Mobile SEO is a highly debated topic with many disputing opinions and best practice recommendations. This is a result of the frequent and ongoing changes concerning the mobile technology industry’s software and hardware development.
One fact that cannot be disputed is the importance of mobile SEO. According to Google Mobile Ads Blog “74% of smartphone shoppers make a purchase as a result of using their smartphones to help with shopping, and 88% of those who look for local information on their smartphones take action within a day.”
Notice the use of “smartphone” in the quote above. Smartphones have revolutionized the way that mobile users surf the Web. Smartphones are also the root of most confusion surrounding mobile SEO. This post will detail at a high level the differences between mobile SEO for targeting traditional mobile phones versus targeting smartphones. We will also provide best practices for each scenario to arm you with actionable items you can benefit from today.
To ensure the proper execution of your mobile SEO campaign contact OPM today!
What’s the difference between a traditional mobile phone and a smartphone?
• Traditional mobile phones are equipped with browsers that are unable to render normal desktop webpages. These browsers will only render cHTML (iMode), WML, WAP and similar.
• Smartphones will render normal desktop pages with very few limitations. This category includes a wide diversity of devices including Windows Phone 7 and above, Blackberry phones, Android phones and iPhones. Tablets and Web-enabled eBook readers also fall into this category. The limitations differ per device. Not all smartphone mobile browsers support HTML 5, and not all support Flash.
How do I know which to target? Traditional mobile phones? Smartphones? Both?
If you’ve learned through market research, demographic or otherwise (Quantcast is a proven demographics measurement tool), that a significant number of your customers use traditional mobile phones, then a dedicated mobile site for these visitors may be warranted. It’s hard to build a strong case for targeting these users otherwise.
Your smartphone and tablet users can be identified in Google Analytics (Audience – Mobile – Devices). We recommend that any site currently being built or in the planning process to be optimized for a good user experience on these devices.
Does keyword research differ for mobile SEO?
Yes, and no. If you’re going to have a dedicated mobile site then the answer is yes. On average, mobile search queries are 25% shorter than desktop searches. Your content and backlink campaigns will need to be built according to this metric.
How do I find mobile SEO search queries and volume?
Fortunately, Google has provided a filter for these searches in the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. Click the “+” next to “advanced options and filters” for this functionality. The drop-down box next to “show ideas and statistics for” will let you select between traditional mobile devices (mobile WAP devices), smartphones (mobile devices with full Internet browsers) and all mobile devices. The search volume for WAP devices may help in your decision on whether to target traditional mobile devices if that market research is not available.
Mobile SEO Best Practices for Traditional Mobile Devices:
• Avoid hosted mobile solutions, which limits your domain customization and indexation specifications.
• Avoid building your mobile site on a subdomain (m.example.com, wap.example.com). We recommend building a dedicated mobile site as a subfolder to pass the full authority and trust of the root domain (example.com/mobile). Redirect all popular uses of mobile site URLs to this subfolder. This includes purchasing the .mobi domain and permanently redirecting it to the specified subfolder. This will help protect your brand along with benefiting your mobile SEO.
• Focus content on keywords derived from the mobile SEO keyword research.
• Write unique page titles and meta descriptions for all mobile pages using mobile SEO target keywords.
• Do not block your mobile site using the robots.txt or otherwise.
• Duplicate content should be addressed with canonical URLs.
• Create a mobile sitemap(s).
Mobile SEO Best Practices for Smartphone Devices:
All of the below suggestions are applicable to smartphones. We do recommend creating a custom CSS stylesheet that will allow your site to have ONE version that renders and does not affect usability for desktop and mobile visitors. This site should take into consideration your keyword research for BOTH desktop and mobile devices. If you choose to build a dedicated mobile site for smartphone visitors follow the recommendations for traditional mobile devices as well as the recommendations below:
• Develop mobile site in HTML 5.
• Link to mobile site from desktop version and vice versa.
• Validate site code in W3C’s Mobile OK Validator.
• Avoid use of “hover” elements and drop-down boxes without a text equivalent.
• Redirect mobile users from www.example.com to www.example.com/mobile-site based on the browser’s user agent. Ensure that the mobile version contains the canonical URL to the main site. Googlebot and Googlebot-Mobile will not penalize this redirect as long as it is EXACTLY what the user sees too. Otherwise, this would be cloaking.
• Monitor your page-load-speed times for excellent site performance.
• Track your mobile site’s effectiveness using Tel Link and a unique number for tracking. Any other call tracking solution would be applicable here as well.
Wait, no mention of mobile apps?
Simply put, a mobile app does not have the SEO value a mobile website can have. It won’t return in searches not focused on app-specific keywords, and all link value for the app will only benefit the app store. Focus on developing a compelling mobile website THEN worry about whether there’s anything to be gained by developing a mobile app.
Mobile SEO will continue to be a hot topic due to the meteoric rise of searches from mobile devices. Market research has proven that these users are engaged with brand content and make purchases and purchasing decisions on mobile devices. Contact OPM today to learn how we can get your brand in front of these engaged buyers.