Mobile SEO: How to adapt your strategy for mobile searches & users’ behaviour.

In recent years, mobile searches have dramatically increased, and Google have updated their ranking algorithm to respond to this rising search & mobile SEO trend, now rolling out mobile-first indexing and recommending a switch to responsive.

Webmaster prepared – in most cases – for the expected Mobilgeddon algorithm update on April 21st 21015- for which having a responsive and optimised for mobile browsing site is the first crucial step.


In June 2015, Eileen Naughton, Google UK-Ireland’s MD and VP of sales, announced that mobile searches surpassed searches made from desktop computers in the UK, over half of total UK searches and views of YouTube videos are now made by mobile users. Only a few months later, in October, Google’s search guru Amit Singhal confirmed that more than half of total searches were indeed made from mobile devices.

With most searches now being made from mobile devices, the pressure for businesses to increase their visibility on mobile SERPs is increasing and will become crucial following mobile first. Google reported that 77% of mobile searches lead to subsequent actions with most mobile conversions being made within 1 hour of the search being executed. As a result, it has become more essential than ever for brands and agencies to ensure their search marketing strategies are designed to account for and reflect this trend.  

Due to the differences in devices – from size and speed to context in which they are used, users’ behaviours can be fundamentally different to those using a desktop. E.g. mobile users are often used on the go, multi-tasking or in a social environment meaning that:

  • attention span reduces,
  • ease of navigability decreases
  • importance of pertinent and adapted results such as “call now” buttons increases.

Google have been continuously making changes to mobile SERPs, in order to repsond to shifts in users’ behaviours by providing them with quicker answers and minimising their need to click through to sites. The ways in which users behave on mobile devices are changing. Consequently, marketers have had to face new challenges in order to adapt their search marketing strategies to the rising importance of mobile SEO and the recent shifts in user behaviours when navigating Google’s SERPs from mobile devices.

Are CTRs from SERPs on mobile devices truly different from the ones on desktops?

An interesting study carried out by Mediative explicitly shows differences in behaviours by heat mapping Google’s results pages for desktop computers vs. mobile phones. Their findings revealed:

  • The organic listing ranking #1 on mobile devices still has the higher CTR, however, it takes 87% more time for users to see it compared to desktop devices.
  • Less than ⅔ of users scrolled down, with over 92% clicking a result above the 4th organic listing. The study also revealed that results below the 4th organic listing on mobile devices captured a mere 7.4% of clicks, compared to 16% on desktop devices. Hence with ads now taking up up to 4th top results, PPC for mobile seem more relevant than ever for competitive terms.
  • The #1 ranking paid ad is viewed on average after 0.36 seconds, yet isn’t clicked before 5.95 seconds, during which time users also view other listings, scrolling through the SERPs, which would explain the more “organic” look of ads compared to last year. 
  • Over 19% of clicks are generated from the top 2 paid ads on mobile devices, compared with 14.5% from desktop devices, once again reinforcing the importance of being featured above the fold on mobile devices.
  • The average CTR to the top organic listing is 34.1% when 1 paid ad is displayed, and decreases to 30.4% when 3 ads are displayed.


How to adapt for mobile SEO?

  • Aim for the top 4 organic listings

It’s more important than ever to organically rank #4 or above for mobile SEO.

  • Think mobile

Having a strong mobile paid strategy and site optimised for mobile browsing is crucial. Ensure you have content targeted to and optimised for mobile users, using tools made available such as Schema to help increase your CTR.

  • Take advantage of Adwords for mobile

Paid campaigns are a bigger opportunity to drive traffic to your site for mobile search than for desktop. Ensure you fully take advantage of ad extensions and other Adwords features to increase your visibility further.

  • Review paid & organic search budgets

With the display of 4 paid ads or more becoming increasingly common on mobile SERPs and the CTR to the top organic listing consequently decreasing, assess your potential ROI from mobile traffic and review your organic vs paid budgets accordingly.

  • Account for all features affecting CTRs

Don’t forget to consider knowledge graphs and maps, distracting users away from organic rankings. These can decrease CTR from organic listings when they feature more frequently than they do on desktop devices.

  • Account for technicalities affecting data

When reviewing mobile clicks, ensure you pay particular attention to the quality of your traffic. Invalid or ‘accidental’ clicks are likely to be higher than from desktop devices due to reduced usability of the device.

  • Think Voice Search

Siri, OK Google, more and more users are now using voice search, asking longer tailed questions and expecting targeted, local results. Adapt you content strategy consequently – answer questions, optimise for local search, think longer tailed queries.


How can you tailor your search marketing strategies to these differences in search behaviours?

As it’s clear – and you will have most likely noticed yourself – there are major differences between mobile searches and desktop searches, whether in terms of intent, expectaions and behaviours. So it’s crucial for any marketer to ensure their search strategy considers and reflects these changes to maximise their ROI from SEO efforts.

What to take into account for mobile SEO?

Due to smaller screens, the way in which Google SERPs are displayed varies:

Organic results:

  • Results above the fold are often solely paid as the number of visible listings above the fold is cut in half
  • The first organic listing can now be pushed down to position 5, meaning it’s more important than ever to be among the top 4 organic listings
  • Maps can take up the entire screen
  • Specifically target shorter keyphrases for typed queries mobile results as users are often on the go and less likely to type in long queries – users are also more likely to use “keywords” reverting to “old search habits”. 
  • Go long tailed and target questions to reflect voice searches as more users are on the go and will use voice search for convenience.
  • Ensure you add schemas where necessary as users are often out and about looking for locations, contact information, booking forms etc

How to adapt your SEO strategy?


Paid Results:

  • With up to 4 ads now being listed above organic results, this represents a strong opportunity for your listing to benefit from a higher CTR.
  • Competition nevertheless remains very strong as CTR from ads at the bottom of the pages have smaller CTR than on desktops

How to adapt your mobile paid strategy?

  • Ensure you have ads optimised for mobile devices
  • Create mobile only campaigns
  • Ensure all ad extensions are optimised for mobile devices
  • Ensure landing pages are optimised for mobile browsing, and conversion paths are short and concise – the shorter the forms or steps to checkout, the better


Technical Mobile SEO

What mobile configuration to use for mobile sites?

Google currently recognises 3 mobile configurations:

  • responsive sites,
  • dynamic sites and
  • Desktop only sites/ separate URLs (m.)

Google recommends that responsive web design be used, which unlike the two other options means that both the URLs and HTML remain the same across mobile and desktop versions.

Responsive sites uses CSS media queries allowing desktop pages to be viewed in response to the size of the device screen by adjusting the content and making the design responsive to the size of the screen.

Indeed, responsive sites are the preferred option in Google’s eyes as allow for

  • A single URL to be served making it better for users and allowing shared content to be accessed more easily.
  • Only one crawl to be needed, hence helping optimising your crawl budget and indexation.
  • Redirect to be avoided from mobile-desktop versions hence helping reduce your risk for 404s and redirect chains.

What other Technical Aspect is Key  for Mobile?

Page Speed

Users will be even less patient when on mobile and more likely to click off if the page doesn’t load rapidly. In order to make sure you reduce your page load time as much as possible on mobile, you will need to think about creating AMPs, getting rid of redirects, optimise/compress images and use browser caching.


Mobile SEO Key Takeaways

With the growing prominence of mobile searches, Google is providing webmaster with new tools and opportunities to improve your mobile search visibility. You need to take advantage of these by:

  • Adapting your SEO strategy to mobile devices, adapting keywords researches and content strategies
  • Adapting your paid search strategy to reflect differences in mobile CTRs from SERPs to ensure you capture as much traffic as you can
  • Ensuring your site is responsive
  • Using Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
  • Reducing you mobile page load time
  • If you have an app, optimising it for app stores and ensuring it supports app indexing


Mobile SEO has now become more important than ever in making sure you get the best ROI from search marketing. To find out how we can help you tailor and optimise your organic search and paid search strategies for mobile, simply get in touch.


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