When performing an audit for mobile SEO, one needs to focus more on specific elements of technical implementation rather than an array of general observations we'd produce in a wider on-site audit. Below you will find some information that will help you to produce a great mobile SEO audit.

1. Check Over Responsive Elements

If your site handles mobile browsing via responsive design then you need to ensure that the CSS elements used provide users with the correct content based on the width of the device being used. Using online tools such as ScreenQueri.es can help you to quickly see how your site will look to the visitor.

For User Experience, it's a good practice that content is only displayed when it needs to be. For example, you may wish to include a hyperlink to call a phone number for mobile users but replace that with a link to the contact page for desktop users. Here is an example of the HTML code used for this:

<a href="tel:+440123456789">Call us!</a>

Other examples include hiding long-form content and replacing it with summarized content for mobile devices. However, be careful not to remove too much content, as Google recently announced it's latest Mobile-first Indexing updates, which means that Google will now only take your mobile version into consideration when ranking your pages.

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2. Indexation With Robots.txt

For mobile SEO you need to ensure that you direct the specific Googlebot to where it needs to go. The robots.txt file is placed in the root folder of the (sub)domain (e.g. domain.com/robots.txt) and within it, you can specify what crawlers need to include or exclude from their search index. If you need to refresh the basics about robots.txt, you can do so in this post.

Each search engine has its own specific robots crawler, most of which are listed by robotstxt.org. Google has a few that are categorized by such things as video and images as well as mobile, which you can find within this exhaustive list. You need to ensure that, when setting up a mobile site with a different URL set than the desktop version, this is set correctly to include and exclude specific files and folders within their search index.

robotstxt.org

3. Redirects for Dynamic Serving Sites

This is the process where all devices access one URL but, behaving differently to responsive design, different content output is based on the device. This is great if you want to serve completely different HTML and can be targeted by type of device. This can be done by implementing user-agent based redirects to serve content to mobile users as well as Googlebot. The SEO implication here would be that the desktop version of the page would be ranked and with that so will its content.

If you're thinking of providing significantly different content on the mobile version of a page than that of its desktop equivalent, then a suggestion here would be to create two separate pages and ensure the correct redirects are provided based on a user visiting URL X (desktop) or URL Y (mobile). Here, URL X should redirect to URL Y if they're browsing on a mobile (and vice versa).

4. Canonicalisation For Separate Mobile Sites

Canonicalisation is the most important tag to use for sites where the mobile version serves at a different URL. In practice, a canonical tag deals with duplicate content by defining the "preferred URL" to index within SERPs. It is important to note that canonicalisation is important when more than one URL retrieves extremely similar content, so with mobile SEO it is vital that canonical tags are included when implementing an independent mobile site.

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The canonical URL should always point to the desktop version of that page. Not only does this support the desktop version more as it is generally used as the "primary" site when compared to the mobile site, but it also automatically handles any duplicate content issues when links point to the mobile URL. From an SEO perspective, this resolves any potential lost or incorrect rankings for your site.

5. Mobile XML Sitemap Submission

XML Sitemaps are a great way to inform search engines about the indexable content on your site. You should already have an XML Sitemap of some sort submitted to Google Search Console, and you may have even produced other Sitemaps for images and videos.

XML Sitemaps now support mobile. This is generally best used in conjunction with an independent mobile site to ensure that the different URL set is submitted in full but can still be used for dynamic serving and responsive sites (although this is usually handled with the desktop XML Sitemap). Here is a sample of a mobile XML Sitemap from Google:

<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9″
xmlns:mobile=" http:="" www.google.com="" schemas="" sitemap-mobile="" 1.0″="">
<url>
<loc>http://mobile.example.com/article100.html</loc>
<mobile:mobile>
</mobile:mobile></url>
</urlset>

6. Mobile SEO Audit Tools

There are quite a few tools available out there that will help your general SEO auditing but some that will also cover, or specifically deal with, mobile considerations. Here are a few to make sure you have in your bookmarks:

WooRank

Of course, you can see mobile-based results within WooRank's own Website Reviewer and check how your website looks in different devices or how fast it is in mobile. Although this tool is mainly based on usability, you can get some meaningful insights:

Mobile SEO WooRank audit

WooRank Mobile Audit for an example website

Google Search Console

Using the Mobile Usability section in Google search console you can quickly identify any issues that could be causing your users frustration, including areas of content that are wider than the screen, or clickable elements that are too close together.

PageSpeed Insights

Site speed is a huge factor in both mobile rankings and UX so make sure you check the load speeds out with the Pagespeed Insights tool – which includes a tab that covers page speed for mobile specifically:

Google Page Speed for Mobile SEO audit

Screenshot Google Page Speed Insights for Mobile

Screaming Frog

Screaming Frog's SEO Spider offers a User Agent Configuration where you can select Googlebot mobile from a dropdown menu:

Screaming Frog Mobile SEO audit

Screenshot from Screaming Frog

Of course there is always more detail to go into but as with anything onsite, there's always something to improve no matter how many times you audit a website. The important thing is that you start doing it. Good luck!

Alex Moss is director at FireCask. He has been working in online marketing for nearly 10 years and has worked with many international brands. Alex is also the cofounder of Peadig, a WordPress theme framework powered by Bootstrap.