Mobile Marketing

The Beginner's Guide to Launching a Mobile SEO Campaign

You'll have to play by new rules to target voice search, lightning-fast page speeds and mobile-friendly content.

Mobilegeddon was a game-changer. Google tweaked its algorithm in April 2015 to favor mobile-ready websites in searches performed on mobile devices. A little more than a year later, over half of all worldwide searches happen on mobile devices. It’s a big deal in marketing.

If your site isn't mobile-friendly, you’re waving goodbye to more than half of your potential. Google wants to help with useful links and tools as well as guides designed specifically for content management systems (CMS). It’s good for you, and it’s good for Google.

A mobile world.

It’s hard to remember the world before smartphones. They’ve changed everything. According to Morgan Stanley, 91 percent of Americans keep their phones within reach 24/7.

We use them all the time for what’s been dubbed “micro-moments,” those countless instances when we turn to our phones for information, directions, to do something, to buy something, to compare, to evaluate, to learn and more.

Consider this: Search queries using “near me,” “close” or “nearby” have increased 34 times since 2011. Among smartphone users, 82 percent use a search engine when looking for local businesses. It must be a magic number: 82 percent of smartphone owners also consult their devices while shopping in a store. With apologies to Stanley Kramer, it’s a mobile, mobile, mobile, mobile world.

Related: 15 Tips for Designing a Mobile-Friendly E-Commerce Site

Talking about “mobile SEO" vs.“regular SEO" is a bit of a misnomer. It’s just SEO. They’re all cogs in the same machine.

That said, if the thought of launching a “mobile SEO" campaign gives you nightmares, it's worth walking through the basics. Take these steps to avoid being penalized by search engines (you need their love) and begin targeting mobile users.

Mobile-friendly is a must.

Mobile-friendly simply means a site looks good and behaves properly on a mobile device. A mobile-friendly site can be designed in a number ways:

  • Responsive. The site morphs depending on the size of the screen.
  • Parallel-mobile. A second, independent site created for mobile users.
  • Dynamic-serving. The server detects and loads an appropriate page depending on the user agent.  

Each type of site has its pros and cons, but a responsive site is the easiest and most cost-effective to implement. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also Google’s official recommendation. You can accomplish this using a responsive theme, for which you’ll find free options and paid options, or a responsive plug-in.

Your first step is to determine whether your website is, in fact, mobile-friendly.

The mobile-friendly test from Google is straightforward. Enter your URL. Google's tool will tell if you're you're mobile-friendly and what you can do to improve your results if you don't pass muster.

Related: How the Future of Mobile Search Is Unfolding This Year and Beyond

Page speed matters.

We know mobile friendliness is a ranking signal. So is site speed. Mobile users expect service on demand: 40 percent of surfers will abandon a site that takes longer than three seconds to load.

Check your site’s speed using PageSpeed Insights. The guide presents both mobile and desktop results, letting you know which features are issue-free and helpfully suggesting which elements need serious attention. GTmetrix is another handy resource.

Next, turn to the Google Search Console for tons of useful tools and advice. To tackle speed concerns, you’ll need to look into your Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) data. AMP is a stripped-down, faster HTML designed for mobile users. You can use Google AMP tools to see all pages that implement AMP, identify which of them contain errors and learn what you can do to fix those mistakes.

Pages built using AMP load anywhere from 15 to 85 percent faster, but that’s only the start of the story. You can learn more at AMP Project (including tutorials for getting started). Just be aware it’s not for everyone or every site. It’s best for news-type sites such as blogs, and that’s in part because AMP doesn’t support opt-in forms. Adding AMP to Wordpress is reasonably uncomplicated, and sites using it will rank higher in mobile search-engine results pages (SERPs).

Finally, explore Mobile Usability on the Google Search Console. It reports any existing errors, which might include flash usage, a font that’s too small or a viewport that isn’t configured. Any errors will affect your mobile SEO, so eliminate them wherever you can.

Use Google My Business.

One stop. Done. Want to be found when people search online? Google My Business gets your address, contact details and hours on both Google Search and Google Maps. You can edit it all from one convenient platform. Add photos, respond to reviews and shape how your business appears online.

It’s easy. And crucial. Do it.

Claim your business.

Claim your business and check the details on local directories such as YelpBing PlacesYellow PagesCityGrid and Foursquare.

These services are increasingly popular, and people use them to find local products and services. Bonus: They’re ranked favorably by the search engines. Follow the guidelines, and make sure everything is up-to-date.

Google Maps may lead the way in mobile location-finding, but Apple Maps still is at the party. Don’t ignore it. Publish accurate information so people can find and contact you when they’re on the go.

Track mobile stats on Google Analytics.

Log in to Google Analytics and conduct some research on your mobile site visitors. Filter those results by day, time and device to discover exactly when your mobile customers are most active. Publish mobile-friendly content (more on that below) at those times to maximize your effect and reach.

Create mobile-friendly content.

Not all content is mobile-friendly, even when it’s on a mobile-friendly site. Focus on these tactics:

  • Bullet points, which are easy to scan
  • Short and concise text
  • Easily shared articles and links
  • Compressed images and videos that do not auto-play, so you benefit from faster load times and less data consumption
  • Meta-title and meta descriptions that are short and to the point -- perfect for mobile displays

Time of day is a factor here, too. Publish shorter content during morning and afternoon commutes and longer pieces during typical lunch breaks for your target market. Save your longest content for when people are likely to be at home. And remember, mobile users often look for informational content.

Related: 5 Content Strategies That Will Always Work

Use local keywords.

When conducting keyword research, be sure include local vocabulary that might be unique to your area. Think about terms and slang that don’t appear anywhere else: nicknames for neighborhoods or the city itself, colorful and relevant expressions, regional specialties or whatever.

When people search for you online, what language and words might they actually use? Target them.

Optimize for voice search.

People are talking to Siri or Google Now more than ever on their smartphones. In fact, 20 percent of Google searches on Android are now done via voice search. That amounts to hundreds of millions of inquiries, with 55 percent of teens and 41 percent of adults using voice search at least once per day.

Voice search is the better option when walking (or driving -- which you shouldn’t do). But it does have its own set of criteria. Voice-search queries tend to be more conversational. We pose a question or ask our phones to perform a task in the same way we would talk to another human being.

Craft your content to match those specific, real-life questions and optimize for the three biggest voice platforms.

Related: Voice Search Is Exploding and Digital Strategy Will Never Be the Same

Remember the takeaway.

There’s a lot more you could do, but this is a great jumping-off point. It is the beginner’s guide, after all.

If you take away only two things, these are it: Make sure you’re mobile friendly, and remember that page speed matters.

Mobile optimization will get only more important. Don’t be left behind.