How to harness higher page rankings on mobile sites

As we know, more consumers than ever before are using their mobile devices to book travel – Criteo's State of Mobile Commerce Q1 2015 study revealed that a third of global travel bookings are being made on mobile now – so we think you'll find the insights from a new study by Searchmetrics invaluable.

The research is focused on why some pages rank higher in mobile phone searches than on computers. Its findings uncover some useful tips to help travel marketers push their page rankings higher on Google for those using mobile devices.

For example, it's important to pay particular attention to the user experience of mobile visitors, and their technical requirements, while ensuring the underlying content on pages continues to be relevant and comprehensive, says the firm.

"More Google searches now take place on mobile devices than on computers in ten countries including the US and with its mobile friendly update, Google has made it clear that search results presented to mobile phone users should provide a good experience," explained Marcus Tober, chief technology officer and founder of Searchmetrics.

"Our first detailed study of mobile ranking factors offers insights into what is commonly found in high ranking Google search results on mobile phones and how this differs from desktop results."

To help pages rank higher, marketers must pay attention to mobile phones' smaller screen size and touch-based navigation. This is evidenced by the fact that one in five pages (22%) in the top 30 mobile search results use responsive design that automatically adjusts the format to suit a mobile, tablet or desktop. Many also use dedicated mobile sites, says Searchmetrics.

In higher ranking mobile pages, the average font size above the fold (visible area without scrolling) was found to be significantly larger than on high ranking desktop results too (although if you scroll down, the fonts on mobile phone pages are in fact smaller than on desktop pages).

Often the reason for this is that above-the-fold text includes clickable navigation links allowing visitors to click through to different parts of the site.

Additionally, high ranking mobile pages generally have fewer interactive elements such as menus and buttons, as well as images.

And 72% of the mobile pages that ranked highest contain at least one bulleted list, helping to structure the information. This is around a quarter more than the desktop search results. It should be noted that lists on mobile pages are usually much shorter, with fewer individual points.

Mobile page file sizes were on average around 25% smaller as well, allowing faster load times. Just 5% of mobile pages used flash design, which is often not supported by mobile devices. This compares with 14% of desktop pages.

But for both mobile and desktop searches, the key is relevant content. Both must cover topics comprehensively if they are to rank highly in Google searches.

The study found that a high percentage (above 70%) of words in high ranking pages across both desktop and mobile contain important "proof terms", which are strongly related to the search topic. Approximately half also include slightly more distant "relevant terms".

On desktop, the word count per page tended to be higher than mobile pages: 1,285 words against 867 words.

There are also significantly fewer internal links to related content on the same site on mobile sites – probably due to Google's advice, warning against placing links too close to each other on mobile pages.