The Mobile SEO Debate
Although most agree that mobile sites and mobile SEO are not only growing marketing tools, but crucial in establishing a presence in the online community, there is some debate regarding the real necessity of an exclusively mobile website or even a website tailored to mobile search. Let’s quell this debate by exploring the known “inner-workings” of mobile sites and mobile SEO.
A Few Statistics:
The chart from comScore M:Metrics MobiLens reveals, in the United States alone there was a 68 % increase in mobile searches from 2007 to 2008. If this number continues to grow at such a rate (and we can already see this increase), it is obvious that mobile search is “on the map” as not only a viable resource, but a viable marketing tool.
Mobile Site Searches v. Desktop searches:
To understand the importance of mobile sites and mobile SEO, and more importantly to be able to utilize mobile SEM, it is necessary to recognize the differences between mobile and desktop searches and the results they yield.
First, mobile search (and our understanding of it) must be recognized as “less mature” than desktop search. Think clumsy puppy that has yet to learn exactly how his/her limbs work. Or, if you prefer a nostalgic analogy, the awkward adolescent at the middle school dance who has yet to achieve ultimate social prowess. You get the picture. That said, we should also recognize that as mobile search technology, and desktop search technology for that matter, advances, so will our SEO practices. Our awkward middle-schooler is destined to become homecoming king or queen, captain of the jock squad or drum major in the band.
Secondly, we know that most mobile searches are direct searches. Users aren’t searching through pages and pages of results. Instead, they want quick, easy and direct answers. And, if you think about it, this makes perfect sense. If you’re on the run, searching via mobile phone, you don’t have time to browse through pages of info. You want the information to be short and sweet.
Interestingly enough, a vast majority of these searches are not only direct, but local. As the Mobile Search Guide on cellphones.org puts it, “The majority aren’t searching for Credit Cards or news on your latest widget – they need to know where there’s a pizza place nearby, where the nearest bank is, and other useful information.” For a comprehensive list of local search ranking factors to consider when creating your mobile website or SEOing for mobile sites, visit: http://www.davidmihm.com/local-search-ranking-factors.shtml
Not only do mobile and desktop searches differ in nature (direct and local vs. “indirect” and far reaching), but they also differ in the way these search results are returned to the user. In his blog, “Less is Not More in Mobile SEO,” Bryson Meunier explains that although mobile search engines often return desktop results and vice versa, mobile sites are not necessarily in competition with their desktop counterparts. In fact, mobile results are often displayed alongside desktop results. The implications of this are huge. Could it be that in mobile SEO, duplicate content and competition within the same brand is not an issue? EGAD! This may just be the case. Meunier claims that “If a webmaster blocks one version of [a] site from the index, particularly in Google, this will result in one less listing in the mobile search results; and one less listing in a condensed, more competitive mobile search result could make the brand less visible.” Meunier also suggests that many search engines even prefer mobile-optimized content (short and sweet, local, etc.), thus ranking mobile results ahead of desktop results. (If that doesn’t relay the importance of mobile SEO, I’m not sure what does.)
Applications and a few tips:
Now that we have established the differences between mobile and desktop sites and SEO, we can begin to investigate the best ways to implement them. If we recall the (continued) implementation of traditional SEO, we remember how practices have changed constantly. In the same way, mobile SEO is but a babe in its Internet life and thus inherently subject to change. A previous 10Best blog revealed sensible practices for mobile website SEO. These are regarded as standard by most mobile website creators and SEO specialists. Google’s mobile webmaster guidelines are, of course, essential as well.
Google’s mobile keyword tool is a notable source as well. Unfortunately, it is “members only,” preventing Joe Shmoe from doing a whole lot of research on the rankings of his website keywords. One would assume, however, that a membership is worth the price, especially given the helpful nature of other Google SEO tools, namely, Google Adwords.
Cindy Krum, Founder and CEO of Rank Mobile in New York offers some reassuring words to those pioneers in this unexplored SEO territory by claiming that, “If you’re doing a good job with your traditional SEO, you’re probably doing an o.k. job with mobile.” Let me remind readers however, that this is not an invitation to sit back and admire your traditional SEO techniques as those doing a “good job” with their traditional SEO are probably those who have kept up their research. Krum also emphasizes the importance of a mobile campaign that is integrated with other marketing initiatives (i.e. television, radio, print, traditional SEO, etc.).
As always, keep the user in mind. Remember that the context of mobile search is unique and thus requires unique sites and SEO. Meunier reminds his readers not to dismiss the importance of mobile sites: “Don’t make your mobile site exactly the same as your desktop site, but smaller. Consider the unique mobile context and build a mobile user experience that adds value to a mobile user, using the queries mobile users will use.” All search engines, especially those targeting mobile search, will ultimately place emphasis on what is most helpful to the user.