Google has been applying user metrics to its algorithm and crawlers for years. Bounce rate, time on page, page load time – they all play a role in page rank. But when it comes to mobile, Google is getting serious about integrating user experience into SEO.
A few months ago, we talked about Google SERP alerting users that a site may fail to deliver a good mobile experience on a landing page. Last week, Google indicated that mobile UX may soon become a ranking signal.
So, we know we’ll need a mobile-friendly design, but how can we make responsive and SEO play nicely together?
First, we need to get out of the mindset that responsive web design and SEO are separate beasts. As Google matures, each digital thread needs to become more entwined. Responsive design is a means to an end, and “SEO” increasingly means ensuring that users have the best experience possible, from content to usability.
See How Your Site Performs
Googlebot has steadily grown more sophisticated over the years, and it can now see a site exactly as a user sees it, not just the page code. So it can tell if your font size or CTA button is too small for mobile users, simply by crawling your site. Search engine optimization is now user optimization.
In May, Google Webmaster Tools added a new feature allowing you to Fetch and Render as Googlebot, showing you how your site performs on different devices. The render allows you to easily see how buttons, scrolling and text work for a user.
Mobile on a Budget
Google has repeatedly told us that responsive design is the way to go, but many businesses may not have the budget to do a full responsive redesign, but there’s plenty your marketing team can do to shoestring a mobile-friendly site. You can start with a splash page for mobile users.
A little bit of user research can determine what your mobile users need from your homepage: links to your most important pages, a clear call to action, hours of operations, etc. With minimal effort, you can code a Tap-to-Call feature specifically for mobile users.
Note that you may not need your entire site to be mobile friendly – just the most important pages. Once you’ve launched a mobile homepage, identify the most trafficked pages and slowly integrate mobile splash pages for each. Don’t duplicate content; just ensure that mobile users can find the most important information from each page.
It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a step in the right direction as Google prepares to heavily incorporate mobile UX in its ranking signals.