The internet marketing community is still freaking out about Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm update, rolling out on April 21, 2015. It’s the biggest algorithmic change in years – even bigger than Panda and Penguin – and is going to affect the internet worldwide, in real-time.
There is a lot of confusion among SEOs right now as to what actually qualifies a website as mobile-friendly, especially with so many changes making any kind of true clarity difficult. Actually, a lot of “mobile” practice is generally misunderstood. But we know Google favors responsive design sites, despite mobile sites being considered mobile-friendly and a decent option for those who are lacking in resource. However, if you’re truly concerned about your SEO, applying the following back-end optimization tips to a responsive design site can help save some of that link juice you’ve already been losing:
Optimize Images for Page Loading Speed
One of the most crucial issues that tend to affect responsive web design is load speed. Quality mobile user experience generally infers that site performance is high, with most high bounce rates illustrating that users don’t care much to wait for sites that are slow to load. The higher your bounce rate, the lower you rank with Google.
In terms of mobile response, huge image sizes are usually the culprit. “Mobile web is considerably slower”, and just can’t handle the page size that desktops can. In fact, the recommended page size for optimal load speed is 420 KB.
A couple of simple ways to shrink your image files are to compress your images and define your image dimensions. By reducing the size of your images, you are contributing to a faster response. By defining your dimensions, you are forcing the browser to render the space in accordance with dimensions. This keeps Google from having to overthink, so make sure you keep everything simple and functional. Less is often more, especially with so many lazy crawlers.
Optimize for Smartphone Crawling & Indexing
When optimizing your site for mobile – regardless of responsive, dynamic or mobile platform – you can’t forget about the technical aspects. Search spiders may have an overly difficult time crawling and indexing mobile-specific content compared to desktop-specific content if they cannot be easily discerned. (Again, they love to be lazy!)
To help Googlebot crawl and index your mobile site pages, you need to do the following things:
- Create a mobile XML sitemap with after each URL.
- Use an empty “mobile” schema tag to identify a URL as having mobile content.
- Submit your mobile XML sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools.
- Make sure to implement <rel=“canonical”>, <rel=“alternate media”>, and User Agent HTTP header tags to tell Google when it should deliver a desktop version of your web page and when it should deliver a mobile version.
- Make sure to allow the Google Mobile User Agent to access your site.
Use Canonicals Instead of Permanent Redirects
For those who are less familiar, canonicalization applies to individual pages that can be loaded from multiple URLs. This especially becomes a problem for multiple pages that share content. When content and links get split up among multiple URLs, this causes the popularity of pages to do down drastically (Moz).
While permanent 301 redirects pass far more link juice than temporary 302 redirects, canonicalization is not as limiting. By using the <rel=“canonical”> tag mentioned previously, you are telling search engines to treat the tagged page as though all the links and content metrics should be credited toward the designated URL.
The takeaway here should be that if your site is responsive, you should be using the desktop URL for both mobile and desktop. This consolidates indexing and ranking signals to prevent confusion over potentially duplicate content (Search Engine Land).