So your website is mobile responsive and ready for anything Google’s mobile ranking algorithm can throw at it – but is its content mobile optimised?

If your content isn’t optimised for mobile, it could be adversely affecting both user experience (UX) and conversion rates, which, in turn, can have a negative impact on search rankings – so while you might have everything in hand as far as mobile algorithms go, you may still see a drop in your site’s search position.

What is ‘Mobilegeddon’?

Back in April 2015, Google rolled out a global algorithm update – quickly given the clunky title of ‘Mobilegeddon’ – that meant mobile optimisation would be used as a ranking factor for mobile searches, and the search giant has subsequently run a couple of updates to “increase the effect” of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.

In short, it meant that mobile responsive sites would rank higher than non-responsive sites on searches carried out on mobile devices.

And so the rush to make sites mobile responsive began, immeasurably improving the small screen experience for mobile internet users everywhere – but it seems development work is only part of the answer, and having bespoke, mobile-optimised content is what is required for a positive user experience and potentially greater conversion rates.

If you’ve not yet considered mobile content, here’s how to make a big impression on the small screen…

Re-assess how users view your content

Reading content on a mobile device is completely different to reading content on a desktop – whereas desktop viewers primarily look at the upper left corner of a web page, known as the ‘golden triangle’, and then read in what is known as an ‘F-shaped’ pattern (see below i.), mobile screens don’t have enough room for horizontal sweeps and vertical movement and so the eyes are trained mainly on the centre of the screen (see below ii.)

f-shaped reading pattern heat map
i. Jakob Nielsen’s research on the ‘golden triangle’ viewing pattern highlighted the prevalence of an ‘F-shaped’ reading pattern when reading web content.
heat map of mobile website viewing area
ii. An eye-tracking study from Briggsby found mobile-users view web content primarily on the centre of the screen, with 86% of their attention on the upper two-thirds.

In addition, a US National Institute of Health study found that internet users’ eyes are drawn more to images than text, meaning that the placement of images and text is crucial if you want your content to actually stand out.

So when optimising your content for mobile, it may be wise to cut down on images that take up valuable screen space and can detract from your written copy, and make sure any written content is placed in the upper two-thirds of each web page before it is scrolled.

Consider the usability of the content

Although tone of voice is critical to both engage readers and ensure your content reinforces your brand identity, there’s a case to suggest that simple usability is much more important for mobile users.

This means mobile copy needs to be shorter and snappier than desktop copy, not only because big blocks of text look unsightly and unreadable on smaller screens, but also because the attention span of readers is dropping – a Microsoft study found the human attention span dropped from 12 seconds in 2000, to just eight seconds in 2015.

So when writing copy for mobile, it’s vital to keep it concise and get rid of any unnecessary words, phrases, and sentences, and also edit out any points that may not be completely relevant.

Also try to keep paragraphs short as possible, even to the point where each sentence becomes a new paragraph – while a three or four sentence paragraph looks fine on a desktop, it quickly becomes a bland wall of text on mobile.

Paragraphs also help give the content a consistent rhythm, and so short, staccato paragraphs can actually help with the flow of the article as readers are quickly jumping from one point to the next, meaning their interest is constantly being piqued.

That’s not to say you should write less though – there is no magic number when it comes to word counts – just maximise the impact of your content by stripping out anything that’s not completely necessary, and coupling a strong, consistent tone with clear calls-to-action.

Ask yourself what the user wants

It’s important your mobile content considers context alongside usability – while it’s vital the content is easy to consume, it’s critical to understand what the user wants when browsing on mobile.

A great example of this is the difference between the Trainline desktop and mobile offerings – while the desktop homepage (i) features content to highlight the savings that can be made with advanced bookings, the mobile (ii) journey assumes users are more likely to want tickets in real-time and so strips back to focus on solely on bookings for current journeys.

screenshot of trainline desktop homepage
i. Trainline desktop homepage
screenshot of trainline mobile homepage
ii. Trainline mobile homepage

How to optimise content for mobile

Although a responsive design is vital to ensure your site both complies with Google’s mobile algorithm and offers a good user experience, if you want it to offer an optimal user experience, and potentially increase conversion rates, then you need to ensure your content is also optimised.

And that doesn’t mean writing less, it means writing better – in cutting out any superfluous copy and getting right to the point, you’ll be improving your content no matter what platform it’s viewed on.


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