Percent of Website Mobile Traffic Affects Desktop SEO

Cell phone searchMatt Cutts, Google’s communicator to the SEO world, has forever touted “user experience” as a primary factor in search engine placement. Matt explained at SMX Advanced (Seattle, June 2013) that a site’s strategy for dealing with mobile traffic — or not dealing with it — may result in a penalty on Google placement. The reason: poor user experience. The subject was again brought up at the PubCon Conference in Las Vegas (September 2013). Optimizing for mobile was the loudest message to the industry at that conference

Here are some examples Matt gave of site tactics that are being penalized, resulting in a drop in placement. Please note that when placement drops, it drops on all devices, including desktops, laptops, and mobile phones:

  • Redirects. Some sites optimize just the home page for mobile and then redirect the other pages that come up on search results to the home page. Don’t use this strategy!
  • Poor user design for mobile devices. Your mobile site needs to have less clutter: fewer and small images, less navigation, less text, and pretty much less of everything — on every mobile page — and still provide the information needed to a mobile user. The process of making your site mobile friendly is called “Responsive Design.” Definitely get with a developer to implement responsive design.
  • Sites that are too slow to load. All page load times on the site are included in the search engine algorithms, not just the home page. While some sites load slowly due to large or high-resolution images, lack of caching (storing images or other elements so they do not need to download every time you visit the same page), and other items that can be quite easily fixed technically, other platforms were built without taking load time into consideration. Poorly built platforms include those that generate numerous hits on the database for every page, take a long time for messages and data to go to and from the database, or other hard-to-fix technical issues. These issues may mean you’re on the wrong platform. So sorry if this is you. It will be expensive to change.
  • Infinite Loops. When Google’s mobile bot crawls the site, it may be redirected to the feature site, then directed back to the mobile site. This creates an infinite loop. Your webmaster should be able to check this and make sure it isn’t occurring.

At the PubCon Conference, it was also announced that the algorithm which determines if there is a mobile penalty will “kick in” when a site receives more than 20% of its traffic from mobile sources. For this reason, Top Of The List is now tracking mobile usage on search placement reports that we send to clients.

But tracking your percent of mobile visits is just a measurement tool. Far more important is the big red flag that if you are not doing the right things with regard to mobile, now is the time to fix the situation — before your traffic tops the 20% mark for mobile and suddenly your placement plunges.

According to UK firm Coda Research Consultancy, mobile traffic is expected to rise 40 fold over the next 5 years. By 2015, they predict mobile usage in the U.S. will increase at a 117 percent compound annual growth rate. So the question is not “if” my traffic reaches 20%, but “when.” If you value your web traffic, be one of the smart ones and invest in mobile today!

About the Author

Beverly Mapes, Founder, President

Beverly Mapes

Founder & President, Top Of The List

Bev founded Top Of The List in 2006 and has over 25 years of experience working with technology. In her free time, she competes in dog agility competitions with her Golden Retrievers, Cosmo, and Finn.