It's no secret mobile device internet usage is on a solid pace to overtake desktop usage in the near future. In some industries our clients have already broken the 50/50 barrier. Before it was "okay" to let mobile visitor traffic play a backseat role to desktop traffic, especially in regards to site design and the available content offered on the site. But now business owners risk serious losses and missed opportunity if they continue with outdated Mobile tactics. The following are a few mobile site design best practices to ensure you maximize your SEO potential.
1. Responsive design is the best. Back in 2012 Google recommended responsive design as being the best website experience for mobile users. This is where a site will retain the same URLs, images, and content, as a desktop version of the site. It scales to fit whichever device you happen to be using. A good test to see if your site is responsive is when you are on your desktop, try re-sizing your browser from large to small (smartphone sized). If you see images and content automatically re-sizing to fit the smaller browser window then your site is responsive.
The Reason why this is the best is because it retains everything from the desktop version of the site. For search engines, this makes it a safe result to serve to searchers, because they know that whether a visitor is on desktop or mobile, they will get a good consistent experience and the same content. This may not be the case for other kinds of mobile sites.
2. Avoid mobile sites that condense your site down to a few pages. This latest bit of news came just this month reinforcing the "responsive design is best" advice from 2012. Google will actually start penalizing mobile search traffic of sites that redirect all mobile traffic to a mobile homepage. I'm sure many of you have tried searching for a specific article or topic and clicked a mobile result just to be dumped to a generic homepage with no answer in sight. If your mobile site has this feature expect to loose a significant share of mobile traffic in the near future.
3. Avoid the use of Flash or other video content that can't be viewed on a mobile device. While this bit of advice has been applicable from a user standpoint for a while now, you can count on it impacted visits to your website. The same penalty will be applied if your site has video content that is unplayable on mobile devices. Make sure to update the way your site embeds and plays video wherever this may be an issue.
4. Remember to keep it simple. While simplicity might not have a large effect on your mobile sites rankings in search engines, it does play a large role in providing the best experience possible for users. Ultimately this kind of experience is what Search Engines and we as website owners should be chasing. Simple (without being too simple) helps ensure pages load quickly, calls to action are clear, and navigation is easy.
All of these elements when put together will ensure you have the best chance at maximizing your Mobile experience as well staying up to date in a fast changing mobile device world.