Mobile search is something that needs watching… Closely! Over 25% of all searches are currently done on a mobile device andthe current view is that by the time we reach 2015 half of all internet traffic will occur on a mobile device! Mobile computing is almost certainly here to stay and it is probably going to be the big thing for 2013 – here are some points to make sure that your website is ready and optimised.
First of all, I want to debunk a couple of myths about mobile search, in case you are still on the fence, here are some lies that people seem to be spreading:
- Mobile/ tablet/desktop users are all pretty much behaving the same way – this is certainly not true, studies have shown conclusively that peopleuse different devices for different purposes and so they use them in different ways.
- Search engines provide the same results for mobile/tablet/desktop searches– did you know that the Google bot that crawls your site for desktop use is different than the Google bot that crawls your site for mobile? Obviously for similar searches you may get similar results but for mobile search, there is a much more focus on location and mobile friendly sites.
For both of these reasons, you should almost certainly be giving special consideration towards a mobile strategy that can be integrated with the rest of your online activities.
So the first and most important thing to do is figure out how mobile users are actually interacting with your site, you can do this with little pain through Google Analytics by setting up a profile that only monitors users on a mobile device. As of writing this, the only way to separate Tablets and Phones is by filtering out by specific device, this however is also worth doing as it enables you to drill down even further to information.
Once your mobile profile is running then you’ll be able to see any disparities in which pages do better for mobile users and search than with desktop. Pay attention to who’s leaving your site as well as who’s staying on, there’s always got to be a reason.
Responsive vs Dynamic vs Mobile Site
There are 3 ways to approach optimising your site for mobileusage, it’s a one-time decision that is a lot of effort to change, so give it a lot of thought…
Mobile Site: This is a separate site to your main site that users are redirected to once they arrive. It is usually held on a separate subdomain such as m.example.com.
Mobile sites are really good if you see big differences in the way users interact your site on different devices. It is the only option where you have the ability to change everything about your site and so you’re able to really focus on what makes mobile users tick.
The problem with using a mobile site is that it is on a separate subdomain and so it needs separate optimisation. If people link to the mobile site, that link won’t have any effect on the main site and vice versa. You will also need to keep a heavy watch on duplicate content and make sure that all pages have canonicals pointing towards your main site.
Dynamic Site:This is where you show users on different devices, different versions of your website. It involves code within the site that determines whether your user is mobile or desktop and acts appropriately.
The benefits of this are similar to using a separate mobile site, it becomes particularly useful if you want to serve different things for certain devices (for example sending users to the Google store or iTunes).
This should however be done with extreme caution and only by someone who knows what they are doing. You may find this to be quite a costly design to put in place and very confusing to update. From a Search Engines bot’s perspective as well, it can be quite confusing to crawl – particularly if not coded correctly.
Responsive Site: Google have confirmed that this is the preferred way of delivering a mobile site. Essentially the content on the page adjusts in size depending on how big the screen is.
This is a great way of serving a mobile site simply because it is entirely universal, the text and images align no matter what device is using it and the code is relatively straight forward. It’s easy for bots to crawl and you don’t have to manage a separate URL.
The only drawback to this is that it doesn’t include changing what the physical content is depending on device. You are however able to lose content as the screen size gets smaller, which helps deal with low low attention span mobile users compared with desktop users with more time.
Usability, Usability, Usability
The most important thing for a mobile site is the usability. Bear in mind that your user may well be on 3G and so big images will cause problem with loading times. Mobile users tend to be more focused on finding an answer and they also have a much shorter attention span so figure out what purpose your site serves and hone it to do that more affectively. You can get a pretty decent picture how user-friendly your site is from your analytics and it may be wise to invest in some more advanced software to get a more complete picture.
With your mobile SEO campaign, try targeting shorter key phrases, longer phrases are more difficult to type out on a phone and so you should start to see increases in your traffic from shorter ones. A great tip I found is to target Google’s recommended keywords, these are utilised far more on mobiles than they are on desktop.
Responsive Mobile strategy
Responsive sites are the way forward, so if you possibly can, get hold of a responsive design. Then, as for your SEO campaign, target local shorter keywords, keep your information succinct and always think about your usability.