7 SEO Tips for Mobile-First Marketers

Google is now actively practicing mobile-first indexing. That means the search engine giant is actively showing preference to websites that mobile-optimize well across a wide variety of devices. Unfortunately, not every website was (or is) ready for this change; a long list of businesses still don’t mobile-optimize because they just don’t see it as being worthwhile. I believe that’s a mistake.

Wherever you are in your mobile optimization story, change is coming; you should start preparing and tweaking now. All signs point to mobile-first marketing becoming an official industry standard, especially with Google fully backing it and other engines like Bing close behind. Let’s chat a bit about how you can align your website for mobile-first indexing without suffering in the process.

Stop Automating Optimization

There are plugins for platforms like WordPress and Joomla that completely automate the process of creating a “mobile port.” Unfortunately, the results are often subpar at best, and in some cases, may be outright damaging to your rank or user experience rating. That’s because they rely on algorithms that don’t necessarily do the best job of arranging SEO-friendly content.

If you’re using a plugin now, or if you used one in the past, this is a great time to reassess your mobile port. Optimize manually this time (or hire a developer who can), whether it means fixing just a few issues or reworking the entire site. The boost in rankings and accessibility is well worth the cost.

Focus on Positive Experiences First

Even Google admits that user experience can (and must) come before a rules-only development environment. That’s why the search engine manually reviews a small subset of websites each month rather than allowing algorithms to manage the entire process. They, like most developers, really do want to encourage people to develop better websites for the people they serve.

What does that mean for you in a mobile-first indexing environment? Primarily, you should hold off on reworking your website if all you can currently provide is a sub-par, hastily-thrown-together mobile port that’s lacking in finesse. Once you do start working on a mobile-first presence, take every action only after asking yourself, “how does this better serve my audience?”

Use Separate URLs for Mobile Content

When Google says they show a strong preference for mobile-first indexing, they don’t just mean they want you to have mobile content available. They want you to have mobile content available on a specific mobile-optimized subdomain or suffix. Websites with mobile-specific URLs, such as or, may see a ranking boost just for using separate URLs.

Whichever approach you take is up to you, but here’s a sage tip on how to get it right. Don’t try to create different content for your mobile website; mobile versions should match desktop versions almost identically whenever possible. Creating a stripped-down version of your desktop site won’t help your rank and may even be perceived as taking shortcuts.

Turn to AMP for Mobile Pages

Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) technology is an open-source technology first drafted by Google in early 2016. At its heart, AMP is a library that makes creating speedy, highly efficient mobile content pages easier and more uniform than ever. It isn’t quite a web development technology; think of it more like an industry standard with guidelines to help you better serve your visitors.

AMP pages fall into three categories:

  • AMP JS


For the purposes of mobile content on websites, let’s focus on AMP HTML. Both regular HTML and AMP HTML use hundreds of the same phrases and commands to achieve similar outputs; the main difference is that AMP HTML is restricted in certain areas to cut down on code size and/or length. Less code = less bloat, and that means better load times.

Why use AMP? Google prefers it – there is evidence to show that AMP pages may rank better, especially in mobile-first indexing, than non-AMP pages. The fact that coding in AMP provides better efficiency is also worthwhile, as faster pages also tend to rank higher at the same time, too.

Want to learn AMP? If you know basic HTML/CSS, you’re already ahead of the game. In fact, the AMP project provides an easy-to-follow tutorial here.

Add Rel=Canonical and Rel=Alternate Tags

Google’s guidelines say that mobile and desktop versions should essentially be the same or nearly identical, at least when it comes to what visitors see. This includes text, images, video, products, and anything else relevant to your visitors’ needs. Unfortunately, following their advice results in syndication, which sometimes appears to crawlers like duplicate content.

To fix this, add rel=canonical and rel=alternate tags to your mobile and not-mobile pages. Google plans to give mobile websites preference, so it may be best to place your rel=canonical tag there and then use rel=alternate on the desktop version. Still, it matters more that you place the tags at all, so don’t spend too much time agonizing over which should go where.

Check Your Mobile Page Speed

If you’re already working with a fully-optimized mobile website, you’re a step ahead. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have anything to work on; in fact, most older mobile ports are bloated and suffer from long page loading times. That’s because older technologies just used responsive design to scale down desktop-optimized files, rather than making mobile-specific content available.

With Google also indicating page speed is about to become a significantly powerful ranking factor, you should run a page speed test on your mobile content. Anything that takes more than three or four seconds to load is too slow.

If you find a problem, go back to square one. Reassess your website, cut back on bloat where you can, and consider getting rid of known sources of bloat like Javascript elements. Crawlers don’t carry out javascript actions in most cases, so you won’t benefit from their presence if you choose to leave them in.

Troubleshooting After Creation

You did the work. You put in the time. You have excellent mobile-specific content available to visitors on a separate mobile-friendly URL. Yet you’re still experiencing high bounce rates and suffering in rank. What’s the problem?

Only audience research, analytics, and time can help you determine exactly what it is your visitors want and why you’re not currently fulfilling that role. In the meantime, try out Google’s Mobile-Friendly Web tool; it gives you the power to check your own website against a host of their most commonly reported concerns.

If the tool finds mobile usability issues, it will list them and give suggestions to help you fix the problem. To the right of the results is an in-page frame containing a full navigable render of your mobile content, showing you how your page appears to visitors when you load in. Just below the results, you’ll find helpful links to documentation and support forums in case you need help.

As always, I’m available for consultation if you need more guidance. Just send a message through the website or call.

SEO virtuoso, CEO @Sachs Marketing Group. Focused on being of service to business owners - helping to better position them in the eyes of their audiences.

By Eric Sachs

SEO virtuoso, CEO @Sachs Marketing Group. Focused on being of service to business owners - helping to better position them in the eyes of their audiences.

4 replies on “7 SEO Tips for Mobile-First Marketers”

Hey Eric
I would like to call you SEO tech expert. Thanks for sharing great references especially for javascript and separate URL. From now I will keep following you.

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