Google Mobile SEO: 2020 Checklist

What is Mobile Optimization?

More and more internet searches are done from consumers’ mobile phones instead of their computers. This means that your company’s website is missing out on a whole lot of views if you haven’t ensured it’s mobile-friendly. Mobile optimization is the enhancement of your website to display perfectly on a cellphone so the consumer has an enhanced user experience, and so that Google ranks you higher on the search engine results page (SERP). There are many ways to optimize your website for mobile engagement, like improving the page speed, site structure, and the use of plugins to name a few. Keep reading to learn more tips to employ and mistakes to avoid.

Is a Mobile Optimized Website Different from My Existing Website?

Yes. Your mobile-optimized website is a concise, simpler version of your existing website. Consider the consumer who is looking at your website from their cellphone; they’re likely out and about, not near their desktop, and don’t want to spend hours scrolling through a small cellphone screen searching for information. The whole point of having a mobile phone is for convenience, and that’s what consumers want. Your mobile optimized website should be quick and easy for consumers to navigate and find what they’re looking for, like your phone number or location. Use your desktop optimized existing website to go into further detail and provide additional valuable content.

What are the differences between desktop SEO and mobile SEO?

The difference between these two optimization strategies lays in what the consumer is doing and what they want. Desktop SEO focuses on improving the experience for consumers who are at home, in their free time, not in a rush. These websites may focus more on blog content and internal linking to keep those consumers on their site longer. Mobile SEO focuses on the consumer who is on the go, in a rush and needs information right away. So, one mobile SEO strategy would be to make your important information (location, phone number, services) easy to find, easy to understand, and easy to initiate/purchase on the spot.

More and more searches are done from a mobile phone, so it’s beneficial to ensure your website is mobile optimized.

Do you need a mobile version of your site to rank higher in Google searches?

Yes. It’s becoming increasingly more important for your website to be mobile optimized for Google to place you in the SERPs. Since 2015, Google has been assessing mobile optimization as a component of its ranking criteria. The goal of search engines is to ensure consumers have a flawless searching experience and find what they’re looking for. Since most consumers want to use their mobile phones to search, we must meet that need along with Google. By making your website usable on mobile devices, you are creating a better user experience for those consumers. Google rewards exceptional mobile optimized websites with higher rankings in the SERPs.

How can you carry out a mobile SEO audit on your site?

A mobile SEO audit checks to make sure your website is usable, searchable, and valuable to search engines and potential readers. An easy way to perform an audit is by using Google’s free mobile-friendly page tester. Simply insert the URL of the page you want to check, and it will analyze that page before telling you if it is mobile-friendly or it needs some more work.

You should also do your own research on what mobile SEO strategies you’re not currently using, or which ones you aren’t using properly. The strategies in this checklist will ensure you’re performing mobile SEO to the best of your abilities and to Google’s liking.

What you need to know about:

Page speed

As mentioned above, mobile consumers expect quick and easy searching to find what they’re looking for. If a consumer clicks on your website in the SERP, you have 3 seconds on average to load the page and deliver the information. Any longer and that consumer will likely go back to the SERP and choose one of your competitors.

There are a few ways you can increase your page speed: upgrade your website’s server software or configuration, minimize your website’s number of redirects, prioritize above-the-fold information, place CSS stylesheets at the top of your page, etc. Assess each option to improve your page speed because it is crucial to customers accessing your website and finding value.

Plugins, Popups, and Button Size

It may seem obvious but it’s a critical factor in mobile optimization: cellphone screens are small, and fingers are big. Your potential customer needs to be able to navigate and move through your website with ease and control. This isn’t possible if your buttons that lead to your services page, contact page, about page, are too small. Consumers will get irritated if they are trying to select on page button or close a pop-up and end up on another because the buttons were too small or too close together. Ensure your page’s buttons are sized appropriately for a small screen.
Pop-ups, in general, are not a great idea for mobile websites because they interrupt the consumer’s search. If they’ve chosen your website from the list, you can earn mobile consumers’ trust by giving them the information they’re looking for quickly.

There are various plugins that can perform behind the scenes tasks for your website, like anti-spam plugins or YOAST for SEO. However, many plugins will actually impede the consumer’s interaction and usability on your website. The most notable plugin you should avoid using is Flash because it isn’t available or used on all mobile devices, which means the consumers who don’t have it will see an error message or be unable to load your page properly.

Titles and Meta Descriptions

Cellphone screens don’t allow any extra space for long headlines or excessive meta descriptions. You have to be very intentional and strategic in the words you choose. Do your research on the most valuable keywords for your niche for mobile searches and use them wisely. SERPs on mobile devices will show concise, efficient, and relevant titles. The same goes for your meta descriptions. If you thought it was hard to summarize your webpage in desktop meta descriptions, you’ll need to get even more concise and intriguing on mobile. You have less screen space overall, so use it wisely.

Local Search

It’s incredibly important for your website to show up in local searches. Consider all the times you’ve searched for an Hotel in Bangkok, restaurant or another type of business nearby- near me­ searches. When a customer is searching for a business in your industry near them, you want to show up. People in your own community shouldn’t be outsourcing what you can provide, right?

To show up in local SERPs, build your local SEO strategies. Start by creating a Google My Business page so that your company, location, and phone number show up in map results. You should request reviews from all happy customers on your Google page. Ensure your Google pictures are appealing and honest. Create blog content that is local-oriented; write about your niche within your specific city, or about how your business supports your local community.

Site Configuration

To ensure your website is user-friendly on mobile devices, you should choose a configuration that best serves consumers. Google favors a responsive configuration and it’s the most popular choice among web designs. A responsive design will take the existing content on your desktop website, then re-size and reconfigure it depending on the device it’s being looked at from. So, a customer on a desktop computer is reading the same content as a customer on a tablet or mobile phone. However, on each device, the layout and sizing are altered to fit the screen.

You can also choose a dynamic design or use a separate URL for a parallel mobile site. Neither of these options is as beneficial and simple as a responsive design. A dynamic design displays different sets of HTML and CSS coding depending on the device being used to look at it. It’s not uncommon for mobile users being sent the desktop coding and vice versa, creating a negative user experience.

Parallel mobile sites are flawed as well. You create a new website for your business that is tailored only for mobile devices and usually starts with an “m.” in the subdomain. There are issues with duplicate content, inadequate page redirects slowing down page speed, and consumers still ending up on the desktop version when they’re using a mobile device. However, parallel mobile sites are beneficial to e-commerce businesses because it can tailor the shopping experience specifically to mobile users.

Google prefers a responsive design for blogger websites and a parallel mobile site for e-commerce websites.

Keywords for Voice Search

The voice search function on mobile devices has changed how we choose keywords and curate our content. The consumer who uses the voice search function is as busy and on the go as other mobile device users, except they’re also likely multitasking with driving, taking care of kids, cooking, etc. Luckily, Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Home Assistant, and Apple’s Siri make searching for what they need possible while multitasking.

When a consumer asks the voice function a question, like “What’s the closest office supply store near me?” or “Can a concrete driveway be sealed with asphalt sealer?”, Google will search for the best answer. For your website to be featured in SERPs for voice searches, your content needs to directly answer consumers’ questions. Think of all the questions customers in your niche could potentially ask; research what people are searching for on Google in your industry. Then, optimize your content to answer those questions in a professional, direct, and comprehensive way.

Length of Content

Mobile users are looking for concise, straightforward responses to their searches. No one wants to read 1000 words through their cellphone, right? You should optimize your content by shortening the length but including all the important bits. Break up paragraphs into shorter (2-3 sentence) text sections, use clear and concise subtitles, and get to the point as soon as you can. No need for fluffy introduction paragraphs on a mobile site! And, don’t be afraid of the empty white spaces between paragraphs. These blank areas actually make your content look simpler and easier to navigate than a wall of pure text.

Site Interlinking to Mobile-Optimized Pages

You can still include internal links on a mobile-optimized page, but the page your link sends customers to needs to also be mobile optimized. This is easy with a responsive configuration because your whole website will be reconfigured based on the device its being looked at from. Things get more complicated if you’re using a dynamic or separate URL configuration. Customers can easily click a link that takes them to a desktop site, which then redirects them to a mobile version. That redirect could take longer than the 3-second page speed rule. Linking to other internal pages is a great strategy even for mobile websites, but only if there is no redirect time wasted.

What Are Mobile Crawl Errors?

Google “crawls” websites to check their features and decide their ranking in the SERP. Crawl errors prevent your page from showing up in the SERPs. You can find your crawl report in Google’s Search Console; select “Fetch as Google” to request your website’s report. Most of the time your report will come back with some errors, which is normal. However, there are some that are very important and should be looked at right away. Here are some of the most common crawl errors for mobile pages:

  • Server Errors: When a customer is trying to access your page and it times out, or it’s unable to fully load. It’s an issue with your server being blocked or misconfigured.

How to Fix: Assess your server’s configuration and make sure it isn’t overloaded, misconfigured, or down overall. Sometimes the issue is connectivity to the internet on your end. Also, ensure you aren’t blocking Google with any firewalls or website infrastructure. The worst thing to happen is for Google to be blocked and unable to crawl your website at all.

  • High Error Scores: If your crawl error report shows high scores across the board, that’s a good indication that something is wrong.

How to Fix: Check all your coding scripts to make sure none of them are malfunctioning. Use a link-checker or manually check all your external links are still live and don’t lead to dead pages. If you’ve recently updated or redesigned your website, check that your permissions for each page are still the same.

  • Faulty Redirects: When a smartphone user is directed to a desktop version of your site, there is an issue with your redirects.

How to Fix: Choose a better configuration for your website (as mentioned above, responsive designs are the least problematic). Ensure your website is fully mobile optimized. If you don’t have a cellphone specific version of a page, showing a desktop version is better than nothing but it will still hurt your ranking. Avoid faulty redirects by having a responsive design configuration or monitoring your page redirects to ensure they’re always working.

How to get mobile SEO for voice search right?

When people use Google Home to search for something out loud, the Home device will read the answer to them out loud, often with the source website’s name. The URL is then sent to the owner’s Google Home App. This is an excellent chance for your website to be recognized and specifically forwarded to a potential customer.

Although many people search for similar things on their desktop as their cellphone, there are some specific queries that you want to optimize for because they are uniquely used on mobile devices. For example store location, store hours, “near me” searches, where can I buy…, etc.

Here are some tips that will have you showing up as the source website:

  • Create and/or claim your Google My Business Page; keep all information correct and current
  • Use longtail keywords that are conversational, since customers search in a casual and conversational tone
  • Research all the questions customers in your niche ask
  • Create FAQ pages that answer the questions your customers are asking; categorize the questions and answers by topic
  • Include local content in your blog section as well as your FAQ pages

What percent of searches are voice via mobile?

According to Google, 20% of all queries from mobile devices are through voice search functions. That’s a huge number of potential customers that could be finding your business if you optimize for mobile search via voice search! Plus, since Google, Apple, and Amazon have each come out with their own voice search systems, the number of people using these devices is only going to grow. It’s important now more than ever to understand how to optimize your mobile site for voice searches.

What are the most common mistakes in mobile optimization?

Mobile optimization is tedious and multi-faceted; there are tons of factors to consider and it’s easy to make mistakes. At SEO Heroes we learned that the best way to avoid these mistakes is to be aware of them so you can prevent their occurrence or change what you’re already doing. Here are some of the most common mobile SEO mistakes:

Slow Page Speed

We discussed above how you can increase your page speed and why you should; by not doing so you are making a huge SEO mistake. Customers don’t want to wait more than 3 seconds for your page to load. If your pages take longer, customers will likely go back to SERP and find a different website to help them faster. Don’t let slow page speed turn away potential customers. Plus, Google favors websites that have optimal page loading speeds and positive user experiences so if you want to be ranked higher in the SERPs you must increase your page speed.

Font Size

You’ll need to minimize the size of your images, body text font, and heading fonts for the smaller screen on cellphones. However, going too small will be unreadable, and if the size difference between body text and heading is too large it will look strange and unappealing. Through trial and error, you can test out what size of fonts look best on different devices. A general rule of thumb is to make your font size at least 13-14 pixels for mobile devices.

Pop-ups and Interstitials

If you’re going to use pop-ups or interstitials on your mobile site, make sure they are easy to close or scroll past. Pop-ups with exit buttons that are too small to select or won’t close unless the customer signs up for whatever you’re selling is poor marketing. The same goes for interstitials that take up the whole screen, you can’t scroll past, or can’t exit from. Focus on giving your potential customer the information they’re looking for so that they’ll come back and spend time and money.

No Call-to-Action

You can create content that’s concise, brief, and to-the-point while also following up with a call-to-action. Leaving this step out is a mistake. For example, end your body of text with a button that allows readers to download a freebie onto their cellphone or share the article on social media. Optimize your call-to-action by making the buttons easy to select; make the button the width of the screen and separate from other buttons.

Wrong Keywords

If you do a traditional keyword search for desktop websites, you aren’t necessarily going to attract mobile customers with them. You need to do separate research on mobile and desktop websites. Or, if using the same content across both, incorporate important keywords from both (but not too many). Also, don’t miss out on local business by not using mobile keywords people in your city will be searching with.

There are a multitude of mistakes that can happen if you don’t do your research and optimize your mobile web pages properly.

How mobile SEO affects your Email Marketing Campaigns?

You have to assume that a portion of your email subscribers is checking their inbox from their cellphones. If you design your email campaign to only be read from a desktop, you are missing out on potential customers and possibly alienating ones you already have. There are a few rules for mobile SEO in your email marketing campaigns that you should follow.

Use templates that are cellphone-friendly. This means you need to forget the newsletter style of email because multiple columns of text won’t display properly on a smaller screen. Many newer email campaigns display as plain text- no fancy frames, header images, or body images. This is because the writer created them in HTML so that any links can be accessed from multiple devices. They also left out the design-frills like images and frames because those won’t translate the same to every screen.

Remember how small some cellphone screens are; you shouldn’t use a navigation menu or buttons too close together because the reader’s fingers won’t be able to accurately select the one they want. Use a font size that is big enough the reader doesn’t have to squint and break up body text into 1-2 sentence lines. Mobile readers won’t spend hours reading through your email content. So, keep it simple and concise- just like your mobile website.

What are the best practices for mobile UX?

You want your mobile users to have a positive experience using your website from their cellphone. This experience factors in a few different things. First, the usability of your website decides if they stay there and read the content or go back to the SERP and find a different website. The page loading speed, redirects, and use of certain plugins can all affect whether the reader finds your information quickly and easily.

Secondly, the content must be readable from a mobile device for the reader to get the information they need. This refers to the font type and size, the heading sizes, images, the layout of text, and button size. Your potential customers shouldn’t have to squint to read the text, and the header text shouldn’t be 10 times larger than the body. Buttons can’t be too small for fingers to accurately select, and images shouldn’t take up the whole screen. Your text should be broken up into 2-3 sentence paragraphs that make it easier for readers to scan.

Remember that UX impacts your ranking on Google and your sales. When customers have a positive experience on your website, they are more likely to trust you. They’ll refer back to your content and potentially spend money on your products or services.


Mobile SEO is becoming increasingly important in this digital age of marketing. It would be a mistake and disservice to your business not to employ most if not all the tips in this checklist. The most important thing to remember is many potential customers are searching on their cellphones, and Google rewards business who recognize that with higher SERP rankings. Use this checklist as a guideline to improve your mobile SEO, improve your ranking, and ultimately improve your sales.

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