Balancing Mobile Design for UX and SEO

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SEO and UX: Optimizing for Mobile
Long gone are the days of optimizing sites for robots. Meta keyword abuse is a thing of the past. Keyword stuffing is penalized by crawlers. And don’t even think of buying links. Google and other search engines have advanced to the point of being able to decipher sites more like a human user, and they’re getting better every day. As such, the gap between optimizing a mobile site for SEO and optimizing for UX is closing at a rapid rate.

At the beginning of 2016 mobile reportedly accounted for 56% of traffic to major sites for 2015. It’s expected that percentage has grown through 2016. Halfway through the year, Google rolled out a mobile-friendly algorithm update, emphasizing the need to build a better mobile experience. So what can you do to balance your mobile SEO and mobile UX while improve your ranking in search results? Below are a few quick guidelines to help you get started.

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Focus on the most important content for that page
When choosing content for mobile, take into consideration what the user may be looking for in a short time frame. Given they are on their phone, it’s safe to assume that either the user has less time than on desktop or a shorter attention span…or both. What content provides the most value to its respective page? Is there content that can be trimmed to save space? Is there content that is good, but better suited for another page? Evaluating your on-page content is a good way to not only remove excess fluff taking up valuable mobile-screen estate, but also focus specific page content for your target keywords.

Navigation and User Flow
Going hand-in-hand with trimming content, how do your users navigate through your site? What is the most common conversion path? Leaving the most important or relevant page links visible while bucketing others under a dropdown menu (or removing them from mobile altogether) not only frees up space, but it can also save your user time. A homepage link to a Services or Contact page? Absolutely!  A link to an About Us or Our Story page? Maybe that gets bucketed under the dropdown.

Optimizing Individual Elements
Blanket styling is a good first step to designing a responsive site, but remember that individual elements may need special attention as well. Sometimes, particular elements may not appear the same as others with a blanket-style setting. Grid layouts are excellent frameworks, but they are not without their flaws. Small tweaks to perfect the look of individual elements can make a huge difference between a user who stays and a user who bounces due to unsightly, misaligned or mis-sized elements.

Capitalize on Mobile Only Features
What does mobile allow us to do that desktop cannot? Click-to-Call buttons are pretty much standard on mobile sites now. Are there interactions with the page that can be accomplished using a mobile design approach? Rather than clicking between images, add a swipe feature. Does your address link off to Google Maps? Are navigation and button elements easily accessible on a mobile screen? Your user is most likely right-handed and using their thumb to navigate; don’t go hiding these important functions in the top left. Remember to make sure your phone and address info is synced up with Google My Business as well!

Minimize Forms
Forms on mobile are a tricky balance between collecting information without discouraging the user from filling out fields. Mobile users are more likely to have a shorter attention span than desktop, so tailor your forms for quick information gathering. Will basic contact-info suffice? A simple name, phone, and email form could capture that lead quickly on mobile with a follow-up later to round out other information you may need.

Interstitials
Another great example of Google adapting to rank based on UX comes in the form of a very recent update. Does your site run mobile popups when a user first lands on the page? As of January 10th, you could now be facing a penalty. Prior to launch, Google announced it would be coming down hard on these intrusive pop ups. From what we’ve seen though it makes sense: How many times have you had some interstitial cover up the main page, degrading your experience? Unless it is something that is required to be displayed by law, such as an age verification, alter your approach in gathering this information. A smaller banner at the top of the screen is perfectly acceptable and doesn’t completely block the on-page content.

The more advanced Google becomes, the tighter UX and SEO are working in tandem. It could all essentially be narrowed down to a simple philosophy: If your mobile site is clean and simple with specific content focused on respective pages, it creates an ideal user experience. Positive signals are sent to Google’s algorithm and you’ll likely reap the rewards of better rankings in optimizing for mobile. When in doubt, do what’s best for the user. Google is watching.

For more tips, tricks, and guidelines designing for mobile Google has provided a handy guide to help you on your way.

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