This article was written as part of the SEMrush Big Blogging Contest. The topic is Audit Guide for Mobile SEO.

Complete audit guide to mobile SEO

Mobile SEO

Mobile SEO is optimising your website from a mobile search result perspective. Even you have a responsive website, Mobile SEO audit is something that much be done on your site to rule out an in-advert error on your part. This Audit will help you in bringing your website at part with the best standards of Mobile SEO. 

This is not a trendy optional thing. The whole design of web traffic is changing.

As per Statista, from 2015 onwards till last quarter of 2018, mobile traffic rose and now make more than 52% of total online traffic.

That is more than the total traffic generated by Desktops, IoTs operating all over the world. And this number is not showing any sign of slowing down.

The fact is that users will keep on using their mobile devices to search for information online.It is easy, faster & readily available.

Google knows this. And thats why it announced Mobile-friendly Update, which stated that mobile friendly website will be ranked higher on mobile search results.

And now Google has moved a step further. Now, Google’s Mobile-first Index ranks the search results based only on the mobile-version of the page. Semrush has published an in depth blog on Google Mobile-first index, which you can read here.

And yes, this occurs even if you’re searching from a desktop.

Here is quick access to all the steps mentioned below:

Step 1: Checking current status and errors, if any

Step 2: Bot and crawl check

Step 3: Speed Check

Step 4: Structure of the Content Check

Step 5: Meta description Check

Step 6: User Experience Check

Step 7: Deep Dive into User Experience

Why different approach for Mobile devices

And the reason very obvious: The Screen Size of mobile devices.. 

Despite having screen sizes in tune of 6″ plus, it is still a lot smaller than laptop/desktops. Which means the information needs to be optimised to such screen size.

This is the fact how Google delivers information on mobile devices.

If you search anything right now on your mobile and then simultaneously do the same search on your desktop, you will see the clear difference. Just like this screenshot below:

Mobile SEO

Mobile SEO version

Now, If I am searching for Mobile SEO, then you can see what is visible to me on both options.

Where in Desktop Version I can see top 6-7 links or more, on mobile if I scroll down a little bit, then top two are visible and 99% I am going to click one of those two.

Which means, even if you are ranking 3rd for a particular keyword, there is strong chance that you won’t be visible to 50% of users searching for that keyword. Ouch.

It is beyond doubt that Mobile SEO is the thing to focus on in 2019.

Important factors for Mobile SEO

Though most of the factors are similar to both Desktop and Mobile version of any website, there are certain key factors which separates these two.

Similar factors for Desktop & Mobile SEO

  1. Title tag & meta description: Desktop or mobile, the title tag of your article matters. Though with current on-page SEO factors, most opening paragraphs take care of Meta description, it is good idea to write something attention grabbing there.
  2. Site loading speed: Most of desktops and mobile are usually connected to same speed now, hence speed matters equally to both. A little more to mobile user. It is good idea to keep your site loading speed to below 3 seconds if you can.
  3. Optimised images: Optimised images with proper alt  attribute are must for On-page SEO, Mobile or otherwise.
  4. Responsive design: Not only mobiles even desktop/laptops are of different screen sizes. A responsive layout is basic requirement to rank in search results.

 

Factors important from Mobile SEO perspective only:

  1. Voice search: Have you seen the way Google is pushing Google Assistant? And Amazon pushing Alexa? And as a habit, it is growing among users. On a mobile, due to screen constraints as well as ease to saying something, makes people search using voice command.
  2. Snippets: Have a look again at the mobile search result in image shown above. See how that snippet provides me a general idea of my search query? That is the information snippet that is most commonly shown on mobile version of results. Same is the case with desktop version too, but there you can see other results too.
  3. Clutter free view: A clean site, especially on mobile is always preferred. Just look at the way popular apps on mobiles are designed these days. Putting important things right on top and then smooth scroll from there.

Mobile SEO audit of your site- step by step guide

Step 1. A Quick Check

I will use tinkoor.com as an example for this audit. As you can see from screenshot, the desktop version is quite good. But Mobile rating is right at bottom 🙁

tinkoor desktop pagespeed insight

PageSpeed Insights

This free tool provided by Google now has a different look and it starts by showing insight on your site from mobile perspective.

tinkoor mobile seo pagespeed insight

 

So, as per Google itself, tinkoor is in slow category.  Time to get it as much above as possible.

A word of advice: Don’t target for scoring a perfect 100 here. Have look at the recommendations and evaluate. There are things you should be working on, but there are things you can’t. At least not now.

So, here is the list of things mentioned by pagespeed insights that I need to be working on:

pagespeed mobile seo checklist 2019

Even slight changes like deferring off screen images, serving images in next-gen format (read jpg), CSS delay, tweaking cache policies a little bit, improved my results by a lot:

Improve page load score page insights

As I mentioned earlier, don’t fret over scoring perfect 100 here. Use your judgement too. Open you site in incognito mode on your mobile when you are on mobile internet network.

You should also use another tool provided by Google: Test my site with Google

If you get good enough score here, it is good. Time to move on to next step.

Step 2: Search Console – Google bot and crawl check

Even if you website scores the highest mark on loading speed and other factors, unless Google knows your content is there for certain keywords, it will fall short.

So, the next step is to check that Google is actually able to get ping about your website as well as it is able to crawl through your site to index your content.

So head over to Google search console.

Two important sections are:

Mobile Usability 

This section is to evaluate the mobile usability of your website. As the maximum traffic for mobile site is coming from Google, then how Google determines the usability of your website matters a lot.

Mobile usability google search console

~This report is now available only in new search console.

If there is any error, you will see it here and then you need to take steps to remove it. ASAP. Letting an error stay for too long can drop your ranking quite fast.

Normally once you have connected your site to search console and there is any error, then you will receive an email from Google for same.

Fetch & Index as Mobile

fetch index google search console

This section is about indexation of mobile version of your site.

So when you click on this button, then you are telling Google to index your site as a mobile device ( along with the desktop version). This allows you to see if there is any error reported by Google.

Most of the times, these two factors will not report and even if they do, it will be more from navigational perspective.

  • Like navigation tabs too close to each other> Step 6
  • Text too big and other things. etc.

That is all you need to do with regards to Google tools for mobile audit of your site.

But the work is not done yet

Step 3: Checking the site loading time – GTMetrix & Pingdom

When we checked the site in page insights, it gave an overall score of the site from overall perspective. But there was no mention of actual time it took for your site to load.

This is critical.

As per this site (link), Voice search is gaining prominence. With Google Assistant, this is going to increase soon.

And one of the factors to rank on mobile search result of a voice search is: Fast loading website.

Ideally you site should load under 3 seconds. If it is not then work on making it fast or change your hosting. I am not joking, fast loading website is serious matter.

To get the real picture, check your website’s loading speed on these two websites:

GTMetrix

Pingdom

To be sure, do it twice.

Site loading speed

If it is above 4 seconds, look at the recommendations and get down to sort them out one by one.

Step 4: Data Structure/content

Referring back to the mobile search result mentioned above.

You see that short description there, highlighted in circle. That is featured snippet.

To make search results user friendly (which is Google’s top priority) Google tries to extract the intended information from the website and presents it at the top position.

Thus if the content your post/page is written in simple and clear language then it is better understood by Google too.

Besides, you need to write the posts in communicative way. Like, when you are explaining a concept to your friend. Such posts have content which has higher chances of being featured in snippet.

Important: A person searching from mobile is most likely to search using voice and that too in short sentences or a simple question. He is not going to use specific search queries like on desktop. Thus, if your content is presented in the way that it answers such queries, it has higher chances of ranking for featured snippet.

For this, you need to explore your content’s keywords by using Keyword tools, or something like Answerthepublic. The main idea is to stay as close to user intent as possible.

Information in bullet points and small paragraphs is also answers the search queries better.

Once you are ready to publish your new post, spend some time to look into the alternative version of key phrases you can use to cover more search queries.

 

Step 5: Meta description

Meta description is 300 words description which is presented along with title of the posts in the search results.

Even if your content is not there in the featured snippet, your meta description can also give a good idea to the visitor about what your post covers. Which can lead to click on the post and subsequently higher ranking.

If you don’t provide meta description, then Google picks the first paragraph of the post.

Hence, to control what is showed, spend some time to write a concise meta description and make sure to include your targeted keyword too.

Step 6: User experience

The last step of Mobile SEO audit is user experience.

All these factors above tells how Google perceives your website. But, in the end, it the actual human who is going to visit your site.

Which means you should try to look your website at different screen sizes to see that it is looking good and navigation friendly on all the screen sizes.

One of the easiest approach is to open the website in normal browser window on a desktop/laptop and then start reducing the size of browser window.

Your website should adjust as the screen size changes. After all that is the sign of responsive web design. Once you are at around 5″ screen size (the smallest screen size on smart phones these days), you will have clear idea about your website.

Spend some time to check the navigation tabs too. An ideal number mentioned is 28px*28px margin block for each link so that they are properly spaced out.

Step 7: Deep dive into Mobile only display elements

Mobile SEO audit of your site will be thorough by the time you have completed the 6 steps mentioned above. This 7th step is to be done when you have enough time on your hand as it requires time.

Once your site is mobile friendly from SEO point of view, the next step is to optimize the visibility of your content according the screen of the viewer.

Though, it may sound small, but even 1/2″ difference in mobile screen makes a lot of difference in viewing area of the user.

The area is small and reading a long form article is not easy.

Thus, if you are using premium theme like Thrive themes, you can experiment with making certain elements of your website desktop only or mobile only.

Removing all the extra fluff from the page that viewer is viewing on the mobile, improves the experience of the reader.

This step requires hit and trial and hence it is not recommended to do it on the live site. Create a staging copy of your site and experiment there. Once you are satisfied, make those changes live.

Final thoughts

If your business depends on online traffic, then experience of your user and subsequently Google’s analysis about it matters. There are no ifs and buts about it.

These steps may look tedious, but most of them are not. And if you do it on a new site, then they take even less time.

Moreover, many of these adjustments only require proper hosting, proper plugins and proper structure of your website.

If you are not tech savvy about it, then there are plenty of good freelancers who can do it for you. The cost incurred is worth it.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and feedback about this article.