mobile seo

Check a webpage for mobile seo issues.

Getting to your best mobile ranking

The quicker you can make your site mobile and ensure Google understands it, the quicker Google can rank you appropriately.

Google has announced that beginning April 21st 2015 they will be using mobile friendliness as a stronger ranking factor that will "significantly" affect rankings worldwide.

Mobile SEO means "mobile search engine optimization". Even if you already have a mobile site, it may not be recognized as mobile by Google and this can affect how your pages are ranked.

This page will explain how to get your pages optimized for mobile and how to make sure Google understands your mobile solution well.

Google does not rank you on where you plan to be later, it ranks your site the way it is today. Mobile is important right now.

What makes a site mobile?

A site is mobile friendly when it...

This page will discuss the five steps to making your site mobile and improving your mobile SEO from the perspective of Google documentation.

Table of contents

Optimizing your site for mobile

  1. Choosing a mobile method
  2. Updating website code
  3. Verify mobile friendliness
  4. Tell Google
  5. Optimize

1. Choosing a mobile method

There are three main ways a website become mobile...

Google recommends responsive design. 1

Responsive design

The reason both webmasters and Google like responsive design is because it is the simplest and least risky method.

For SEO purposes responsive design is a wise choice.

2. Updating website code

Often this is much easier than you might expect. In fact with Wordpress and other such content management systems it is as simple as getting a new theme. If you are running a static site, there are many responsive html templates out there.

Good places to buy responsive mobile ready themes and templates...

3. Verify mobile friendliness

The way Google determines if a site is mobile friendly depends on several mobile usability issues that are easily tested (the tool at the top of this page tests for all of these factors).

The mobile usability issues are...

Use legible font sizes

Making text easy to read on all devices.

Size tap targets appropriately

Ensure users can interact with your pages on smaller devices.

Configure the viewport

How a device knows what size to show content

Size content to viewport

Make sure everything fits.

Don't block Google

Blocking resources like CSS and javascript can keep Google from seeing that your site is mobile.

Avoid plugins

Using things like Flash on your pages won't work for many mobile users.

Make sure to check your pages using the official Google mobile friendly test.

4. Tell Google

Likely the most important step of mobile SEO in ensuring Google understands your page. If Google does not, it may not credit you for having a mobile site at all.

This is bad.

Making sure that Google understands your mobile configuration is essential to how your website will rank in Google.

The three ways of going mobile (responsive, dynamic, and separate urls) each have their own way of letting Google know that your site is mobile.

Responsive Design

When your site uses responsive design, Google can understand it without any hints or extra code. The main thing that Google suggests when it comes to responsive websites is how to set the viewport. The viewport will typically already be set when you get a responsive theme or template.

Google recommends that your viewport has the following content:

<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0">

The viewport is simply the size of the window your webpage will display. In responsive design, the the size we want is whatever the size of the device screen is. By declaring a viewport, your web page can render correctly on any device.

Learn more about viewports and how they are set.

Dynamic serving

When a site is using dynamic serving it is providing different content to desktops users than it is to mobile users.

Google can not detect automatically when content is being dynamically served, so we have to tell Google specifically what is happening.

The way we tell Google is called the Vary HTTP header. It looks like this.

Vary: User-Agent

The Vary HTTP header tells Google that the content it is crawling may look different depending on who is looking at it. By declaring the Vary: User-Agent header you are telling Google your pages have a mobile alternative. Not using this header when your site is being dynamically served can hurt your rankings because Google will not know your site is mobile.

Learn more the Vary HTTP user agent header and how it is set.

Separate URLs

When a site is using different urls for mobile users than it is for desktop users, many things can go wrong as far as SEO goes.

Google will not detect automatically that your mobile pages are different versions of your desktop pages and because of this we must tell Google what is going on.

The way we tell Google about our separate urls requires some work.

Let's look at that a bit deeper:

Desktop page

<link rel="alternate" media="only screen and (max-width: 640px)" href="" >

Mobile page

<link rel="canonical" href="" >

When you have two different urls, one for mobile, and one for desktop Google needs to know when each page is appropriate to use.

The desktop page with the above rel=alternate code tells Google that that if the screen is less than 640 px it should refer to the alternate mobile page.

The mobile page with the above rel=canonical code lets Google know that the page is a version of the desktop page listed.

Learn more about seperate url mobile configuration.

5. Optimization

Mobile optimizations for the purposes of this article refer to optimizations for search engines and avoiding search engine penalties.

Mobile page speed

Page speed is a Google ranking factor and nowhere is speed as important as it is for mobile.

Mobile networks are much less fast and reliable than our home internet. The mobile seo tool at the top of this page will let you know if you have page speed problems on your pages.

Learn how each of the three mobile methods affect speed.

Examine your pages for speed using the mobile seo tool at the top of this page or the Google pagespeed insights tool and get a list of what is affecting your page speed.

Once you know that, refer to the page speed section to learn how to fix those speed issues.

A slow website will make an even slower mobile website.

Blocked page resources

Make sure all css, javascript and images can be seen by Google.

Blocking page resources can give Google an incomplete picture of your web site.

This issue often happens when your robots.txt file is blocking access to some or all of your page resources.

This happens often.

Wordpress sites will often have important folders containing the css and javascript files blocked.

To check for this problem you can use the mobile seo tool at the top of this page. To learn more my page resource article is here

Interstitials / popups / modals

Having a window pop up to request you subscribe to a newsletter or download an app are irritating enough on desktops. On mobile devices they are a nightmare and sometimes can not even be closed.

Any offers, requests or any other reason you would open a window to a desktop user just will not work for mobile users.

Google suggests using an information bar or simple banner instead.

Google further warns that it can cause indexing issues and says it disrupts users.

Mobile redirects

Make sure mobile redirects are not hurting your page speed.

Redirects on mobile networks are very slow and you may find that some of your redirects are not even needed in the first place.

Learn about reducing mobile redirects so your users will get their pages faster.

Mobile SEO Articles

In depth articles about mobile challenges and optimizations.

viewport desktop and mobile

Configure the Viewport

The viewport defines how your webpage will display on mobile devices.

googlebot and mobile resources

Don't block page resources

Blocking resources like CSS and javascript can keep Google from seeing that your site is mobile.

text size on mobile and desktop screens

Use legible font sizes

The text of your pages must be easily readable on mobile devices.

mobile and desktop different content

Vary: User-Agent header

Make sure that Googlebot and your users are seeing the right version of your webpages.

finger touching phone

Tap targets: size matters

The size of your tap targets and the space between your tap targets determine how easily a user can interact with your webpage on a mobile device.

content not sized to viewport

Size content to viewport

Your page content should not rely on a particular viewport width to render well.

different screen sizes and css file

Avoid plugins

Plugins like Flash, Java and Quicktime don't work well (if at all) on mobile devices. Make sure your content is accessable to mobile users.

googlebot and javascript file

Javascript & mobile seo

The way your mobile solution uses javascript will determine what technical mobile seo recommendations from Google you should follow.

mobile and desktop different content

Conditional resource loading

How to load less things for your mobile users than you do for your desktop users for faster mobile page views and a better user experience.

mobile phone and checkmark

How to be mobile friendly

What makes a webpage mobile friendly? Methods and options for making a site look great and work great on mobile devices.

mobile pagespeed

Mobile first design and development

Mobile pages need to satisfy mobile users. Mobile first methods ensure that your mobile strategy is not just "make things fit on a smaller screen".

mobile and desktop screens

Mobile page speed

A big part of mobile SEO is speeed. This article illustrates different mobile methods from the standpoint of pagespeed.

different screen sizes and css file

Media queries

CSS instructions that display the same webpage differently to desktop users and mobile users.

googlebot and javascript file

Mobile redirects

An overview of common mobile redirect issues and how to solve them for a better mobile experience for your users.

Resources from Google

Making mobile friendly sites

Provides the Google overview of their mobile seo options for a general audience.

Mobile friendly test

The official Google mobile friendly test which evaluates if a website meets the minimum requirements for viewing on mobile devices.

Mobile SEO overview

The official Google mobile SEO overview page linking to many articles about mobile seo problems and solutions.

Responsive web pages

The Google overview of multi-device website best practices. A guide to doing things right responsively.

Pagespeed on mobile networks

Mobile specific pagespeed overview of the challenges of mobile networks.

Mobile design guidelines

Site design guidelines, recommendations and articles for mobile websites.

by Patrick Sexton