MB. While your images resize in real time, large files will significantly slow page load. Be mindful of render-blocking resources, like JavaScript, that load in the background before your "above the fold" content appears. Deferring JavaScript until after the page loads will increase site speed without losing functionality. Also, consider Gzip, an extremely effective tool for compressing the repetitive elements in CSS, HTML, and JavaScript. Another way to accelerate your mobile pages is to implement AMP (accelerated mobile page) versions of your content, especially for landing pages and other site entry points. Essentially, AMP strips text-heavy pages of all but the most essential resources and can be a great solution for blog posts and online articles. 
  3. Implement structured data across all of your pages to improve Google results--Edit the information about your site that Google displays by managing your structured data, also known as schema markup. This serves as a vocabulary that signals what should be shown in search engine results page (SERP) rich results. Schema markup was developed in partnership with several search engines so they can more easily interpret what sites offer. This also provides additional information to searchers about your business which makes them more likely to click through. The more information Google can see about your business the better it can match what you offer to what users are searching. Particularly for ecommerce and local businesses, schema markup is important to provide additional details right within the search results page, often resulting in multiple sub-pages being listed in the results. Test your structured data to find opportunities to optimize, which will not only improve your ranking, but improve the quality of the organic search traffic you get. 
  4. Remove interstitials and other barriers to entry--While it may be tempting to have a pop-up that collects users email addresses, that can weigh down the mobile experience. Google has updated its algorithm to penalize interstitial use, so it is clear they are promoting sites with good usability. In the event you do need an interstitial, be mindful about the amount of real estate it takes up on the smaller mobile screens. Additionally, make it easy for users to close the window and not have it pop-up on every entry to reduce the annoyance factor, and likelihood of penalty. 
  5. Lastly, maximize usability on your mobile site to drive good user experience--Beyond just being sized for mobile and responsive to the device format, the design and content must easy to click and engage with regardless of the screen size. Many mobile sites fail to have proper spacing between elements, or have large enough elements that can easily be clicked. On a small screen, this can be a big hindrance to navigation, and experience. Google's mobile-friendly test tool is a great resource for assessing the overall usability of a mobile site, as it renders the page the way a user would actually see it and makes recommendations on how it could be improved. 

Taking a step back and looking at the underlying challenges your site may have in delivering a positive mobile experience will improve not only the way the Google algorithm interprets your site, and determines your rankings, but also create a much more functional site for users. While these tips and tricks apply directly to Google’s algorithm today, they are likely to drive increased success across other search engines as well.

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