Technical SEO Best Practice – Page Two
It’s official; we now spend more time browsing the internet on our mobiles than our laptops. But are you optimizing your site to catch all the online traffic that comes from phones and tablets? Is your site successfully adapting to different screen sizes and user types?
If you can’t give a big “yes” to those questions, then you need to take a closer look at your mobile SEO. Of course, as part of our work, the Croud SEO team will help to fully optimize your site for mobiles, but here are some considerations for making your site a smooth browsing experience on mobile devices.
MAIN TYPES OF MOBILE DESIGN
1. Responsive Design
This set-up enables you to serve up the same content to multiple devices all from the same domain, with pages stretching or condensing to fit the resolution of the browser window. Google prefers this design as URLs remain the same, although will support other types if you set them up properly.
- Simple to manage: one admin panel and all pages exist only once
- Consolidated authority: links are all to the same page
- Redirects are unnecessary
- No unique mobile content
- Not necessarily optimized for UX
2. Dynamic Serving
This system enables your website to display different sets of HTML and CSS depending on what type of device your visitor is using. This is achieved using the Vary HTTP header, which looks like this:
- Retain the same URL
- Consolidated authority: links are all to the same page
- Enables unique mobile content
- Hard to implement/maintain
- Expensive to develop
3. Separate URL
Some choose to create a second, parallel site for mobile users. This allows creation of custom content for mobile visitors. Most parallel mobile sites use an “m” subdomain, e.g: m.croud.com
- Easy to implement
- Can serve up unique mobile content
- Content duplication
- Splits authority of site
- Expensive to develop and maintain
- Redirects are common
Considerations For Mobile SEO
- How does your site look on a variety of screen sizes? Tools like Mobile Phone Emulator allow you to check.
- Consider the bounce rate. Annoying pop-ups and difficult to click buttons will risk mobile users abandoning your site.
- Google doesn’t like full screen overlays or app download interstitials and can reduce the rankings of sites or pages that use them.
- Avoid Flash. It may not be available to all users phones.
Google’s search algorithm places more emphasis on site speed than ever. Users today want to be able to load their pages quickly, especially when on mobile devices. Simply put, faster loading times means higher conversion rates and more revenue for your business, so it’s very important to get it right. The smallest technical changes to your site can lead to huge gains in terms of loading speed.
There are some excellent free-to-use tools available online to help identify site speed issues and solutions:
- Test My Site – Your first stop should be this tool from Google, which offers a mobile page loading speed test which can benchmark your loading speed against the industry average. The tool also estimates how many seconds of loading speed could be saved through ‘quick wins’ and what these would be.
- Page Speed Insights – this tool, again from Google, analyses your site across mobile and desktop devices and gives some insights into how you might better your speed.
- Pingdom – This tool is run by an independent company and offers more detailed insights than the Google Pagespeed tool. It offers a waterfall view of file requests, giving a clear visual on server side delays to page loading speed:
- Lighthouse – This open source automated tool is a Google Chrome Extension that helps you quickly audit a site. Not only do you get informative Page Speed reports but the SEO analysis feature analyzes how well optimized your site is. It’s a more lightweight tool than others but gives quality insights that involve more than just load speed (albeit this is the most important ranking factor).
- Web Page Test – This tool provides downloadable videos of your page loading speed in real time. This is useful for benchmarking against competitors or providing visual evidence of improvements. Web Page Test is the best all-rounder, some key features include:
- Page speeds tests for new and returning users
- An API which can include Lighthouse reports
- Downloadable videos available enabling side-by-side comparison of client//competitor loading speeds
Some simple things to look for in Web Page Test
- In the waterfall view, the narrower the margin the better
- Yellow lines are redirects, red lines are errors
- Scores lower than A or B on the top right should be investigated
- Test History tab allows you to benchmark against previous tests
Site Speed Considerations
- Image reduction and optimization can make a big difference. Consider reducing the number of images on a page and ensure images are compressed as much as possible without compromising image quality.
- Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is an open source project aiming to create a library which provides a subset of HTML5, allowing you to create pages that load instantaneously. There are numerous brands reporting significant revenue gains using AMP.
- Server Response Time. There are many factors that can affect response times which makes it harder to identify issues to improve compared with other aspects. They could include: slow application logic, slow database queries, CPU/memory starvation and pop ups.
- Progressive rendering is a set of techniques used to render content for display as quickly as possible, loading visible content asynchronously to content below the fold.
The robots.txt file is a text file that tells search engines which pages or directories of content on your site not to crawl. It’s important for SEO purposes that you communicate which pages you want Google to avoid.
If you have a lot of pages or complex internal linking structure, it will take a bot a long time to crawl them, which can have a negative effect on your rankings.
Examples of Robots.txt
Blocking all web crawlers from all content:
This robots.txt file would tell all web crawlers not to crawl any pages on www.example.com, including the homepage.
Allowing all web crawlers access to all content
This robots.txt file tells web crawlers to crawl all pages on www.example.com, including the homepage.
Specific Folder & User-Agent
Blocking a specific web crawler from a specific folder
This robots.txt file tells only Google’s crawler (user-agent name Googlebot) not to crawl any pages that contain the URL string: www.example.com/example-subfolder/.
- Your robots.txt file must be placed in your website’s top-level directory.
- The robots.txt file is publically available. This means anyone can see what pages you do or don’t want to be crawled, so bear this in mind.
- Each subdomain on a root domain uses separate robots.txt files. This means that both should have their own robots.txt files.
- It is best practice to indicate the location of sitemap associated with this domain at the bottom of the robots.txt file.
As discussed before in the URL Structure section, having a clear and coherent URL structure is vital for SEO.
One approach is to use subdomains on your website. You can create a subdomain under any root domain name that you own.
An example of a subdomain is:
Where the “blog” section is the subdomain and “example.com” is the root domain.
- It is often recommended that sites use subfolders as opposed to subdomains, as these consolidate link equity into one domain so that inbound links benefit the entire domain.
- Subdomains can be a good way to insert a keyword into your URL, so consider carefully the terms you choose.
- Subdomains can be used for language-specific sites e.g. en.example.com would be the English language site for example.com where the local top level domain isn’t available.
- Subdomains act like different sites and can have unique content. This can be convenient if you want to start a blog using a platform like WordPress without changing how the rest of your site is set up. However it is possible to use WordPress on a sub-domain but make it appear within your domain using a reverse proxy such as nginx.
International SEO is the process of helping search engines easily identify which countries your content is most relevant for and which languages are used on your site.
If you have visitors coming from many different countries, or speaking different languages, you’ll want to investigate how best to optimize your site structure and content for local, regional and language specific search.
There are a few different ways to structure your URL to target particular countries:
- ccTLD – This is where webmasters use a two-letter code to indicate the country they’re operating in, such as example.uk
- Subdomain – International content is placed on a subdomain e.g. uk.example.com
- Subdirectory – International content is placed in the subfolder of a root domain e.g. example.com/uk
- gTLD with language parameters – A top-level domain with a URL parameter for a specific language e.g. example.com/?lang=en-uk
- Different domain – International content is placed on an entirely different root domain e.g. exampleUK.com
International SEO Considerations
- Whichever URL structure you choose, Google recommends you organise your hierarchy similarly in each section of your site so that it’s intuitive and easily crawlable.
- Coding standards such as HREFLANG can be used to indicate where pages are localised and for which territory and language.
- Clearly labelling the language that your content has been created in using HTML tags (e.g. html lang) or server headers helps search engines rank those pages locally.
- Regional languages often use local characters such as the umlaut in German right through to full non-latin cyrillic characters used in Russia and asian sets in China and Japan. You can specify the character set used within the HTML using the correct unicode character set within the meta charset tag, e.g. UTF-8.
- Hosting your site on a local IP and linking to local content can help indicate you are serving a certain local market.
- Building links from local resources can help increase your authority in a certain locality.
The ability for bots to crawl your site.
Find out if you’ve inadvertently blocked the crawlers using a tool like Fetch as Google
The ability for bots to access information from your content.
To test whether or not you have site latency issues, try:
- Adding “async” attribute to HTML tag
- Always aim for the speediest site load time available to avoid crawlability issues.
- Testing is key, use Fetch as Google when you want to see how Google interprets your site.
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