Taking Mobile SEO Pointers Straight from Google
Technology and consumer demand has led to a major shift in the way people use mobile devices, with smartphones and tablets now serving as primary gateways to the internet. While accessing the internet on laptops and desktop computers is still a daily activity for most people, the number of mobile web users has significantly grown. In fact, with more people able to afford mobile devices and with the multi-functionality of smartphones and tablets it is easy to see why the number of mobile web users will eventually outstrip the number of desktop users.
To keep up with the demands of internet users, offering a mobile-friendly version of a website has become a necessity. Website owners know this and so are increasingly turning to responsive design layouts or are at least offering mobile-friendly HTML versions.
However, with the competition increasing along with the demand, it is not enough for a website to be accessible and render well on mobile devices. And just as with desktop sites, the importance of search engine optimisation in driving traffic to your mobile site cannot be stressed enough.
When optimising your mobile SEO, what you need to realise is that the emphasis on ranking factors may be different. Although it is a sound idea to follow the SEO best practices for desktop sites, it is even more critical to address certain mobile site mistakes since they will have a direct and immediate effect to your search rankings once the impending algorithm updates Google has announced finally arrives.
According to Google, the algorithm changes they will be implementing are part of their “efforts to improve the mobile web”. This is why they urge website owners to fix common smartphone-related mistakes; mistakes, which if not fixed will lead to penalties in rankings.
Issues that Google has confirmed will directly affect your mobile SEO efforts include faulty redirects (including links pointing to mobile-friendly homepage versions, 404 error pages, and any other irrelevant pages), mistakes in detecting user agents and in handling the Googlebot-Mobile user agent, unplayable videos on smartphone devices, and slow site speeds (This one is not listed on the announcement post but was confirmed by Matt Cutts during the SMX Advanced).
In addition to the issues mentioned above, it would be a good idea to address all of the common mistakes for smartphone sites on Google Webmasters help pages. Aside from this, reading up on their guidelines for building mobile-optimized websites will also be invaluable to your mobile SEO efforts.
Note too that you may need to learn more about different ways to configure your server to serve device-specific content, especially if you want your site to be accessible on feature phones. In this case, you also need to really brush up on your knowledge of the different user agents and the common problems encountered in trying to detect them.
As for websites that do not currently have mobile versions, it’s time to start building one. In the meantime though, do yourself a favor by at least making sure that your desktop server does not point mobile web users to 404 pages but to the correct non-mobile optimized page. In the end, it’s better to still serve your users your content, albeit an ugly one at that, than no content at all.
Please contact us if you would like to discuss mobile SEO in further detail.