The amount of mobile devices being used to access the web is increasing day by day. This is good because the mobile market is a whole new segment your site can be getting traffic from, but the bad news is that mobile devices have many specifics, which make them different from PCs and if your site is not designed to be mobile-friendly, then your site is not mobile search ready.
In fact, the specifics of mobile sites are so numerous that you almost always need to design a separate mobile version of your site rather than adapt your current site to mobile users. This might sound like a lot of hassle and it is. So, maybe you are asking yourself, if all the pain to make your site mobile-ready is necessary.
Do I Need to Make My Site Mobile Search Friendly?
It might be strange to ask such a question because the answer seems obvious – since you will be getting additional traffic, you do need a mobile-ready site. However, when you learn how much work is involved in creating and maintaining a site in a mobile-ready state, you might not be that certain anymore that you really need a mobile version(s) of your site.
As a result, it might turn out that you can safely skip the mobile crowd. Yes, you are losing visitors but if site is in a niche that mobile visitors aren’t interested in, then even if your site is mobile-friendly, this won’t be much of an advantage.
On the other hand, if your site is about news, stocks, local search, mobile stuff, ringtones, or any other niche where mobile visitors are frequent (i.e. those niches that provide current information on topics of interest to mobile users), then you should optimize your site for mobile search, even if this means maintaining a separate version(s) just for mobile users and the separate mobile brands of their choice. The investment will pay off.
This is why, you need to have a look at your logs and see how much traffic you are getting from mobile devices. Your logs will also tell you the type of mobile devices that are used by your visitors. If the figures are worth the effort, you can proceed and optimize your site for mobile search.
Steps to Optimize Your Site for Mobile Search
Many of the general rules for good mobile design, such as create multiple mobile stylesheets and resizing images are also search-friendly steps because they help to present your site in a more user-friendly manner, thus making it easier for mobile users to find and use your site. However, there are also a couple of other steps to take.
Optimizing a site for mobile search is really a lot of work and if your site is not designed to be mobile-friendly, your efforts might be in vain. Here are some very basic recommendations how to make a site mobile-friendly and increase its chances to rank better for mobile searches. Sure, these steps are not enough but they are a good start:
1. Support as many mobile devices as possible
Cross-browser compatibility for PCs is a piece of cake in comparison to cross-device compatibility for mobile sites. You might hope that there will be universal standards for mobile devices but this will hardly ever happen – at least not in the next couple of years – so you can’t rely on it. Try to support at least the major devices – or even better, check your logs to see what devices and operating systems your mobile users use most and optimize your site at least for them.
This cross-device compatibility is important because even if you rank well in mobile search, when users come to your site and discover that it is practically useless for their device, this will make you look very unprofessional. Sometimes you can “outsource” the job to a mobile plugin, i.e. the WPtouch plugin for WordPress but you still need to check that the final result is acceptable.
2. Keep pages short
The screens of mobile devices are tiny and reading long pages of text is next to impossible. This is why you need to keep your pages short, so even if there is scrolling, it won’t need 5, 10, or more scrolldowns in order to read a single page. This means, that if you want to achieve good keyword density for your target keywords, you need to put them in the portion of the text that fits into one screen. However, be careful not to overstuff the pages, because this will have an adverse effect.
3. Optimize for local search
Local searches are a substantial portion of mobile searches and because of this you need to make sure your mobile version is optimized for local searches. Putting your location here and there in the next isn’t all it takes to optimize for local search but since it is the most important step, do at least this.
4. Optimize for short keywords
Many mobiles have QWERTY keyboards but even these keyboards are a pain when you have to enter long strings. This is why most mobile users don’t bother to enter long strings of texts. Long tail keywords that consist of 5 or more words might bring you traffic to a regular site but for a mobile site many users limit their searches to 2 words at most. Also, you might want to have a look at what predictive suggestions for your niche exist and optimize for them.
5. Avoid heavy graphics and animation
Nobody says that your mobile site must be text-only but when you know that graphics and animation load so slowly and mobile traffic is not cheap, it is much better to make your pages fast to load. Cut animation and leave lean graphics only and your visitors will appreciate this.
6. Put the essential info in a visible place
As I already mentioned, scrolling down is not a favorite activity for mobile users. This means that if you want your essential info to be seen, you need to put it near the top because this is the most visible place on your site. When users come to your mobile site and don’t see right away what they are looking for, they will simply leave rather than scroll.
7. Promote your site in mobile search
If you have made your site mobile-friendly, you can expect that it will become popular among mobile users but still don’t count on this alone. Instead, promote your site in mobile search engines, mobile portals and directories. This can bring you a lot of mobile traffic you will hardly get from the organic results of general search engines. The mobile Web is becoming a system of its own, so take advantage of its potential.
Mobile sites are still in their early stages but as the number of mobile users increases, more and more sites will launch their mobile versions. If you don’t want to lag behind, do your homework and optimize your site for mobile search.
I am a fulltime freelancer from Sofia, Bulgaria. I have long ago discovered that freelancing is the best option for me because it allows me to grow professionally as a writer, designer, web master, etc. and doesn't confine me to a 9 to 5 schedule. Ditching my fulltime job (and I have changed so many of them) was the wisest decision I have ever made!