How often have you seen a mobile site or app that looks great, but has no way to get found? If you’ve ever had to deal with this problem, then you already know how frustrating it can be. Mobile SEO mistakes can cause significant technical issues and contribute to a poor user experience. In addition, they also contribute to indexing issues.
Mobile devices are becoming increasingly important to consumers. In fact, according to Google, over 50 percent of searches now happen on smartphones. This means that having a responsive website is essential for being able to reach customers where they are.
There are several common mobile SEO mistakes that can slow down your rankings. These include using old URLs, slow-loading pages, and not scaling your images.
Ignoring smartphone users is yet another one, because not everyone who designs a mobile site is an expert in the user experience side of things. Did you know that if you ignore how smartphone users use their phone, when compared to the desktop, that you can cause significant issues with user satisfaction?
Ignoring the prevalence and preference of responsive web design today is also one of the worst SEO mistakes. If you have a separate mobile site, and you continue ignoring responsive web design, this is something that can count against you.
A few of these mobile SEO mistakes can be some of the worst SEO mistakes you can make, because they directly impact Google’s mobile-first experience and how they see your site on mobile.
1. Core Web Vitals: Slow Site Speed
This is a significant issue that impacts the mobile user. In fact, much of Google’s Core Web Vitals metrics deal with how the page loads and how fast it loads on a mobile device. Even though it may seem obvious, this is something that you cannot ignore.
And, you would be surprised how many webmasters ignore site speed. Either they have been convinced that their existing site speed is enough, or they do not pay enough attention to improving their existing site speed.
Either way, according to Google, “53 percent of visits are actually abandoned if a mobile site takes longer than 3 seconds to load.”
In fact, even as early as 2010, before they even implemented mobile and desktop indexing, Google’s Maile Ohye is on record stating that internal page speed metrics they used to evaluate how fast a page loads approached less than 1.5 seconds.
It’s not inconceivable that this metric is still true, or has even decreased as the technology for page speed has improved.
2. Image File Size: Your Images Are Far Too Large
You would be surprised how often this comes up in an audit. But it does: somehow, somewhere, someone thought it would be a good idea to include a 9 MB (Mega Byte) image on their page. In fact, this is one of the more common mistakes when it comes to mobile SEO.
This is not only utterly negligent, it also has a significant impact on your page speed along with the user experience. Even on modern connections, a 9 MB image will take a number of seconds to download. And a modern search engine such as Google is not going to like this when it comes to page speed.
Not only that, but you waste valuable page loading time by loading an image that nobody is going to ever wait for.
It’s better to ensure that your page size does not exceed around 150 KB (KiloBytes) – 250 KB. Also, you want to structure your page elements intelligently.
If you have relatively few images on your page, this should be relatively easy. Just be sure that you utilize Photoshop to physically compress your images as well, or that you use a plugin like Smush Pro to do so.
Also, it would not hurt to use a non-Nitro page speed plugin to help compress and speed up your page.
The problem with Nitro is that it defers critical CSS files, loading only the HTML structure on first load, where Google will see it.
As a result, this could present issues on mobile devices.
Have you ever wondered why pages with Nitro enabled on them don’t have any FID (First Input Delay) and INP (Interaction to Next Paint)
Core Web Vitals Numbers? This deferring of the CSS is why. Because the CSS is not loaded immediately at the beginning, Google cannot record the INP of your page in order to evaluate it properly.
3. You Don’t Utilize Lossless Image Compression
Or any compression at all. One of the hallmarks of proper image optimizations is making sure that your images are compressed.
This matters even more on mobile devices, where image size is drastically reduced.
If you take an image and you don’t have compression, and you just resize it, then you are physically smashing a massively sized image within a small space.
In other words, you will have a super large image that takes eons to load while also being super large within that smaller space.
When you compress an image, you are physically compressing its pixel density, ensuring that its physical size matches the implied size.
The result being an image that is both sized to that specific area width along with being physically compressed. This is the ideal situation that should happen for all images on a web page.
4. Interstitials Are Not Implemented Correctly
In recent years, Google has implemented a penalty that targets the wrong advertising interstitials. You know the ones, right?
Take, for instance, the following example: you create an advertising interstitial that creates an overlay that asks for email addresses immediately on page load.
This is not ideal, because you have just blocked people from accessing all of the content at once.
The one thing that Google is concerned about with these types of interstitials is that they are blocking people’s access to the primary content of the page.
Here’s another one:
Say that you created an interstitial that advertises an offer as part of your limited sale, immediately upon loading.
It’s still something that may be penalized.
It’s not about the type of offer. It’s about the size of your interstitial and how it loads. The ideal situation would be to load an interstitial that takes up less than 30% of the page on a mobile device while also ensuring that your content is viewable to the user immediately.
That is how you avoid the interstitial penalty.
5. You Have Blocked Critical Files from Loading on Mobile Devices
It can happen. Sometimes, perhaps somebody new on the developer team comes in and they are unaware of the exact setup that’s happening right now.
So, they create more modern code that blocks critical files and these files now don’t load on mobile devices.
This is a problem.
Google prefers that all JS and CSS files are visible from the start. This way, they can see and evaluate pages as they are right now.
Don’t block critical CSS and JSS files from loading on mobile devices. Or any device, for that matter.
6. Structured Data Elements Are Missing on Mobile
This is an entirely possible event. Perhaps you have a setup that only displays structured data elements on desktop?
This is also a mistake, because Google is on mobile-first indexing primarily. And, if you have a critical element like structured data only showing up on desktop, then you have a problem.
This happens most often when you have CSS selectors that are too similar in name.
Say you have different stylesheets for desktop and mobile (ideally, nowadays, you want to have a mobile responsive design to avoid this issue). Anyway, back to our example. You have selectors that are differently named on both style sheets, and your developer
chooses the wrong one. And that other selector has display:none in it. But, it’s not an obvious solution, because you would have to physically go INTO that CSS file and read it in order to find it.
Either outcome is a bad outcome, because you are excluding mobile devices.
If you are still using legacy development best practices, it is now time to update them to ensure that you only use mobile-first best practices.
Your site’s performance in the search results may depend on it!
7. You Have Bad Redirects Or Cross Links
Having bad redirects and cross links is an issue for websites that have not been optimized properly for mobile devices.
And this is something that is a significant issue for sites that have separate mobile and desktop URLs.
For example, should anyone land on a desktop version of your site (with an m-dot mobile domain) by mistake, then you want to redirect them to the correct mobile version of your page.
Redirects and cross links are not an advisable solution, however. Instead, you want to make sure that you have a coherent responsive design so that you display the same site to all users, regardless of whether or not they are on mobile or desktop.
If, for some reason, you are delaying the switchover to an entirely mobile-focused website design, you may want to hurry up and get that implemented.
8. Your Content Is Unplayable
When you add video and other multimedia capabilities to your site, you want to make sure that you have the capabilities.
You must make sure that site speed remains unaffected (if at all), and that the way you embed your video can be playable on all possible devices.
Also, make sure that any action buttons that you have are large enough for the smallest mobile devices which you expect your audience to use.
There is a mobile design principle called “design for the fat finger.” This is not a derogatory term, though. It refers to people who have larger hands than most.
And this is where the design principle comes from. When you design in this way, you make sure that your mobile device play buttons are accessible for people’s hands of all sizes.
9. You Only Have 404 Errors On Mobile
The main root of this problem is when you have a different mobile site and a different desktop site.
In short, having both different types of sites on one domain can hurt you, especially with Google’s move to mobile-first indexing.
Any instance where mobile users get a 404 error has to be rectified. This is especially true if the page is fine when desktop users can access it.
Regardless of whether you are on desktop or mobile, you always want to avoid creating links to broken and missing content.
In other words, if you have 404s, always make sure they are redirected to the proper versions of that page.
10. You Have a Poor Mobile Design Overall
Mobile-first doesn’t always mean that you have an excellent quality mobile design. On the contrary, making sure that you have mobile-first first, rather than focusing on the quality of your design overall, can be a recipe for failure.
And there is a difference between being mobile-first, and mobile-friendly.
When you are mobile-friendly, your site is designed well and at a high quality for mobile devices.
If you are mobile-first, then you have prioritized the mobile experience over everything else involved, including design.
Now, it is still possible to be mobile-friendly and mobile-first. The balance between the two is what’s ideal.
And the two are not mutually-exclusive, however. You don’t have to have a mobile-friendly design in order to really be “mobile-first.”
But, a high-quality mobile-friendly design will win out in a mobile-first world over pure mobile-first, every time.
Making sure that you prioritize a high-quality, mobile-friendly design is highly important. And this should be the focus of your efforts, rather than an after-thought.
Also, making sure that you design for common screen sizes that your audience uses is important. The technical term for this is “breakpoints.” Within CSS stylesheets there is something called “breakpoints” which refers to the screen sizes that are planned for within that design.
The screen sizes within the breakpoints will also determine the quality of your design: is it viewable on all devices or is it viewable on just 2-3 devices?
Ensuring a High-Quality Mobile Experience is Key
In today’s competitive landscape, it’s not just enough to be mobile-first.
You also have to be mobile-friendly.
Creating a fantastic mobile site design should go hand-in-hand with creating a mobile-first experience.
But, oftentimes, that experience falls short of consumer expectations, especially when only doing mobile-first is part of that focus.
When do you plan on creating an awesome mobile-friendly and mobile-first experience in your next design?