How to Go Mobile-First in the Age of Mobile Marketing

By Jared Atchison,
business.com writer
|
Jun 11, 2020
Image Credit: ViewApart / Getty Images
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Mobile-first will become the norm. Be prepared with these tips.

Today, mobile is the main platform for online activities such as searches and even online purchases. It's where information flows and social interactions happen. For businesses, this means having to shift towards a mobile-first mindset.

Need some statistics to reinforce why mobile is the future? Here are some mobile marketing statistics to consider: 

  • There are 5.11 billion unique mobile users in the world.
  • 95% of people in the U.S. own a mobile phone.
  • People spend more than 3.5 hours per day on their mobile devices.
  • 51% of shoppers have made an online purchase with a smartphone.
  • 93% of millennials have compared online deals using a smartphone.
  • Shoppers made 108% more purchases using apps than they did on the mobile web.
  • Mobile commerce sales will account for more than half of all e-commerce sales by 2021. 

It's little surprise, then, that we're seeing a greater push towards a mobile-first strategy in digital marketing. Let mobile platforms and experiences steer your marketing activities to stay on top of swiftly changing trends.  

What is a mobile-first strategy? 

A mobile-first strategy is largely applied to website design and development. One of the spurs towards a mobile-first design orientation came from Google's announcement regarding how it will index websites. 

Google announced a mobile-first indexing initiative in 2016 as most people were doing searches on mobile devices rather than desktops. However, the search engine was still evaluating desktop content first to determine whether it's relevant to a query. In doing so, it would miss the fact that many mobile sites did not have content that's actually useful to a person doing a mobile search.

A mobile-first indexing initiative means that Google's algorithms will primarily use the content on a mobile site in the following ways:

  • It will rank the pages of a site based on the content available on mobile.
  • The snippets that appear on search results will come from the mobile version of a website.
  • Google will use mobile content to make sense of structured data.

What was promised in 2016 will become a reality in September 2020. Businesses will likely see a shift in its ranking, and it's important to be prepared.

The widespread use of smartphones and Google's own mobile-first indexing policy are strong drivers for more mobile-oriented marketing.

Let's dive deeper and understand how to implement a mobile-first marketing strategy that keeps your business riding the crest of these new waves of changes. 

Ways to create a mobile-first strategy 

To get started, here are some of the steps you can take to make sure that your website design, structure and content, all reflect a mobile-first strategy. 

Create the same content for mobile and desktop sites.

Many businesses focus on building content for desktop browsers as the wider screen size allows them to provide more attractive content. The mobile version of the site is often pared down and contains different text. Sometimes these mobile sites miss entire pages and other information that's available on desktop sites. This can hamper your search rankings. 

To make sure that you're not making this mistake, build your site for mobile devices first. Then scale up for desktop browsers if you need to.

Here are some other tips to consider regarding content creation for mobile sites:

  • Avoid creating less content on your mobile site than your desktop site. Your mobile site content will be indexed and ranked over what's on the desktop versions.

  • Use the same headings, subheadings and other content structural elements on both your mobile and desktop sites.

  • Avoid using different URLs for your mobile and desktop pages. For example, some businesses still use the "m dot" in the URL for their mobile site pages.

  • It's vital to use the same images, videos, links and other elements in both versions of your website.

It cannot be stressed enough that your content on mobile and desktop sites need to be virtually identical. According to Google's instructions for developers, even differences in the site layout can affect how Google interprets content and therefore how it assesses the ranking of a page. 

Look after your visual content.

In the previous section, we covered a few points that are applicable to all content. However, it's helpful to look at visual content, like images and videos, on their own to make sure we don't miss anything important.

Here are a few checkpoints to help you keep visual content the same on mobile and desktop sites:

  • Use the same alt text for images on different versions of your website.

  • Avoid using unsupported image formats.

  • Make sure that the URL for images and videos in your content stays the same, and that they don't change every time a page reloads or it won't get indexed.

  • Have the same image titles, descriptions, captions, etc., on mobile and desktop versions.

  • Use the same markup for videos and images on different site versions.

  • If your video forms the main content in your page, make sure that it's located at the top and that users don't have to scroll too far down to find it.

It's easy to forget important little details like structuring your information correctly or making sure that all your content is the same in mobile and other versions of your website. Checking off the points given here will help you develop your mobile-first design more easily.  

Use responsive web designs.

Your web design also plays a role in how your site will be ranked. When two different websites offer equally helpful information but are different when it comes to the user experience, search engines will prefer the one that's easier to read on mobile. 

You can support your mobile-first strategy by prioritizing mobile-responsiveness. Use themes and website builders that allow you to create great content for different platforms easily. 

For content management platforms like WordPress, there are a number of brilliant tools and solutions to help you easily build a responsive site. 

Check your structured data.

Search engines do their best to understand your content. You can explicitly tell them what your content is about by adding markups. A simple example can be found in the content of a food blog. You can add special markups that tell search engines things like the cooking time, ingredient list, whether it’s vegan, meat-based and a host of other details. 

A search engine can pull details about your content and choose to showcase them in a "gallery" style result or by featuring specific content in the search results page itself. 

Some websites may have configurations where the content and markup is different on mobile and desktop sites.

Here are some things to correct or check:

  • Enter your mobile and desktop URLs into a structured data testing tool to see if the outputs are the same, i.e., if you're using the same markups.

  • Add the same markups to both the mobile and desktop versions of your site.

  • Remove unnecessary markups. Avoid extra schema markups for content that's obvious to understand.

Markups help you add meaning to content and they can also signal important information that gives you higher rankings. They are one of the main things Google wants to see on your site.  With a mobile-first strategy, it's important to prioritize your mobile content structure and to have your desktop site reflect the same information. 

Make content accessible to search engines.

Your mobile site content may not be visible to Google's search crawler. It's vital to double-check that your mobile content is accessible in a few different ways:

  • Use a robots .txt testing tool to make sure that the mobile site is accessible to web crawlers.

  • Verify your ownership of your mobile site in Google's Search Console.

  • Use the same meta tags on your mobile and desktop sites, especially tags like "noindex" and "nofollow." Any missing or wrongly placed meta tags on your mobile site will impact the final ranking of your page

It takes a great deal of effort to build a great-looking mobile and desktop site. The last thing you want is for it to be invisible to search engines. Carrying out small steps like these will make sure that Google's searchlights will find and rank your site pages. 

Conclusion

We know that search engines like Google are constantly changing and updating their algorithms, which means that we need to be prepared to meet these changes with the best practices possible.

Also, changes in technology and user behavior form an irresistible movement that businesses need to roll with.

Today, you need to ramp up your marketing strategies by implementing mobile-first marketing. Follow the steps here to ensure that Google can find and index your website. And so it can ‘read’ your content and assess how well it meets users’ needs.

With some preparation, you're certain to grow with the changes the future brings. 

Co-Founder of WPForms, one of the largest WordPress contact form plugins in the market. I have been programming for over a decade and enjoy creating plugins that help people create powerful web designs without touching code.
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