Too often an afterthought in the past, optimizing your website’s mobile experience is more important in 2018 than ever before. No matter what your goals are for your site, having a strong mobile presence will help accomplish them. With that said, in this post, I am going to take a high-level look at the subject of what mobile optimization means and why it matters.
What’s driving the need? (Why it matters.)
Mobile traffic is always growing!
This probably isn’t surprising news but there’s more mobile traffic than ever before. In fact, according to this data, 52% of the market share worldwide and 40% in the U.S. is mobile in Dec of 2017 compared to 38% worldwide and 27% in the U.S. in Dec 2015. So, if your site was built a few years ago and had only minimal consideration for mobile design or limited content on mobile devices, it may be time to reevaluate.
Search engine’s (aka Google) response to the increase in mobile searches
A search engine’s job is to find relevant results and primarily that means evaluating content. But part of that job is also giving you results that allow you to find that relevant content efficiently and effectively. So, because of the previously mentioned ever-increasing mobile searches, and in order to deliver the best possible results to users on mobile devices, it makes sense that the search engine would take some other points into consideration as well. And it’s easy to see this idea reflected in Google’s updates:
- Mobile friendly update
This is a bit dated at this point but is still well worth mentioning because it defines the start of the timeline of updates to Google’s search algorithm that focuses on the increase of mobile traffic. This update made having a responsive design an absolute necessity.
- Mobile first index
In late 2016 Google announced that they would be shifting their indexing to be mobile-first. If you want a more detailed look at this one, you can learn everything you need to know about it from Alex’s post. For the purposes of this post, however, it’s enough to know that this update means the content on your mobile site is now the primary content being considered during indexing.
- Page Speed Update
The latest update is the page speed update. Page speed has long been a factor in desktop searches and now it has rightly come to mobile as well. Your content is still what matters most, but it’s nice to know that the speed of your mobile site officially matters now as well.
The bottom line: More mobile users browsing and better representation in search result for mobile-friendly sites means it’s better for everyone involved if you’re covered on this front.
2 Big Steps to mobile optimized
Having a great mobile site can really be boiled down to two areas — design and speed.
First, responsive design
We’ve all browsed to sites using our mobile devices where you had to pinch-zoom in and out of areas to read the content or click a link from the navigation. And in short, it sucks. So the first thing needed is to make sure your site is mobile friendly. If you’re unsure and want to find out if your website is mobile-friendly, you can run the test here. Being considered mobile-friendly is the bare minimum and can be more accurately translated into ‘can be viewed on mobile’. Going beyond that, and more true to the idea of your site being optimized for mobile and not just viewable, means having a good responsive design. The beauty of responsive design is that it should work on any size device. And not only should it be sized for the device well, but it should be easy to use. That means considering some of the details surrounding the tasks a user needs to accomplish on your site. Are the buttons appropriately sized and easy to tap on? Can I easily enter my card info into the form when I’m ready to checkout? Put yourself in their shoes and trace the footsteps they’d need to take when visiting your website. It’s important to keep in mind that because of the mobile-first index change, part of optimization should be focused on making sure you have all of your primary content available on mobile.
Next, make it fast
Just as important to your users as the design, and sometimes even directly related to it, is your website’s speed. And that’s because your user, unlike Google’s bot that’s crawling your website, might leave if your site takes too long to load. In fact, “53% of visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes more than three seconds to load” according to this Google report. So make your website speed a priority. A faster site is much more likely to keep a user engaged and is more enjoyable to interact with. This is universally true for websites but has extra significance for mobile, where users are often looking to accomplish something specific on your site and could potentially have a slower network speed.
If you manage your own website, my advice is not to focus too heavily on the exact number of seconds each page takes to load. Instead, focus on best-practice steps that help combat slow speeds. Optimize your images using free tools like ImageOptim, reduce the number of plugins and fonts you’re using, and do your best to reduce the overall ‘weight’ of your pages. Tools like PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse will audit your site for you and provide feedback on how to improve their performance.
If a marketer or marketing group manages your site, be sure to find one that aligns with your thoughts on mobile optimization.
To wrap it up, optimizing your website for mobile isn’t just a trend or a side option like it might have been in years past. As time goes by, we’ll likely see more search engine changes emerge that favor sites that are mobile-friendly, pushing those that are not even farther down the search results page and away from customers. Sites that aren’t mobile-friendly are quickly becoming defunct within our fast-evolving digital landscape, and rightly so. Mobile is where your customers are – so it’s also where you should be. Thus, making your website mobile-optimized is an absolute must.