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Optimizing Websites for Mobile: What You Need to Know

By: Annie Button


Optimizing Websites for Mobile: What You Need to Know

At first glance, it appears like anyone can create a website nowadays. With WordPress, Wix and all of the other user-friendly site-building tools, it’s never been easier to get set up on the web. However, the fundamental goal of any business remains to reach its target audience—and to do so in a way that it will leave a lasting impact. Therefore, your site must not only be aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly to start, but also ready to convert.

Flashy displays, huge images and lengthy descriptions are relic of a bygone era, superseded by quick, concise and relevant offerings designed to interact with the audience in double time. It is widely understood that the biggest change to the market since search engines began is the switch in access from desktop to mobile. It goes without saying that mobile phones are ubiquitous, and now a truly fundamental aspect of daily life. From social media to maps, and fitness apps to photos, the trusty devices are now an extension of the limbs, and as a result have revolutionised how we do what we do best: shop.

The fact that we are now never more than a few clicks away from purchasing any product, regardless of location, means commerce as a service is a different experience. It is now safe to say that most of the traffic visiting a website is from a mobile phone, so if you haven’t optimised your site for it, you will be left trailing behind your competitors.

There are a number of things you need to know about optimising your website for mobile purposes, such as:

Most of your traffic is coming from handheld devices

In particular, most of your traffic will come from a mobile phone, and this is a direct result of the aforementioned point. It’s easier and more convenient than ever to visit your website by grabbing one’s phone, rather than waiting to use a desktop, which may not be accessible for a while.

Think of it this way: If you are running a digital ad on Instagram, which is already a mobile-based social media platform, you must be able to direct people to a URL that will load on that same device. Those who follow your Instagram are far more likely to make a purchase or visit your site if there is a clear and visible link that they can tap into with minimal effort, and Instagram is a great example of how you can utilise platforms for greater reach.

Know who your specific users are

Understanding who your users are is something that you need to know regardless of what platform you are using, or what outlet.

Who is it that would benefit from your products and services? What type of content would they be interested in? These are important questions to ask yourself, and it will impact your brand awareness efforts. Once you have this part sorted, you can move onto the website optimisation details.

The aesthetics

The aesthetics on a mobile phone will have to look different to a desktop. After all, the screen sizes are completely different. On the one hand, a landing page on a desktop has room for more content, whereas the smaller, more compact ‘real estate’ provided by a handheld device means the precision with what you would like to be seen needs to be absolutely optimised.

When it comes to viewing your site on a phone, you need to think simple and avoid any clutter. Fewer words and minimalistic design will be most effective in this situation, with a clear call to action.

User experience

You are optimising your site with the mobile user in mind. As a result of this, the idea of compatibility is of utmost importance.

If one of your social media pages came up in search results, or the user was searching on the social channel itself, how well are they directed to the intended result, and ultimately converted? If you’ve gone to great lengths and expense in designing / commissioning a great post for social media, but it doesn’t make it easy for users to efficiently get to the end product, it has sadly failed. From an SEO perspective, it’s not enough to be aesthetically pleasing and eye-catching; it must be easy to understand, and furthermore action in the end.

The next consideration after this is where customers are directed, and what their next experience will be. It is vital at this stage that the page (and site in general) are optimised for Apple and Android phones alike, with special attention paid to any discrepancies in the coding behind your site that may render differently on each device.

Sluggish-loading, badly laid out pages or indecipherable messages are a sure-fire way to bounce any visitors, which is a shame having funnelled them all this way. This should now be the easiest part of the whole process for the customer, as they have gone through this much effort to get to your products or services, so get them to that ‘thank you’ page after payment as quickly and pleasantly as possible.

Watch for the load time

If your site takes too long to load, people will not wait around for it. This applies to a desktop website, and even more so when it concerns phones. If there’s a delay on your desktop, this will all of a sudden be multiplied when someone is waiting for your site on his or her phone. Statistics state that 53 % of people will leave a page if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.

The fact of the matter is, a computer browser is more powerful compared to a phone, so your load optimisation will be trickier to handle. The layout you chose for your site can affect this, as well as how much content you choose to load from initiation. There are many ways to reduce the load time, from simple image size reductions to lazy-loading and upgrading to a better host.

The duration of your load time is a key factor in the search rankings, as Google will strive to deliver the best results to users, and a slow website with a high bounce rate will be considered less relevant than a speedy, well laid out one that users interact well with.

Search engine optimisation

Everyone wants to ensure that they rank well for the most profitable terms, but with great competition and the challenge of truly selling your services to users and search engines, it’s not the easiest of balances.

As mentioned, due to the condensed screen size, you don’t have the same capacity to showcase what visitors can read on a mobile phone, so you need to be concise with your descriptions and titles that comprise your keywords. The general consensus has always been that you should aim to please the reader, and not so much the search engines – as the latter will follow the former… which is not the case the other way around. Overly optimised content stuffed full of nonsensical keywords will quickly lead to a high bounce rate, with unsatisfied visitors leaving for the next best option.

Search engines will realise that users are interacting with your quality, concise content and rank the site accordingly. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be clear in your offering, as Google is still primarily looking for the relevant terms that describe your products or services, but in terms of the balance, it’s always better to serve the user.

With that in mind, Google’s MobileFirst ranking now means that it first looks at how your site displays on a mobile, ahead of desktop. So, beautiful well-thought-out desktop sites that tick all the boxes but don’t work or display properly on mobile will suffer in the rankings as a result. So, always start with how it looks on mobile and work backwards from there.

Integrated e-commerce

Google’s AI gets more intelligent every day, and the results are evermore tailored to your search as a result. So, if you are searching for ‘garden design’ it understands that you are looking for inspiration, and will likely serve many images and galleries as a result. If you are searching for ‘garden designer’ it is more likely to serve local garden designers who can provide you a service instead. This key difference is now shaping how sites are setup and operating, as a huge portion of the search market could be missed by your formerly ‘optimised’ site.

Where before your service was fully bespoke, and prices were given on enquiry, Google may favour sites that can quickly deliver a result, where you can put it in your basket and complete the session more efficiently. With that in mind, converting your site to eCommerce is a good idea. As an example, smaller companies with a lower quality product could be benefitting from better search rankings simply because their site is geared toward quicker, more instantaneous transactions. So, even for fully bespoke product offerings, consider what you can serve to compete with these eCommerce sites, if at all applicable.

Published: April 3, 2019

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Annie Button

Annie Button

Annie Button is a Portsmouth based writer and recent English Literature graduate. Annie has written for various online and print publications and specializes in business and career development. Follow @anniebutton1994 on Twitter.

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