Mobile SEO: The Good, The Bad, and The New
Approximately 48% of the US population and 61% of the West European population have a handset with HTML browsing capabilities1. In India web internet usage has already overtaken desktop usage2. Such pieces of news prove once again that the field of IT is fast-paced and forever changing. However, even there the area of mobile SEO is still in its infancy and few people know where it will go next. It is important to take general steps in its direction to be in an advantageous position when the rules of the game become clear.
It should be noted that the very existence of mobile SEO is challenged by some3. According to them, thanks to the increased processing capabilities, fast internet connection and only slight distinctions of mobile SERPs from desktop SERPs, mobile SEO is in fact a continuation of your main SEO efforts in the form of mobile content creation. Although that is true to some extent, the efforts necessary to make a website mobile compatible should not be forgotten, especially if it is to fully utilize mobile functionality. We shall assume, however, that there exists a separate field of mobile SEO.
Mobile SEO (MSEO) does not differ from normal SEO in respect of keyword research. Naturally, Google Analytics is the first port of call to analyze your mobile traffic – keywords searched, time spent, end destination, conversion ratios, etc. Additionally, you should note the type of handset used – its screen size, processing capabilities and speed of connection, geographic location and demographic group if applicable. Try to identify which keywords bring you the most traffic, and using the Keyword tool and its “mobile devices” filter, you should be able to locate areas of improvement.
The main aim of mobile SEO should be to present information which is both relevant to and accessible from handsets. Google recommends three ways of doing that4 – through a responsive design, through a dynamic URL, and through a parallel “m.” sub-domain, with decreasing preference. Websites with a reliable CMS (Content Management System) and resources to spare should go for the first one as it allows for only one website to be indexed, greatly reducing the workload, and for the website to retain its PageRank in both mobile and desktop SERPs. A dynamic URL has similar advantages although you will have to maintain a parallel website at the same URL. A user detection system will redirect users accordingly. Finally, having a dedicated “m.” website would mean that you will have to start its optimization from scratch (for example, submitting a new sitemap) and repurpose all of the content for mobile use.
An established website can access history usage data over a long timeframe and can make more focused decisions. If you know the functionality limits of the user devices, you could incorporate specific features to make the website indispensable. For example, adding a real-time newsfeed on discounts, promotions and prices of items in local shops or the local weather forecast will be greatly appreciated by mobile users. Furthermore, do not forget that mobile phones can more easily call and text message, so incorporating that into the website structure can greatly increase conversion rates.
Finally, there are other mobile SEO specific strategies in order to improve the user experience. Developers should utilize XHTML as it is most widely accepted on mobile platforms. Furthermore, navigation on small touch screens can be quite bulky when the icons and bars are not properly spaced out. Mobile users are on the go so they often don’t use the search function. They prefer to use the navigation menu so optimizing that is vital for mobile SEO.