SEO 101: Mobile Optimization for Ecommerce

These days, everyone uses their smartphones for way more than just making phone calls. From communication, to social media, to making contactless payments, and beyond. There are over 5.48 billion smartphone users worldwide, and over 60% of the global population uses a smartphone to access the internet.

And of course, that mobile usage extends to making purchases and ecommerce. It’s expected that mobile commerce will account for just under half of all ecommerce sales by the end of 2024. That’s a lot of tapping and swiping on a smartphone!

If mobile commerce is becoming so widespread, then naturally we start to think about the impact this will have on brand discovery and search. So, let’s take a quick look at mobile commerce, SEO, and how to optimize your store.

What is mobile commerce?

As it sounds, mobile commerce refers to any transaction that takes place using a mobile device. Typically when it’s discussed, many refer to it in terms of shopping online using your smartphone. However, it can also apply to using your mobile device as a payment method, e.g. Google Wallet, WeChat, and Apple Pay. 

Mobile commerce has continued to grow over the years as mobile smartphone sales have grown too. After all, more smartphones means more mobile internet access and therefore more mobile sales. It’s a convenient way for many to shop online, especially in areas where perhaps there is low desktop ownership. You can shop from anywhere, at any time. The rise in social commerce also attributes to the continued growth in mobile commerce, as many users will browse platforms like TikTok and Instagram from their smartphones. 

We’ve already touched on the expectations of mobile ecommerce sales, however that’s just an overall prediction. If we dig deeper and get more specific, there are plenty of cases where mobile commerce is preferred by a large margin. During Black Friday weekend 2022, mobile accounted for 75% of all sales processed by Shopify merchants. Customers take advantage of mobile commerce when they want to snap up a deal quickly.

Why is mobile important for my store’s SEO?

If more people are shopping with their smartphones, then they’re also more likely to be using search on mobile devices also. Mobile search offers much the same benefits as mobile commerce - convenience, speed, and easiness. In ecommerce, discovery and acquisition is a major part of the customer journey and experience, and search almost always plays a significant role. According to Google, more than 51% of users have discovered a new brand through search on their smartphone. And according to Statista, by the end of 2021 mobile search accounted for 63% of all organic searches - an increase from 59% at the beginning of that same year. 

Given the growth in the mobile device market and social commerce, it isn’t surprising to see the increasing importance of mobile to search engine optimization. Ecommerce in general is becoming more focused on omnichannel experiences, and search inevitably plays a role in this. Think about it - a user might see a product on TikTok, Google it quickly on their smartphone, and later complete a purchase on a laptop. By optimizing your site for mobile SEO, you’re keeping up with these growing trends and omnichannel expectations.

Mobile search is also something that’s been on Google’s mind for some time now. Back in 2016, they announced a switch to mobile-first indexing, with this process still ongoing. This means that the mobile version of a page is prioritized over the desktop version when it comes to ranking content. This is too reflected in the fact that mobile friendliness is a key ranking factor

How can I optimize my store’s mobile experience?

Mobile SEO often isn’t something at the forefront of most merchants’ minds. This is more than understandable, as most stores are built and maintained on a desktop. It makes sense then that this is the version of a store most merchants are focussed on. However, the mobile experience is just as important if not more so to ensure customers can actually find your brand. The better the mobile store, the better for ranking.

Top tip: Use Google’s mobile friendliness tool to check if your pages meet Google’s standards.

Optimize your mobile experience separately

It all starts with the overall mobile user experience. By this we don’t simply mean having a site that adapts to mobile, rather thinking about your mobile site as completely separate from your desktop site. What desktop users need versus mobile users is very different, so you can’t rely on mobile responsiveness alone to provide a good experience. 

If you’re a Shopify merchant then good news - all themes in the Shopify theme store are mobile adaptive. However, that just gives you a great starting point. Start to think about what matters to a customer when browsing on mobile - ease of use, accessibility, clarity, and speed. Everything you develop as part of the mobile experience should focus on these principles. 

Let’s say for example you want to improve ease of use for site navigation. You can achieve this by rethinking how your primary navigation is organized on mobile devices that will make it faster and easier for users. Let’s take a look at Nugget’s navigation on Desktop and Mobile as an example.

Nugget - Desktop navigation menu

Nugget’s primary navigation on desktop is succinct, with subcategories displayed when you hover over a main category. When it comes to desktop navigation, too many options means the menu becomes cluttered and unclear. They prioritize what’s important for desktop users, while still making it easy to navigate.

Now let’s take a look at their mobile menu:

Nugget - Mobile homepage

Nugget - Mobile menu example

On mobile, Nugget’s menu is hidden in an expandable or hamburger menu that the user can tap on. This keeps the homepage clean, while giving users an easily understood cue for where to find the menu. When expanded, the menu displays more options than on desktop. These options reflect the pages their customers will want access to most. As opposed to desktop, on mobile the addition of more options makes the mobile site easier to navigate. At the same time, this also improves accessibility, clarity, and makes it faster to navigate the mobile site. 

The two ways the navigation is presented reflects the needs of desktop versus mobile users. It has been developed separately, to ensure any user gets the experience they need to have a positive customer experience. This positively impacts SEO, and you’re making your store easier to navigate and understand. The better the user experience is, the better it will be for your store’s ranking. 

Find ways to improve page speed on mobile

Speed is a killer for SEO, especially in ecommerce when every page requires multiple elements. This is even more true for mobile - just 1 second of delay can impact conversions by up to 20%. On the other hand, a mere 0.1 second of improvement can result in 8.4% increase in conversions. 

Finding ways to speed up your mobile experience doesn’t have to be difficult either. You can use tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights to measure and benchmark your site, as well as learn what improvements you should make to boost speed. There are also some general speed optimizations you can make across your store that will make an immediate impact on speed. 

A big speed saver on mobile is reducing the use of unnecessary assets on your pages for example animations and video. These look great, especially on desktop, but if they slow down the page then it might not matter if the user leaves due to loading times. Look at if these assets can be optimized, or even removed and replaced with static images which retain a similar effect. Images in general are almost always an easy win for speed - reducing the file size will make a difference especially on mobile devices. Other optimizations such as minifying code, cleaning up HTML, and browser caching are good practice for both desktop and mobile. 

Avoid using pop-ups on mobile

Pop-ups are annoying at the best of times, never mind when you’re using a mobile device. Google has guidelines about using pop-ups or interstitials responsibly on mobile, i.e. what’s considered intrusive. Pop-ups are pretty common in ecommerce and mostly harmless too. You’ve likely seen or used one to promote your email subscriber list, or offer a discount code to a new site visitor. Or you may see them used to present the user with information about things like shipping deadlines during the holiday season. 

On desktop, this sort of pop-up is easy for a user to ignore, though they should still be used sparingly and not right away. On mobile, this is even more true. The reason why is simply that it’s blocking the content the user wants to access. They clicked on a link on Google that should be useful to their query. To be immediately greeted with a pop-up promoting something else feels intrusive. If you have pop-ups on your desktop site, consider removing these for your mobile site. This will ensure users can immediately access the content they want, and it will help your store’s mobile SEO.

There are exceptions to this, however. If you sell a product which requires age verification, for example, this is of course reasonable and expected by both users and search engines. Equally if the page requires a login and isn’t indexable, for instance a password protected landing page that isn’t yet live. 

SEO in many ways is about adapting to what users need from their online experiences. As more move to using search on mobile, the most well optimized sites will be those that prioritize the mobile experience. Doing so will mean your store ranks higher, more customers will discover your store, and you’ll be able to take advantage of the rise in mobile commerce and omnichannel.