Mobile Search – are you ready?

7 Feb

Life is getting faster and faster. We are all on the move, and if you are anything like me you use your smart phone for lots of searches, research and tweets each day. The thing that really annoys me, is reading articles posted Twitter and then visiting large slow sites. I normally give it about 20 seconds (I’m a generous sole) before trying looking elsewhere. So, I thought it would be a good time to look options to improve mobile search.

How does Google treat mobile search differently?

The search engine results served are largely determined by the platform that the search is conducted on. Pierre Far from Google wrote a blog post on the Google blog named making websites mobile friendly and specifically discussed these topics. Here are the top line points:

  • Google differentiates between traditional mobile phones and smartphones
  • Google has two bots: Googlebot and Googlebot-Mobile. Googlebot crawls desktop-browser type of web pages and content embedded in them and Googlebot-Mobile crawls mobile content (for traditional mobile phones – content for which should be put within a mobile sitemap)
  • Currently only traditional phones are supported with special user-agent strings within Googlebot-Mobile, not smartphones (this may change)
  • Google said they “expect smartphones to handle desktop experience content so there is no real need for mobile-specific effort from webmasters”
  • It does not mean you can’t serve a special style sheet to smartphones, Google said, “the decision to do so should be based on how you can best serve your users” (This is a really key point, and links to my 20 seconds on twitter above. If you have a high bounce rate due to people leaving because your site is slow, this is a negative signal to the search engine.)
  • URL structure: 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
  • Using the same URL is not considered cloaking by Google
  • Mobile Sitemaps: you should include only mobile content URLs in Mobile Sitemaps, even if these URLs also return non-mobile content when accessed by a non-mobile user-agent

Based on this information, webmasters need to be very conscious about the URL served to mobile users. If you can, it’s recommended to use the same URL a desktop version would get, assuming the page and content is the same, but the only difference is the format and user interface. The reason for this is sharing.

Sharing your content easily

One of the main benefits of viewing your site on a mobile phone / smart phone is, people like to share it. Social sharing is also a growing signal in SERPs. If someone views your site on their smartphone and shares the link, regardless of their viewing platform, anyone who sees the link will get a quality experience (assuming you are using the same content while styling the content appropriate to the device).

As a result, Google’s current preferred solution for search, is to have only one site and serve appropriate content for each device, means that there is only one site within the search index. And one site for mobile search (there’s a theme here).

Serving a mobile style sheet

If you are delivering the same content as the desktop site, styled for mobile platforms, no redirection is necessary. Usability guidelines dictate you offer a link to see the full / mobile version of the site as appropriate.


There are a lot of SEO blogs build on WordPress. One of the best options is WPtouch. It’s a tool used by a long and esteemed list from Search Engine Land -to- Social Media Examiner. If you don’t like the visual design you can tailor the style sheet to meet your brand. I’ve been using it for a year without any complaints. It works well and auto detects the mobile or smartphone that you are using. And it’s faster than the site loads with the full style sheet.

Building an M.Site

Developing a separate mobile site solution is also an option. Your would have limited authority in the search results compared to the main site and is less likely to gain links. In addition, a mobile sitemap would ensure it got additional weighting in the mobile search results although should exempt it from the main index. The workaround was in line with Google’s recommendations back in the early days of mobile, as result there are many legacy sites using it.

320 and up

A new approach that’s gathering momentum is 320 and up. It involves starting a site’s design for mobile and working up to larger screen/bandwidth sizes. The nifty bit about it is, it’s more maintainable than managing a separate mobile stylesheet and fits in with a responsive design workflow nicely.


For anyone thinking about building a transactional site – either needs to think about an or an App designed specifically for the task. Online security and speed are the entry point for anyone wanting to do business online.

Supporting PPC on your mobile site

If you are doing business online, you’ll want to design PPC focused landing pages for mobile. Google’s new PPC Quality Score algorithm will ensure that mobile advertising landing pages are recognised as mobile specific and increase quality score and ad performance. For some, this can be a fast solution to build campaign specific landing pages rather than building a whole site geared up for mobile search.

Another nice touch is to suggest to users on an appropriate platform that they can download your mobile app. What ever you choose to do; first think about the user experience, and secondly ensure you don’t complement your existing search engine activity for mobile search.

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