For me, Google’s algorithm change favoring “mobile-friendly” sites on mobile searches was only the second-most interesting news coming out of the search giant last Tuesday. What really captured my attention was the announcement that Google had turned its Street View cameras on Loch Ness, the murky dwelling place of the fabled Scottish monster.
Why was I more drawn to a cryptozoological publicity stunt than the impending “mobilegeddon”?
Well, mainly because, despite my healthy full-grown skepticism, the sixth-grader in me can’t let go of the idea that, just maybe, something is out there. But secondary to that, Google’s algorithm change just isn’t that big of a deal. For content writers like me, it barely matters at all.
According to its official Webmaster Central Blog, Google’s idea of mobile-friendliness has everything to do with web design (no zooming or horizontal scrolling required, for example) and nothing to do with how content is written.
How your content is written—provided you follow good mobile design practices—will not cause Google to demote your site on mobile search results.
You Should Still Write Mobile-Friendly Content
To me, Google’s algorithm change is just another piece in a mounting pile of evidence that the online population is going mobile. People are just as likely to read your content on their 4-inch iPhones as they are on their 17-inch laptops. For content writers, this should be a big deal.
People are reading your content on small screens, on the go, and in a hurry. How do you keep their attention?
Mobile-Friendly Writing Tips
Just before Mobilegeddon struck, Neil Patel unveiled six pointers on writing for mobile in a post for the Content Marketing Institute. For content writers looking to grab and hold the attention of mobile readers, I highly recommend reading his post.
I agree on all six of Patel’s points, so I won’t attempt to provide my own list here. Just allow me to expand on a few:
Ditch the (Unnecessary) Images
This advice seems counterintuitive, since we’re often told that adding images is an important step in “optimizing” our content. But, as Patel points out, images can also distract from your written content, and when screen space is limited, it can be a major distraction.
Images can be illustrative, explanatory, and entertaining, so don’t get rid of them entirely. But, I think we can say that the era of gratuitous stock imagery is drawing to a close.
Tighten It Up
Your reader only has three minutes between when he pulls out his phone and when his bus arrives. Not only is his screen real estate limited, but so is his time. How are you going to make the most of it?
Patel says concise writing is essential, and I agree. In fact, I think concise writing is essential always, for mobile content, non-mobile content, printed content, whatever. Attention spans just aren’t that long and tolerances for wading through useless fluff just aren’t that high.
Patel says not to worry about writing less content, but, “Make your content as long or as short as it needs to be.”
I would add the corollary, “It probably needs to be shorter.” There will always be fat to trim.
Keep Your Paragraphs Short
Short paragraphs are nothing new. Newspapers have been using them for centuries because they know long blocks of uninterrupted text are a turnoff.
Somewhere along the way, some well-meaning school teachers got it in their heads that paragraphs need to have some sort of formal structure, with an introduction, a development, and a conclusion.
There is no good reason for this.
Unlike sentences, there are no hard and fast rules for paragraphs. Use them however you like to grab and hold your readers’ attention.
What It All Boils Down To
What it all boils down to is just good inbound practice. Always keep in mind who will be reading the content you write and adapt the content to their needs and preferences. If a substantial portion of your readers are reading on mobile devices (and Google’s algorithm change seems to indicate they are) then, to reach them, provide content that fits with their busy, distracted lifestyles and tiny handheld screens.