Unless you've been living in a cave for the last few months (in which case, thank you for immediately visiting the Smart Domain Group's website upon your return), you'll be aware of the increasing importance of optimising websites for people searching for and viewing websites on mobile phones and tablets.
But while it's becoming essential to optimise your website to target mobile searches, don't think for one second that you can neglect desktop search. Although they follow some of the same principles and practices, there are subtle nuances that need to be factored in to your search engine optimisation and marketing strategy. If there was ever a time to separate and refine your approaches to mobile and desktop search, it is now.
But before you get started, you need to know just how and why they differ....
These days, mobile and desktop searches use entirely different algorithms. At the end of the day, Google wants to provide the best possible user experience for searchers, regardless of what device they are using. Essentially, this means devising a bespoke and device-tailored experience.
The best way for us to do this is to look further into user intent....
The biggest thing to consider when looking into mobile vs desktop optimisation is the fact that user intent is often different for each device. It sounds simple to say, but users looking for sites on mobiles and tablets are far more likely to be close to purchasing or ordering something than those searching on desktop computers.
For example, understanding the importance of local search can really help us to better get to grips with understanding user intent on mobiles and tablets. If someone is searching for a service or product on their phone or tablet, it's likely to be local. Meanwhile, users searching on their desktop computer are more likely to be browsing non-location specific websites, like e-commerce shops.
Similarly, users on mobiles and tablets are far more likely to call the business by tapping the contact number in the local map pack section, while desktop users would be more inclined to fill out an enquiry form or email them.
Google are attempting to determine the user's most likely intent
Known as 'micro-moments', these methods are Google's ongoing attempts to try and determine the user's most likely intent. This is especially important for mobile users as this is often when a consumer needs to take immediate action.
For instance, when a user is searching on a mobile or tablet device and they're looking for a local service or product, the local map pack will appear. However, if they're searching for information, the quick answer box will appear.
Quite simply, when you understand the user intent of any given searcher, you can ensure that you are providing fantastic content for both desktop and mobile users. While many think that longer content is only worthwhile when targeting desktop searches, websites with longer word counts do still perform well on mobile. This basically confirms the notion that while Google is attempting to promote the optimisation of websites for mobiles and tablets, the most important thing is, and may always be, high quality content.
How can you differentiate your SEO strategies?
There are various ways in which you can differentiate your search engine optimisation and marketing strategy for both types of device; ranging from implementing Accelerated Mobile Pages to separating mobile and desktop-specific search terms in your keyword research and revisiting your content strategy to make sure you're factoring in both desktop and mobile optimised content.
Carry out a mobile SEO audit
Carrying out a mobile SEO audit on your website is one of the first things you should do. These audits are a very effective and accurate way of determining how well your website is optimised for mobile use and how best to craft your ongoing marketing strategy.
Just use Google's Mobile Friendly Test for a fast and reliable performance review of your site when viewed on a mobile or tablet device. Not only will it tell you the average speed of loading times when viewed on a device using 3G, it will also identify areas of improvement and compare your website to others in the same industry as you. This means that you'll very quickly be able to judge your site against its peers and devise a strategy that helps to improve the user experience.
Consider implementing 'Accelerated Mobile Pages'
While it's still quite early days in the age of Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP as they're more commonly known, they're fast becoming a potentially essential way of giving website users a better experience.
An open-source initiative that's designed to create an improved user experience on mobile and tablet devices, AMP is aimed at reducing load times and page sizes. Allowing webmasters to serve their content through a new AMP page that canonicals back to the original means it's rapidly becoming a very popular initiative. Essentially it enables heavy and slow pages to be created, without them actually slowing the website down in any way.
If the website you’re hosting or designing commands a lot of traffic, especially on mobile, then AMP pages could be a great way of reducing load times and keeping your customers engaged. In fact, with Google seemingly starting to prioritise AMP pages, it may be worth applying this initiative to your website. That’s regardless of whether you need to speed up your site’s loading times or not!
Include both mobile and desktop searches in your reporting
It's vitally important that you track just how well your website is doing on both desktop and mobile/tablet. You may not realise it, but there are already starting to be differences between the rankings for desktop and mobile searches for the same keyword.
This is only going to continue, so now is the time to add mobile searches to your ranking reports so that you can truly get an idea of just how well your site is ranking. Thankfully, there are various programs available now that allow you to monitor both of these and give you the ability to narrow down exactly what you want searched for and how (mobile or desktop). Which neatly leads us to....
Utilise effective rankings tools
Why would you waste your time checking your mobile and desktop results manually, when there are various tools available to enable you to track both mobile and desktop rankings separately? The following are all worth looking into;
Google Search Console
This program is available to absolutely everyone that owns or runs a website. When looking at your search analytics, you can filter the devices by comparing desktop and mobile. Even if you use any other of the ranking tools out there, it's always worth checking in on your Search Console insights once or twice a month.
SEMRush is one of the most popular ranking tools around as it provides a comprehensive breakdown of desktop vs mobile results. You can even add rankings for tablet devices as well if you really want an extensive coverage of all possible results! As well as providing detailed analysis of your desktop results, it will also display the percentage of mobile-friendly results for your domain too.
Similar to SEMRush, SearchMetrics offers comprehensive Mobile vs Desktop visibility and gives you detailed individual scores for desktop and mobile. It will also show you overlap metrics that give you an idea of just how many keyword search results appear in exactly the same position for both desktop and mobile search. It's even possible to drill down further to view exactly how a website performs in regards to localised results.
Another program used by SEO companies across the UK, Moz allows you to track the same rankings metrics for both mobile and desktop. This program will also allow you to filter by locations and labels to help you further dig into all the data.
Rankings aren't everything though!
When considering mobile vs desktop searches, you must remember that while rankings are important, they're not everything. You must also take the time to look at the data and meaning behind the different vanity metrics.
For instance, you might find that you have higher rankings for mobile but a higher bounce rate than on desktop. Does this mean a poor user experience or is it just a reflection of the user intent? Similarly, do higher rankings for one device correlate to higher conversions? If the answer is no, then you need to consider the reasons for this.
When it comes to mobile and desktop rankings and the differences between them, there isn't just one answer. Which is why it's imperative that you take a tailored approach to your search engine optimisation strategy.
Of course, if you're not sure about the best way forward for your business, or you just don't have the time to focus on search engine optimisation yourself, you can always hire the professionals to take care of it all for you. At the Smart Domain Group, we specialise in proven, effective and affordable search engine optimisation packages that focus on both mobile and desktop searches. So contact us today to discuss your requirements with one of our helpful and friendly team.
- Search Engine Optimisation,