Mobilise and Optimise Your Website

It will come as no surprise when I tell you that technology usage is changing.   In July 2012, some 34% of adults in Northern Ireland were said to own a smartphone – a 62% increase on the previous year.  This has been followed by significant growth in tablet usage with 9% of homes in Northern Ireland owning a tablet in the first quarter of 2012 (OfCom, 2012).

A year later and these statistics are sure to have increased.  We are fast becoming a nation addicted to smartphones and tablets which play a vital role in our day-today activities but what does this mean for us as business owners and marketers?

The answer is simple!  Our increased usage of mobile devices will inevitably lead to more people carrying out online research and transactions traditionally completed on a desktop, on their mobiles.  With this segment already a fast-growing number of internet users, this leaves us with a simple case of ‘do or die’ when it comes to optimising your website for mobile traffic.

Is your website mobile-friendly?

If you don’t know the answer to this question, make it a priority to find out.  Webmasters need to ensure they can reach consumers effectively on any screen, be it an ipad mini or an iphone.  These changes should go beyond simple aesthetics and be considered at every step of the customer journey right through to transaction completion.

Going beyond user experience on your website, Google even plans to roll out ranking changes which will target sites improperly configured for smartphone users.  This makes it more important than ever to ensure your site is mobile optimised. But how do we do this?

Building a Website Optimised for Mobile Traffic

When it comes to building a website optimised for mobile traffic, few of us non-techies would know where to start but the following sets out important guidelines to follow.

New advice from Google has made the recommendation for mobile versions of a website redundant.  A number of mobile-specific sites on separate mobile sub domains, e.g. will now have to re-review their mobile marketing strategies.

Google Webmaster guidelines now recommend one of two options:

  1. Google recommends webmasters follow the industry best practice of using responsive web design, namely serving the same HTML for all devices and using only CSS media queries to decide the rendering on each device.
  2. If responsive design is not the best option to serve your users, Google supports having your content being served using different HTML. The different HTML can be on the same URL or on different URLs, and Googlebot can handle both setups appropriately if you follow their recommendations.

Going forward, responsive web design is key but this alone will not guarantee your mobile success.

Mobile SEO Know-How

To get you started on the road to success, I’ve pulled together 5 top tips to help guarantee mobile return on investment for your business.

1. Avoid unplayable videos – Many videos are not compatible with smartphone devices due to specific software or device capabilities.

Action: Google recommend using HTML5 standard tags to include videos and to avoid content in Flash formats (not supported by all mobile devices).

2. Avoid faulty redirects – We’ve probably all experienced the annoying scenario of being redirected to a smartphone optimised homepage rather the content requested.

Although not technically an error, Google will often detect a problem when frustrated users leave the website and search again.  This is called a short click, where people search and then search again immediately because they don’t see relevant content.

Action: Redirect smartphone users from a desktop page to its equivalent smartphone-optimised page.  If no equivalent smartphone-optimised page exists, leave them on the desktop version.

3. Avoid incorrect 404 errors on mobiles – This is when a mobile user is detected and sent to a 404 page because of the device they are using.

Action: Direct users to the equivalent smartphone-friendly page at a different URL

4. Avoid Googlebot Mobile errors – Infinite redirect loops often prevent the mobile site from being crawled by Googlebot Mobile.  This will negatively affect your ranking on mobile SERP’s.

Action: Ensure browsers stop redirecting after a certain number of loops and display an error message.

5. Avoid a low page speed – Due to the mobile data networks devices are connected to, it is better to have a high page speed.

Actions: There are number of actions to take to increase page speed.

Make your mobile pages render in under one second

Format your website for a range of mobile browsers

Optimise for mobile by making landing pages cacheable

Use Google Page Speed Insights to analyse page loading issues for your site.

Monitoring Mobile Traffic

The final area I’d like to draw your attention to is monitoring your performance on mobile after you’ve optimised your site. The best way to do this is using Google Analytics Advanced Segments as shown below.

Apply mobile traffic and tablet traffic segments and monitor key statistics including average visit duration, bounce rates and conversions.  As a benchmark, smartphone conversions should be approximately one third of the rate of traditional or tablet devices (Smart Insights, 2013).

The above should get webmasters thinking about the effectiveness of their website on mobile devices and the above tips should be used as a checklist to guide you on your way to mobile marketing success.