10 SEO Best Practices for Mobile Site Migration

The sprints are lined up and the engineers are about to start coding your new mobile site when someone mentions the three letter word: S-E-O. Sadly, when asked how is it going to improve on the new mobile experience, the all too common response is, “We forgot about mobile SEO.”

Everyone knows that driving organic traffic will lower the overall cost of acquisition and generate more money. The hard part is actually doing it. Well, don’t panic – here are 10 steps to a successful mobile SEO strategy.

1. Benchmark your present SEO set up so you can find your strength and weakness as well as knowing how far you have improved.

Start by looking at the Active Page Ratio of your site. Where is the traffic from organic search going? Look at organic search traffic and the percentage of the traffic that is going to the main categories of your site. What percentage is going to home page, product detail, and campaign landing pages? The next step is to look at click through rate, page depth, and the load performance for the pages in those categories.

The third part of benchmarking is to review your keyword target plan to make sure your current plan still matches your business goals. Check to make sure your future sitemap and semantic architecture are reflected in these keyword targets.

2. Start planning your Launch Amplification Plan.

What needs to happen to hit the ground running at launch? Who do you need to target to get inbound links? It might seem early to start thinking about this now but establishing relationships and opening communication channels always takes longer than planned.

You’ll also want to:

  • Check that third-party tools like tracking pixels are up to date
  • Update social media links
  • Update paid ads and Adword links

3. Prevent redirects from negatively affecting SEO.

These are a few things you can do:

  • Ensure there are no redirect chains
  • Ensure any internal linking doesn’t point to old URLs
  • Remove any unnecessary 301 redirects
  • Remove any canonical tags that have a 301 redirect
  • Check your 404s 

4. Ensure you’re getting the most out of your URLs.

While not proven to be a major ranking factor, URLs still have a minor impact on search engine rankings. Here’s a few easy steps to follow:

  • Make URLs simple, relevant, compelling, and accurate
  • Structure URLs so users will have a good idea of what the page is about just from reading the URL
  • Using keywords within your URL can give a minor boost, but keyword effectiveness also decreases as URL length and keyword position increase
  • Use lowercase letters to avoid issues with duplicate pages
  • Use hyphens to separate words

Read more into how URLs affect SEO here.

5. Use meta tags to easily boost your SEO.

Meta tags are essentially snippets of text information that describe a page. This information isn’t actually displayed on the page itself but lives within the code of the specified page. Meta tags typically live within the head of the page. However, there are a ton of meta tags available, and not all of them help boost SEO.

The most important meta tags for SEO are:

  • Meta content type
    • This tag defines your character set for the page, and ideally would be defined for every single page. By not defining this, you run the risk of the browser potentially rendering the page in an unexpected manner.
  • Title
    • Title tags should be uniquely set for every page and should describe what the page is about. See here for how you can optimize your title tags.
  • Meta description
    • The meta description tag is used in search engine result pages (SERPs) to describe what your page is about. While this specific tag doesn’t actually directly influence SEO, it does affect click-through rates on your pages from the SERP. See here for more details on the meta description tag.
    • Viewport
    • Viewports control how web pages are displayed on mobile. Not specifying this runs the risk of potentially having a poor mobile experience. Learn more about viewport here

6. Providing structured data on pages so search engines will be able to crawl them.

Search engines are able to enhance what search results look like on SERPs through structured data. There are multiple formats to implement structured data in. The three that are most commonly used are JSON-LD, Microdata, and RDFa. There is no current answer as to which format is the best and should be universally adopted and used.

Example of Structured Data

Example of structured data on the SERP

Example of Unstructured Data

Unstructured data example

There are several different content types you’ll be able to mark up with structured data. Schema.org is a collaborative community founded by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Yandex that create, maintain, and promote schemas for structured data. To maximize the chances of users actually clicking on your page on SERPs, it’s highly recommended to provide structured data wherever possible. I recommend using Schema.org to get started with structured data.

Commonly used schemas include the likes of:

You can find a full list of all defined schemes here.

7. Supply alt text on all images.

Follow these practices for good alt text:

  • The alt text should describe the image as specific as possible
  • It should convey to users what the meaning or value of the image is
  • Alt text should be relatively short
  • Use keywords if possible and if it makes sense
    • Don’t go overboard on keywords – Google has historically been against abusing keywords

8. Remove or label duplicate content.

This includes metadata. If duplicate content is necessary for a specific reason, use the robot’s meta tag to specify search engine crawlers to not index that specific page. Alternatives to this include using the rel=”canonical” attribute on links which will tell search engines to treat the given page as a copy of the URL specified.

9. Test that bots can crawl your mobile site.

The best practice is to crawl the new site in test mode before it is live to ensure that the search engine bots will be able to crawl your site straight away and any potential bot crawling issues can be found before going live. The last thing you want to happen is launching a site that blocks bots and loses all your hard earned search engine ranks because you didn’t double check before launch.

Here’s how:

  • Get access to Webmaster Search Console for the site
  • Run Fetch as Google as the smartphone crawler
  • Make sure the rendered page looks like the actual page, not a blank page, loading page, or error page

10. Test accessibility – it’s 80% of good SEO.

The best accessibility checker is something you probably already own – your smartphone. Pull it out and turn it into a screen reader. Try it on iOS or Android then visit your test site. This is a great way to catch navigation errors and core flow issues. Check your accessibility with this awesome checklist by the A11y Project

11. Bonus!

After launch to do a quick sanity check and make sure everything is working. Check Google webmaster tools and Bing WebMaster tools for errors, too.

SEO for a Mobile-First World

Mobile is now taking a greater share of traffic than desktop for the first time ever, and it’s still growing. The continuing jump of shoppers to mobile means that mobile SEO can no longer be an afterthought. With a little bit of effort site migration can be a positive experience for your mobile SEO and help add more money to your bottom line.

We’d love to hear from you – leave a question or comment below!

Ben Cole, Senior User Researcher and Analyst, Mobify

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