You need what?! Mobile search engine optimization (SEO) is actually a misnomer. While it is impressive to hear stats like mobile search is growing faster than desktop search and over 60% of searchers use mobile search before buying, let’s get back to fundamentals.
Mobile Technical Requirements
Google, the largest search engine with about 90% global search share, essentially says there are no mobile-specific technical requirements from a SEO standpoint because their Googlebot and Googlebot-Mobile view desktop and smartphones the same:
“For now, we expect smartphones to handle desktop experience content so there is no real need for mobile-specific effort from webmasters. However, for many websites it may still make sense for the content to be formatted differently for smartphones, and the decision to do so should be based on how you can best serve your users.”
That being said, Google calls out a difference between “smartphones” and “mobile phones”, the latter being phones with browsers that cannot render normal desktop webpages (think the phones your parents or grandparents might be using!). Googlebot-Mobile does crawl mobile phone content, in which case following their technical requirements would be helpful. This might be a good time to take a look at your site analytics for the composition of smartphone and mobile phone users.
You may have seen mobile URLs like m.sitename.com in increasing use. Don’t worry, you don’t have to run out just yet to get yourself one of these hot off the griddle. The URL structure does not matter to Google from a technical standpoint.
“For Googlebot and Googlebot-Mobile, it does not matter what the URL structure is as long as it returns exactly what a user sees too. For example, if you redirect mobile users from www.example.com to m.example.com, that will be recognized by Googlebot-Mobile and both websites will be crawled and added to the correct index. In this case, use a 301 redirect for both users and Googlebot-Mobile.
If you serve all types of content from www.example.com, i.e. serving desktop-optimized content or mobile-optimized content from the same URL depending on the User-agent, this will also lead to correct crawling by Googlebot and Googlebot-Mobile. This is not considered cloaking by Google.”
Having two different domains with similar content is bad for SEO. If you must have separate content for mobile, just be sure to do a 301-redirect to your primary domain. Don’t just throw all that SEO hard work out the window! The take-away here is it is perfectly okay to use the same URL and content for the web and mobile for SEO purposes. Do keep in mind creating a great user experience, which is what truly matters.
Multi-Sites for Multi-Screens
This is another misnomer that we hope to save you time, expense and headache. When was the last time you created multiple versions of your website for different PCs and monitor sizes? Mobile screens are just smaller versions of desktop screens. Okay, while that might be too simplistic, the easiest trick is to use device detection and canonicals. John Mueller from Google best tells it:
“John Mueller – @Paul If you have “smartphone” content (which we see as normal web-content, as it’s generally a normal HTML page, just tweaked in layout for smaller displays) you can use the rel=canonical to point to your desktop version. This helps us to focus on the desktop version for web-search. When users visit that desktop version with a smartphone, you can redirect them to the mobile version. This works regardless of the URL structure, so you don’t need to use subdomains / subdirectories for smartphone-mobile sites.”
The same fundamental SEO best practices for a desktop website applies to mobile sites. If you want your users to get the most out of their mobile experience, then build an app. If you have any mobile optimization stories and myths to share, do tell.