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Mobile SEO – Thoughts and Resources

February 8th, 2011 | | Mobile SEO

Lately it seems like I can’t go more than a day without being reminded of the growing world for mobile search. If it isn’t a neat tool that ads some cool function to my device, like Google Goggles, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, it’s a new article that reminds me how far mobile web usage has come in recent years. Here at Hanapin, we also have a dedicated day for company-wide training every month. My assigned research topic this past month…the growth of mobile video search, which suffice it to say is growing with the rest of the mobile web industry. I’m a mobile search addict. I’m the guy who is constantly annoying his friends by whipping out my iphone to settle a bet, prove a point, or to learn on the fly. While I certainly wouldn’t consider myself an early adopter to full on Internet web access (my first large data plan was back in 2006 on my Motorola Q with Windows Mobile), I think I was pretty far ahead of the curve compared to most people I know. I used to catch a lot more flack for busting my phone out years ago but it seems like it’s just more acceptable now. Nearly all of my friends have smart phones and most of them use these phones just as often as I always have.

Today’s injection of mobile growth was no different when I visited Google’s blog and was again reminded of the recent mobile explosion when I read one of their recent posts, which highlights some opportunities to get into Mobile now! While the article itself is more paid ad focused (we can’t blame Google for a little self promotion), there were some interesting stats I wanted to share that highlights the booming growth of the mobile web industry:

By the end of 2011, an estimated one billion people around the world will be connected to the mobile web and 50% of all Americans will own a smartphone. Because of the explosion of web-enabled mobile devices, mobile usage is now on a hockey-stick trajectory: searches on smartphones and tablets have increased by 4x in the last year, and the world of mobile apps continues to engage mobile users—125 years’ worth of Angry Birds are played every day!

With the growth of the mobile industry staring us right in the eye, it should be an easy to wrap your head around the need for mobile SEO. But what exactly is mobile SEO and how does it differ from regular SEO? Right now, it’s hard to say what the differences are other than the obvious fact that standard SEO is meant for full feature browsers and search engines while mobile is focused on, well, mobile browsers and engines. Mobile search is still relatively new and therefore it’s hard to know how algorithms differ from regular old Google or Bing to a mobile version. What’s important to understand is that they do indeed differ. The algorithm takes into account how a site will load on a mobile device, which isn’t a problem for a full feature browser. Because of this, it’s recommended to build a mobile friendly site or possibly a dedicated mobile site if you have the resources. However, the latter might cause a whole new set of problems because of duplicate content. Because of this it might be important to write all new content for your mobile site. I understand that might not be feasible so I wanted to share an article by Cindy Krum of search engine land that talks about addressing duplicate content on a mobile site. Scroll down to the section marked “Risks associated with mobile SEO” if your interested in the risk of duplicate content on your mobile site.

There are some other core differences with mobile versus regular search. There was a great study conducted in joint with some folks from Google, MIT, and USC that I found on Google’s research page. It talks about how the mobile web is structurally different. This is definitely a beginners read and I’m not too proud to say that a lot of it is beyond my comprehension but it does shed some additional insight into why mobile web is different, it just does so in very scientific terms; probably because it is a scientific study. Anyhow, here’s a pdf download link for the paper titled The Mobile Web Is Structurally Different.

The next thing to consider is that the bots for mobile crawling are different than the bots for standard search. Google’s mobile crawling bot is called Googlebot-Mobile (at least they keep it obvious). Just like with your full feature site, being indexed properly is absolutely essential to generating good rankings on mobile devices. You can submit mobile specific sitemaps to the search engines to help ensure you’re being crawled. Here’s a great article for more info on Mobile Sitemaps from SEO SMO.

So hopefully all this super techie info hasn’t distracted you too much. The main point I wanted to get across is that despite all of the challenges, scientific studies, devices, and differences between mobile search and standard search, optimizations are still very much the same. Sure you should make sure your website is mobile friendly to get a little boost but if your mobile site isn’t optimized for content, as you normally would, your still not going to find your website when searching on your new Droid. You still want a keyword focused SEO strategy. You still want to place your primary keywords in the important places like the title tags and H1 Headers and to work supporting keywords as well as primary keywords into the body of the page. You also still want ensure you’re speaking to your audience and please don’t keyword stuff if you’ve shortened your content to make it more mobile browser friendly. I realize I just spent an entire blog post showing examples of how mobile SEO is different but in the end, although the algorithms are different, content is still king.

The mobile industry is still growing and I don’t expect it to stop anytime soon. As I mentioned before, mobile search is relatively new and I’m sure things will change over time. Here’s one last thought to ponder. If search engines like Google and Bing have spent so much time perfecting their main algorithm to show you the most relevant result for your search query, why would they want to give you a different result when you search on your phone? It’s somewhat of a contradiction. Sure, people’s behavior when searching from a phone is different and more urgent but regardless of if we’re tethered to a desktop or searching from a subway train, we’re all still looking for the most relevant result in the shortest amount of time. In my opinion, I’m not sure if I want that result to be different because my platform changed. What are your thoughts?

Robert is an Account Executive at Hanapin Marketing, a search engine marketing firm focused on generating results through PPC and SEO.

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