Do you have a mobile device? If you’re reading this article, owing to the SEO-i-ness of it, I’m guessing that you do. According to an International Telecommunications Union study, “Mobile-broadband subscriptions have climbed from 268 million in 2007 to 2.1 billion in 2013. This reflects an average annual growth rate of 40%, making mobile broadband the most dynamic ICT market.”
As an Internet business owner, it’s past time to have a mobile-ready website. If you don’t, you need to get moving! If you do, you’ll want to be sure that you’re doing things right.
Here are 5 important tips that can affect not only how mobile visitors engage with your site, but in tems of mobile SEO, how your mobile pages will now affect your overall search rankings. Here's the 4-1-1:
1. Tag pages properly for best mobile search positioning
On June 11, 2013, Google came out with a Webmaster Tools Blog post saying that sites with shoddy mobile construction will be ranking lower in Google mobile search. “This move highlights both the growing importance of smartphone users to Google and the difficulty Google is experiencing providing ideal search results to those users,” said Jon Maxson, senior director of SEO at iCrossing, New York in an interview with Mobile Marketer on June 18.
And that’s no doubt true. Webmasters with their own smart devices know the importance of being on the receiving end of a mobile experience. Don’t you hate it when you go to a site on the smallest device (a smartphone) and finding that you have to scroll all around to even see a page? I know I do. I’m not sure about you, but I click away. I may or may not visit the site when I get home to my big, old desktop monitor. You may have already lost me as a potential customer.
Many webmasters (at least the smartest ones) understand this and already have mobile solutions in place. However, some webmasters don’t realize that they’re going about it the wrong way, and as of now, Google is cracking down on this poor mobile website construction and on how we code our pages for mobile SEO. So, if you’re ranking high for a great keyword in mobile search, but you haven't yet considered your mobile SEO, this could mean a significant loss in visitors for you.
2. Use a responsive design
Google likes it better when you have one website that is meant to serve both desktop and mobile device users. They say that spiders prefer a single site with all pages coded appropriately and that allow search spiders to easily crawl it.
So, how do you make that happen?
I’m not getting into a coding tutorial here, but Google has a guide for you to get started in a Google Webmaster Central Blog post entitled, “Responsive Design – Harnessing the Power of Media Queries.” In that article, you’ll see that Google stipulates these three important guidelines:
- The page should render legibly in any screen resolution, meaning that visitors should see your site clearly, no matter what device they’re using to view it.
- One set of content should be marked up, as in you shouldn’t have 2 separate sets of duplicate content (one desktop and one mobile) without properly marking both of the pages for mobile SEO.
- There should be no horizontal scroll bar. No one should have to scroll right or left to see your pages.
Though dynamic or responsive design is the preferred method for being mobile ready, it is most definitely harder to set up and configure. That is, unless your site is built on WordPress as so many are today, and you’re using the plugin “JetPack by WordPress.” As long as your site is blog or a branding site, where you’re not making sales, JetPack provides a clean, crisp mobile version just by activating that option within the plugin settings.
That said, JetPack has been known to create issues with other plugins and I’m not sure it works with e-Commerce stores, so apply this at your own risk. I know that JetPack produces a very clean, clear mobile version of my own website, which is primarily a blog, and works very well. I have used other plugins for a mobile solution that didn’t provide the user experience I wanted my visitors to have. JetPack does.
3. If you already have an m. or .mobi site, be sure you’re coding tags properly
If you already have a separate mobile site, you may have paid a nice chunk of change to have it and I wouldn’t advise you to spend more changing to a responsive design. However, there are two very important things to remember regarding mobile SEO, if you have separate sites:
- On the desktop version of your site, you must use the rel=”alternate” tag pointing to the mobile URL. This will assist Google in finding your mobile content.
- On the mobile version of your site, the rel=”canonical” tag must be employed, pointing to the desktop URL. This will erase the duplicate content issue.
This is very important! Every page of both sites should be coded appropriately. You want Google and other search engines to know about your mobile site, but you don’t want them thinking it’s a mirror site chock full of dupe content.
4. Make sure your mobile version is working
Google Webmaster Tools will be very helpful in validating your markup. Check for crawl errors under the “Mobile” tab:
If you’re seeing issues, you need to figure out what’s causing them and get those fixed. Other issues include:
- Faulty redirects
- For static sites - mobile visitors being served a 404 page on the desktop version of your site, instead of being redirected to the appropriate mobile page on your mobile domain when they type in the desktop version of your domain in on a mobile device.
- Sending Mobile Googlebot to the wrong corresponding pages from desktop and/or mobile pages.
- Using videos that won’t play on mobile devices
5. Take Mobile Users Into Consideration when Performing Keyword Research
Don’t forget that when researching keywords, you want to specifically consider mobile SEO, too. Visitors may be using a Smartphone to get search results, and we all know that typing shorter words into a mobile phone is quicker and less frustrating when your fingers hit the wrong keys all the time, like mine do.
When using Google’s Keyword Tool, perform normal desktop keyword research, of course, but when you’re finished gathering the keywords you want to use for desktop visitors, consider keywords for your mobile visitors, too. Be sure to change the setting when researching mobile keywords here:
This is important stuff!
Remember, mobile is big and getting 40% bigger every year! Is that astounding? Actually, it’s pretty awesome, since it means that much of the world is now connected, but it also means that if you want to thrive in search and get the most free organic search traffic as you can, you must pay more attention to mobile SEO.
If you don’t have a mobile version of your site, get one. If you have a mobile site, make sure your site and the mobile SEO you've employed is working properly. Take these 5 bits of mobile SEO advice to heart and search, overall, should work better for you both now and into the future.
Pat Marcello is President and SEO Manager of MagnaSites.com, a full-service digital marketing company.