Making your company website more SEO-friendly requires strategic effort. At the current rate of on-the-go users, it’s important not to neglect the mobile version of your site. More than 70% of marketers plan to spend more money on mobile in 2013, and Microsoft reports that 70% of PC search tasks are completed in one week, while 70% of mobile search tasks are completed in one hour. In short, mobile should be top of mind, because if people are searching, it’s because there’s an intent to do something.
“Mobile users are not tethered to a desktop. They need timely information to drive them into stores with positive purchase intent,” Scott Forshay, a mobile and emerging technology strategist for Acquity Group, told Mashable.
Mobile expert and MeritShare co-founder Kevin Nakao says the best place to start your mobile strategy is to determine whether you will use the same site for mobile and desktop.
“Assuming mobile is on-the-go only, the user’s experience needs be optimized,” says Nakao. “For example, are your results different when you search from the desktop or mobile?”
For the latter, Nakao says that you may want to find the closest location — so a home page optimized for mobile may be different than the desktop, and intuitive desktop features, like a dropdown menu, won’t translate on a smartphone.
Nakao stresses that it’s equally important not to block the bot. Google has a specific Smartphone Google Bot that crawls the web and displays the smartphone-optimized link for your site.
The crawler may discover content specifically optimized to be browsed on smartphones, as well as smartphone-specific redirects.
Some websites block this feature because of the owner’s concern about being penalized for duplicate content, but Nakao says there’s no reason to worry.
Once you’ve considered the above, you then have three choices for delivering an optimized mobile web experience.
1. Keep Mobile and Desktop the Same
If using the same website for mobile and desktop makes sense for your users, utilize responsive design. This will serve the same HTML for all devices and desktop, and use CSS to decide how to render that experience by the device type. So if you open a Pinterest-esque layout on an iPad, you might see three or four images across; on an iPhone, the same site will collapse to one column that scrolls down. So all of the same information is there, but it’s presented in a way that optimizes the site for the device it’s being browsed on.
2. Separating Device Experience
If you believe the consumer experience will be better with different HTML depending on the device type, you can utilize the same URL to dynamically serve different HTML/CSS based on the user agent or device profile. You need to let the Smartphone Google bot know you are doing this, by providing a hint using the Vary HTTP header.
3. Using a Mobile URL
Lastly, if you want different desktop and mobile experiences, use a different URL for your mobile website: m.yoursite.com.
Until recently, there was open debate and speculation about having a separate mobile URL — how it could look like duplicate content and penalize your site in search results. Most experts now seem to agree that there isn’t a penalty. SEO expert Bryson Meunier did an analysis that shows sites with a different mobile URL actually receive more traffic.
Which option has your company chosen for mobile SEO? Let us know in the comments below.