Users are spending more time with their mobile devices than ever before. In the United States, a February 2021 survey found nearly half of respondents spent between five to six hours a day on their phones. That’s a lot of opportunities for your business to reach your target audience, as long as your website is optimized for mobile. 

Currently, mobile website traffic accounts for about 54.8% of overall website traffic, according to Statista. According to Google, most searches take place on mobile devices. People are searching while they’re on the go, on a variety of small screen sizes.

A mobile-friendly website helps your users have a better experience with your website. It also benefits your search engine optimization efforts since Google predominantly looks at the mobile version of a website to determine search engine rankings.

Why do we care so much about Google? As of June 2021, it accounted for 87.76% of the global search market. But it doesn’t matter what search engine someone’s using. If a user can’t find what they’re looking for when they search your site on their smartphone or tablet, they’ll abandon your website. A poor user experience can also hurt your SEO efforts.  

To reach your audience and get your site to the top of the search engine results pages or on page 1 of Google, you need a mobile-optimized website. Here’s how to ensure your website is optimized for mobile.

The Importance of Mobile Optimization

When did mobile optimization become so important? Google started rolling out mobile-first indexing back in May 2019 to all new websites. In September 2020, mobile-first indexing was applied to all websites. While it’s not required to have a mobile version of your pages for your content to pop up in Google search results, in Google’s world, mobile is king.

In June 2021, Google rolled out a new algorithm based on “Core Web Vitals.” Core Web Vitals are the signals that reflect the user experience your website visitors have. These include speed, visual stability, and responsiveness. They also include, you guessed it, mobile-friendliness. If your site isn’t ready, you could face losing traffic and rankings.

Most importantly, Google’s search results emphasize the quality of the user experience. In its quality guidelines, one of the basic principles is to make pages primarily for users, not for search engines. That means, instead of keyword-stuffing a webpage to rank for a certain word, make that page user-friendly for all devices, especially mobile, with great content.

Use the following steps to ensure your website is mobile-friendly, so you can capture optimal keyword rankings and keep mobile users engaged with your site.

Steps for How to Make Website Mobile Friendly

Ultimately, creating a mobile-friendly website focuses on putting the user first. It’s creating a website that users on any device can engage with to easily access the information they need. 

By prioritizing the user experience in website design, it’s a win all-around. You optimize for Google search results while you improve the web experience for visitors. Follow this checklist for mobile optimization.

1. Test Your Website for Mobile Friendliness

First, you should test your existing website to see how mobile-friendly it currently is. Mobile-friendly tests are free to use. Check out:

Simply input your website, and you’ll see a rendering of your website on a mobile device, as well as recommendations for how to improve your site’s mobile experience.

You’ll be able to determine if the text on the page is readable, if the links and tap targets are touch-friendly and if there are any page loading issues. This info will provide you with any fixes you should make to your existing site content before re-testing to evaluate improvements.

2. Make Your Content Googlebot Friendly

Google recommends ensuring that the Googlebot (the tool used to crawl your site and influence search rankings) can easily access and render your mobile content. Make sure to:

  • Feature the same meta robot tags on both desktop and mobile sites. That’s because Google may fail to crawl and index your page if there’s a different meta robots tag on the mobile version of your site. Be especially careful with nofollow and noindex tags on the mobile site.
  • Stop lazy-loading primary content after user interactions. Lazy-loading (also known as on-demand loading) is when your site only loads the content the user needs, instead of loading the entire website at once. Google states the Googlebot won’t load content that’s dependent on user actions like typing, clicking, or swiping. You also should ensure Google can see lazy-loaded content.
  • Enable Google to crawl your pages. Try to have the same URLs and content on the mobile site as you do on your desktop site. If you eliminate URLs from the desktop site for your mobile site, you could lose traffic. Try to add those URLs to tabs or accordions if you need to save space. Make sure you’re not blocking URLs with the disallow directive.

To ensure a seamless user experience, Google also recommends using the same headings on both your mobile and desktop sites.

One way to ensure your content stays the same across all device experiences is to use responsive design. Responsive design ensures the same content is shown across all devices, but it’s optimized based on screen size.

Google recommends using responsive web design because it helps the Googlebot and Google algorithms accurately assign indexing properties. Another bonus? Responsive design typically eliminates common mistakes that might affect mobile websites and your search rankings.

3. Examine Structured Data

Google recommends that if you have structured data on your website, make sure it appears on both the mobile and desktop versions and that both sites have the same structured data. Google recommends prioritizing Breadcrumb, Product, and VideoObject structured data.

The URLs in the structured data on the mobile versions should be updated to mobile URLs. Check the Data Highlighter dashboard regularly for extraction errors if you use Data Highlighter.

4. Check Ad Placement

Google recommends following the Better Ads Standard if you’re displaying ads on mobile devices. For example, you don’t want a user to visit your site and see an ad taking up most of the mobile page.

For mobile optimization, it’s best to eliminate pop-up ads and text-blocking ads. Those will harm the mobile user experience and may affect your search rankings.

5. Optimize Images & Videos

Photos and videos are some of the most sought-after content on mobile devices. They’re crucial to optimize. Google recommends to:

  • Feature high-quality, large images with a high resolution.
  • Use a supported format for images and videos. Avoid using unsupported tags or formats.
  • Keep image URLs consistent whenever the pages load for images and videos.
  • Use the same image alt text for images on both mobile and desktop sites. Likewise, use the same filenames, captions, and descriptive titles for both mobile and desktop images.
  • Use the same video structured data for both mobile and desktop sites.

Like all your other site content, you should add photos and videos to the mobile site content with the user experience in mind. For example, avoid forcing the user to click to open a video or scroll too far down the page to find the video they’re looking for.

6. Improve Your Website Speed

Google has always emphasized the importance of website page speed, saying “faster is better” for website load times. That’s because website speed is important for the user experience. The probability of bounce increases exponentially each second it takes for a website to load. For example, as page load time goes from one to three seconds, the probability of bounce increases 32%. From one to 10 seconds, the bounce probability increases by 123%.  

You can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to test your website’s speed on all devices. To speed up your site, compress text and images and remove clunky ads.

Employ User Experience Best Practices to Achieve Mobile Optimization

As we’ve mentioned, the quality of the user experience will influence Google’s determination of how mobile-friendly your website is and, thus, your search engine rankings. If people can’t find what they’re looking for on your mobile website, they’ll abandon your site, which could also negatively impact your search engine rankings.

A better mobile user experience results in more engagement, referrals, and visits to your website. Keep the following best practices in mind as you optimize your website for mobile and all devices.

  • Eliminate the need for users to pinch and zoom to find what they’re looking for.
  • Optimize photos and videos for smart devices.
  • Make buttons easy to click and use.
  • Create scrollable content.
  • Use a responsive template, so content optimizes for whatever devices it’s on.
  • Design and create with the mobile user in mind. Use a mobile-first mindset when creating content, deciding what you feature on the page, and designing user navigation.
  • Continually test mobile-friendliness. Identify and fix issues.
  • Ensure your website loads quickly on all devices, ideally less than three seconds for each page.

Make sure your website is mobile-friendly with frequent tests and updates. Mobile optimization should be a regular part of your overall SEO strategy. Since Google continues to prioritize it with each algorithm update, the mobile optimization of your site directly affects your site traffic and rankings. 

To keep mobile optimization at the top of your mind, download a PDF version of this checklist.