Synopsis –With so much talk about mobile and the future and promise of mobile, it may be tempting to jump on the bandwagon as quickly as possible and perhaps make choices that are not quite right for your business. Mobile has the ability to become an ROI powerhouse for many industries, but it needs to be approached carefully and systematically. In his article, “10 Best Practices For Enterprise Mobile SEO,” Bryson Meunier discusses the integration of mobile into an enterprise environment, with ways to help you persuade buy-in from management if needed, and key best practices to ensure a successful launch.
10 Best Practices For Enterprise Mobile SEO
Mobile has finally earned the respect of marketers and is now considered an important channel to add into the mix. Not surprisingly, many enterprise organizations are capitalizing on the opportunity, but some are still struggling to get senior management buy-in to the concept. Let’s take a look at why mobile SEO makes sense for enterprise organizations, and how to get the job done right.
The Value Of Enterprise Mobile SEO
Mobile holds considerable value for enterprise organizations. It can help them ensure that their investment in mobile content has a shelf-life by making the site visible in search engines. Organizations can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on mobile sites and apps. But if that content can’t be found by smartphone users, 77% of whom use search engines (The Mobile Movement, Google/IPSOS OTX MediaCT, U.S. April 2011), then the organization will have spent a lot of money creating something that may look good on a mobile device, but that no one visits.
Enterprise organizations can also benefit from mobile SEO because it prepares them for the future of SEO. Mobile search already accounts for 15%-30% of Google’s traffic in 2011 and the majority of Google Maps traffic. On top of that, the International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts more mobile Internet users than desktop users by 2015. That means in three short years, most of your customers could be accessing your content from their phone. Enterprise organizations that understand the differences between mobile SEO and desktop SEO today will be in a much better position once the majority of their traffic comes from mobile devices.
In addition, mobile SEO provides enterprise organizations with a way to close the loop on broadcast and print media. For example, it allows organizations to build links from their broadcast and print investments with QR codes. Given that many enterprise organizations still spend most of their advertising budgets on traditional media, mobile SEO gives these organizations a way to track the effectiveness of their spend.
The Three Biggest Mistakes Of Enterprise Mobile SEO
While mobile SEO holds a lot of value for enterprise organizations, it is not without pitfalls. Time and again, I see marketers making the following mistakes with it.
Mistake #1. Assuming Your Turnkey Solution Includes Mobile SEO
Make sure your search vendor is thinking about SEO by asking about it in the RFP process and including it in the contract. Vendors will try to price their service competitively, and sometimes eliminate things, like SEO, that are necessary but require a lot of work in order to be done correctly. If it’s not in the contract, it’s probably not included. Get it in writing, along with an explanation of what’s to be done to make your content more visible in search.
Mistake #2. Blocking Your Mobile Site
Much to my befuddlement, many mobile SEO experts recommend blocking your mobile site from Googlebot, and blocking your desktop site from Googlebot Mobile. Unfortunately, the end result is that smartphone users (who search more often than any other mobile users) won’t be able to find your site, even though it is relevant to them. Don’t be fooled by what otherwise seems like logical advice.
Mistake #3. Serving Mobile-Friendly Versions Of Desktop Pages And Calling It SEO
Mobile users often require different content with different keywords, but many marketers try to get by with just serving mobile-friendly desktop pages with the same content. By only optimizing your desktop content, you miss out on queries and categories that users are searching for on mobile devices but not on the desktop. It could also make your mobile site invisible to search engines. These pages should be linked with canonical tags to canonical pages, which won’t help your mobile site rank at all. If you’re going to use a transcoder or similar solution to get a mobile site up quickly, make sure it includes mobile-specific pages as well.
Twin Mistakes In Mobile SEO
Have you ever searched for a brand plus “mobile site” on a smartphone, only to have nothing show up? This happens when brands that have mobile sites block them from Googlebot, and it’s exactly what happened to Home Depot when they blocked their mobile site with a robots.txt file. If you’re looking for Home Depot’s mobile site on your smartphone, Google gives you the Home Depot Sports Center’s mobile site first, because there is no good match.
Google’s search results for “Home Depot mobile site” frustrate a searcher looking for mobile content, even though Home Depot has a mobile site.
As another example, if you think that Usablenet offers mobile SEO just because they’ve published an article about it in Mashable, think again. When I compared two of Usablenet’s flagship mobile properties — Amtrak.mobi and m.staples.com — I found they ranked for a total of 39 keywords between them. In addition, 90% of those queries were branded queries that they would almost have to try NOT to rank for. A company that does SEO well ranks on hundreds, if not thousands, of non-brand keywords as well.
Three Tactics To Get Senior Management Buy-In To Mobile SEO
Despite the value of mobile SEO, many large organizations have not embraced the channel. In fact, according to Google MobileAds, 79% of large advertisers do not have a mobile site. If you still need to sell mobile SEO up the chain in order to get the budget necessary to do an enterprise-level audit, follow the below tips. Doing so will help your organization understand why mobile SEO is a necessity in today’s market.
1. Do The Math — Review your web analytics, and calculate the percent of your current site traffic and conversions that come from mobile devices. Often the bounce rate from mobile users for desktop content is high enough to justify budgets for a mobile site in lost revenue alone.
2. Leverage Stats — Gather industry statistics that illustrate mobile’s growth and opportunity, and substantiate why mobile sites are in abundance. Google’s MobileAds YouTube channel provides a few of the best:
- More mobile devices are activated today than there are babies being born
- Mobile web is growing eight times faster than the desktop did in the 1990s
- More smartphones are shipped now than PCs
- Between 15% to 30% of queries are from mobile devices
3. Show Them The Money — Perform a cost-benefit analysis of optimized mobile content. Showing decision makers the money is the fastest way to get budget approval. See this example at Mashable.com of ROI from a mobile site for guidance at http://on.mash.to/sOgl2p.
Top Ten Best Practices For Enterprise Mobile SEO
The following mobile SEO best practices are most relevant to enterprise organizations:
1. Avoid transcoders (e.g., Usablenet) and hosted mobile solutions that don’t allow you to customize items such as the domain under which the site is hosted or which pages get indexed. Doing so could add a lot of irrelevant content to the index which will make it difficult for engines to index your entire mobile site.
2. Don’t develop an app until you’ve developed a compelling mobile website. Apps have limited reach, are only returned in search for app-specific navigational keywords, and the link equity for the app benefits the app stores rather than your site.
3. Use the Google AdWords Keyword Tool, Google Webmaster Tools search query data, and keywords in web analytics to better understand your mobile user. To determine which keywords and concepts are most relevant to a user accessing the site from a handheld device, compare mobile search volume, impressions, and traffic to desktop search volume, impressions, and traffic. Mobile users search differently, and if you don’t do separate keyword research, you could be missing opportunities.
4. Develop a persona of a mobile or tablet user based on keyword, demographic, technographic, and/or psychographic research. Motivations and interests of this user should be the basis of mobile wireframes, which will allow you to build content that will be of value to this mobile user. Wireframe the mobile site, identifying which content is relevant to mobile users, and which content is being reformatted for these users from the desktop. Not building a mobile site and only formatting desktop content could make your brand less visible in search engines for navigational queries from users looking for branded mobile content.
5. Build your mobile site at domain.com/mobile. Buy and permanently redirect the .mobi domain and permanently redirect all popular variations of mobile URLs to this subfolder. While m.domain.com subdomains are the most popular variations of mobile URLs, and any variation (including dotmobi) can be optimized for search, adding a subfolder instead of a subdirectory is the only option that uses the full trust and authority of the root domain, which could help in ranking.
6. Develop your mobile site in HTML5 for smartphone and tablet users. The site should be text-based, with enough keyword-rich text to convey the relevance of the page to search engines. Use progressive enhancement mobile design strategy to ensure content is accessible to feature phone users and search engines. Mobile boilerplate is a standards-based HTML5 template for creating mobile web apps that works well for optimized mobile sites.
7. Use canonical tags for all necessary duplicate content, including carrier-themed pages, which are common in mobile design and development. Not doing so could split a site’s link equity and make it more difficult for relevant content to rank.
8. Build links from other mobile sites and desktop sites that discuss mobile content. Link equity is a ranking factor in mobile search, and not building links could make content less authoritative and less visible in search. The following are tactics for building links to mobile sites:
- Link out to mobile content to increase awareness and incent organic reciprocation.
- Link to mobile site from desktop site. Many sites say “visit our mobile site from any mobile browser,” which is a missed opportunity to help the search engines understand where the mobile site is located.
- Advertise mobile content to mobile-specific audiences on mobile sites and in a mobile context.
- Use mobile domain, URL, or QR code when appropriate in offline advertising in a mobile context.
- Include a footer link to the desktop site. Don’t force users to view mobile content.
9. Include enough on-page text to convey relevance to search engines. Mobile usability gurus are in favor of eliminating text on mobile sites, but some keyword-rich text is necessary to convey the page’s relevance to search engines. Reduce, rather than eliminate, on-page text.
10. Optimize page speed. This is a best practice in traditional SEO as well, but Google sees speed as even more critical in mobile search. Additionally, this could result in a better user experience, which will result in more links, word of mouth, and conversions.
Mobile SEO represents a great opportunity for enterprise organizations. It can help them prepare for the future of SEO, track their print and broadcast media spend, and ensure their investment in mobile content is well spent. To get the most out of your mobile SEO investment, follow the above best practices without delay.