As everybody knows by now, Google encourages sites to be mobile friendly.  In fact, since the “Mobilegeddon” algorithm update in April of this year, mobile-friendliness has been treated as a “significant” ranking factor.

The reason for this focus on mobile friendliness is pretty obvious.  Earlier this month, Google reported that more than half of Google searches worldwide are now carried out on mobile devices.  Some countries may still be seeing more desktop searches than mobile ones, but globally, more mobile searches are being done than any other type.

And that means being mobile friendly is essential.  But just being mobile friendly isn’t necessarily enough either.

Just because you’re doing the right things to rank for desktop searches, it doesn’t mean that you will rank for the mobile search by default.

Mobile And Desktop Rank Differently

According to research carried out by Searchmetrics, the factors which affect ranking are different for mobile sites, and that means that your strategy should really differentiate between the two as well.

Technical Considerations

Mobile rankings are strongly affected by the technical aspects of site construction, as a result of the limitations of mobile devices.  This means that factors such as load times are critical.  Other technical issues include the use of Flash (not that you should be using flash anywhere anyway, but that’s a different article) and domain names, which according to the study should focus more on branding than on keywords. (An issue already addressed by the so-called Exact Match Domain update to Google’s algorithm several years ago.)

The User Experience

User experience has been a key factor in Google’s determination of the quality of a site for some time now, and since the increase in mobile device usage for online activities, it has become one of the most important factors in ranking.  Taking into account the effect of a smaller screen size and how that affects the layout and display of the site is essential in ensuring users can find what they’re looking for, and take action, quickly and easily.

According to the report, there are a few other usability factors you should consider when evaluating the mobile friendliness of your site.  They recommend using bullet points for readability, but keeping the number of points low (3-5), keeping internal links in content to only a few important links that users can easily click on, and not using too many images (which should all be optimised for quick load times).

Mobile Optimised Content

The study found that ranking mobile content uses considerably less keywords than desktop content, as well as less words overall.  However, ranking mobile content tends to contain more so-called “proof” terms (associated keywords) which are words closely related to the main keywords used on the page.

Inbound Links

In a welcome, but surprising development, it also appears that mobile pages have fewer inbound links (links from other sites pointing to the content) than desktop pages, by a factor of almost half.  If this points to a decline in the value of inbound links (which the authors of the study believe), then that’s a good sign for SEO in general.

Ranking For Mobile Search

It’s pretty clear that these days, ranking for desktop search is not the same as ranking for mobile search.  And that means that if you want to rank across the board, it’s important to take both approaches into account.