November 11, 2016

Mobile web browsing has overtaken desktop - what does this mean for SEO?

Published: 11 November 2016 


It was recently announced that devices such as smartphones and tablets overtook desktop for web browsing for the first time.

Since 2009, mobile web browsing has been steadily increasing. In October 2016, global mobile and tablet browsing accounted for 51.3%, while desktop browsing was 48.7%, according to StatCounter. This follows the recent trend of PC sales declining, with a saturation of smartphones. In fact, 80% of internet users own a smartphone.

So does this mean anything for your SEO strategy?

Well, it means you definitely have to ensure your website has a mobile friendly version. No one wants to be on their mobile trying to navigate through the desktop version of your website. In fact, your search engine ranking could also depend on whether or not you have a mobile website. Earlier this year, Google updated its algorithm to penalise users who do not have mobile friendly websites. Essentially, you could be doing all your SEO right, but not appear on the coveted page one because you don’t have a mobile website.


If you’re thinking about how mobile user friendly your website is, you can check out Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, or read Google’s mobile guidelines. There are a few other tools also worth looking at, including:

There are a few aspects that desktop web developers don’t necessarily have to think about, that are only relevant for mobile websites, such as:

  • Can the website be viewed correctly? Does it have the right resolution?
  • How many images are on the website?
  • How far do viewers have to scroll before getting to content?
  • How much content does the website have?

If you’re optimising your mobile website correctly, then you’ll be considering these few things:

Core ranking

This is something that is relevant for both desktop and mobile SEO. That’s because it’s one of the most important aspects of SEO. Make sure that your mobile website is ranking, or else you really don’t need to focus on any other aspect of SEO.

Mobile Friendly Errors


Mobile errors will reduce your visibility in organic searches. Common mistakes include:

  • Unplayable content: some content does not play on mobile devices, such as video that requires Flash. Use HTML5 standard tags to include videos.
  • Faulty redirects: if you have a separate mobile URLs, you have to check if the redirections are going to a mobile website, and not desktop. You can use Google Search Console to check for any fault redirects.
  • Mobile-Only 404s: some 404 errors will only display on mobile devices, while showing the correct page on your desktop website. You can check the Crawl Errors report within Google Search Console. The Smartphone tab will show you a list of URLs within your website that have smartphone-only 404 errors.
  • Slow mobile pages: as with desktop websites, it’s important to make sure you have a fast loading speed, to avoid a high bounce rate and low conversions. No one wants to sit and stare at their mobile waiting for a website to load. They’re going to go to another website instead. You can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to check the response rate of your mobile website.
  • Small font size: avoid setting your font size too small and causing viewers to have to zoom in to read your content.  

It’s worthwhile checking your website for any mobile friendly errors, and fixing these. It could greatly improve your conversions or search engine results ranking.

Local SEO

Local SEO is particularly important for mobile websites. When people are away from their desktop, and say out shopping, they’re going to want to know what’s geographically near them. If someone searches “best clothes shop”, they’re going to see results nearest to them.


To make sure your business has strong local SEO, make sure your businesses details are consistent across your website, and both desktop and mobile versions. Include phone number, opening hours, business address, photos and try and gain honest, organic reviews. Ensure that these details are current - you don’t want customers calling your old number or visiting your old store.

Just remember that mobile websites aren’t the be all and end all. Your desktop website is still the most important aspect. When you break down the StatCounter statistics by geographic location, you find 55.1% of people in Australia still browse the internet on a desktop computer. The percentage of mobile browsing is not growing because desktop publishing is declining. In fact, the growth of mobile browsing can be attributed to the fact more people are using both devices. Majority of people are multi-platform users. It is therefore important to still focus on your desktop website, as well as make sure you have a fully optimised and user friendly mobile version.    

Ben Maden

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