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Mobile SEO: Configure Your Website for Mobile Users

Almost every online business has started using SEO techniques to increase their organic reach & organic ranking. 

Many statistics suggest that more than half of the web traffic worldwide comes through mobile search, and businesses need to optimize for the mobile domain. 

Google had released mobile-first indexing in 2018 but recently announced it for the entire web. 

Google’s analysis said, “Most sites shown in search results are good to go for mobile-first indexing, and 70% of those shown in our search results have already shifted over. To simplify, we'll be switching to mobile-first indexing for all websites starting September 2020.” 

Here’s everything you need to know to make your website mobile-friendly. 

What is mobile SEO? 

Mobile search engine optimization is the method of optimizing your website for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets to ensure visitors on these platforms have a uniform and optimized experience. It is mainly focused on enhancing your website for mobile search queries and providing users with remarkable search experiences.  

Mobile search in the eyes of Google 

Let’s understand how google looks for mobile and desktop searches. 
Previously, when users searched for any query, Google used a combination of mobile version & desktop version for search results, but they mostly focused desktop version for search results. 

Searching from mobile devices ⟹ Display mobile results 

Searching from desktop or laptop ⟹ Display desktop results 

Now, the scenario has changed completely. When a user searches for any query, Google shows only the mobile version of the content in the search results, which means: 

Searching from mobile devices ⟹ Display mobile results 

Searching from desktop or laptop ⟹ Display mobile results 

This is possible through Google's mobile-first index, which explicitly emphasizes the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking. 

How to operate a mobile-friendly website?

Google lets you implement mobile-friendly websites to manage screen views of multiple sizes and types in 3 ways: 

  1. Separate URLs 
  2. Dynamic serving 
  3. Responsive design 

Let's explore each of these methods in-depth: 

  1. Separate URLs - This configuration works by first locating the user's device and then serving the optimized URL for that device. 

Simply put, there is a mobile version of your website, along with a desktop version, known as a mobile or "m" configuration. Different URLs have different codes for mobile and desktop, hence the name "different URLs". 

Separate URLs
Source: https://developers.google.com/search/mobile-sites/mobile-seo/separate-urls 

If you think managing this URL can be difficult for both mobile and desktop, you are right. You will need to use the following comments to manage individual URLs: 

Add the rel = "alternate" tag to your desktop page to point to the relevant mobile URL. 

Add the rel = "canonical" tag to your mobile page to point to the relevant desktop URL. 
Due to the rigorous and difficult task of applying a separate URL for each page, Google itself does not recommend this website configuration. 

  1. Dynamic serving - In the Dynamic Serving configuration, the URL does not change for different devices, but different versions of HTML / CSS are provided for mobile and desktop. 

The server detects the user's device and requests the relevant user agent to crawl the page and submit it. Let's understand the shortcomings of this: 

Dynamic Serving
Source: https://developers.google.com/search/mobile-sites/mobile-seo/dynamic-serving

When someone visits your website via mobile, the server should request Google's user agent to crawl the page for mobile and to display the content. Hence, Google's Desktop user agent will not be able to crawl mobile content. This search is often flawed and can lead to errors. As a result, they may display incorrect versions of the web page and spoil the user experience. 

  1. Responsive design - Finally, we have a highly recommended way to implement a mobile-friendly website. In this web design setup, the same HTML code is assigned to the same URL, regardless of the user's device. 

As the name suggests, the code and content respond to each user and adjust to different screen sizes.  

Responsive Design
Source: https://developers.google.com/search/mobile-sites/mobile-seo/responsive-design

Here are the main reasons why Google recommends a responsive web design setup: 

  • Crawling your website becomes highly efficient, which in turn, improves the overall SEO of the site. 

  • Your website loading time decreases because of no redirection on different devices.  

  • Fewer errors and omissions in device detection, URL redirection, and display of content means that the user experience on your website is enhanced. 

So, a responsive design setup is the best way to configure your website while considering mobile SEO & mobile-first indexing.