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by Chris Simmance on 10th September 2012
It seems the world has gone mobile lately and with over 40% smartphone penetration in both western Europe and the U.S and mobile searches accounting for 15% (and rising) of all Google searches it is certainly a good idea to take steps to optimise your site for mobile search.
In this post I will give you 5 of what I feel are some of the best practices to optimise your mobile sites for mobile search. There are plenty more, so feel free to add yours to the comments or if you have other ideas entirely I’d love to know!
1 - Ensure your site is mobile friendly.
Whether it be a dedicated mobile site or a mobile version of your current site it is always important to think about your audience and the sites usability. If the site is difficult to use then you are likely to have a high bounce rate and seeing as that can be a ranking factor, you should ensure that the site is built first and foremost for the user.
The same things apply with mobile sites that apply to desktop sites. The content, the keywords and the links to name a few, all form the on-page ranking factors of a mobile site but you have to be weary of the reduced real estate. With the reduced size you would have to consider dropping some of the links on page and (in the case of a dedicated site) reduce the content levels too. Where possible with dedicated sites it is a good idea to submit a dedicated mobile sitemap.xml file to Webmaster tools.
A great example of a responsive design website is the one you are currently on. If you are reading this on a mobile browser you already know what I am talking about, but if you are on your desktop, hold down Ctrl and use the mouse the scroll. You will see how the site looks on sites with different screen sizes. Go on…. I dare you!
2 – Pick mobile friendly keywords.
Research has shown that on average mobile keyword strings are around 25% shorter and users tend not to search for entirely the same keywords as they would from a mobile device as they would from their desktop. If you have a responsive designed site it is important to think about the mobile user at the keyword research phase; however, if you are creating a dedicated mobile site you should make sure you are targeting mobile keyword strings from the start to create good targeted meta, titles and content.
Google Adwords Keyword tool has a good feature which allows you to filter by mobile and desktop device when you are researching keywords. This easily helps you to target keywords to your mobile pages that historically have been searched for on a mobile device.
3 - Think Local and Localisation!
Almost half of all local searches performed are done on mobile devices and with that number likely to increase you should make sure that Local search is part of your mobile website optimisation strategy where possible. Obviously if you are a brand with no need for location specific searches there is no need to think about this however for mobile sites that rely on local business it is an important box to tick.
Inserting the geo-location before the closing </head> of the page is one way to tell search engines where you are and that your location is important. Creating business profiles with links back to your mobile site on review sites such as Yelp will further show your location as being important, as well as offering potential customers a chance to see what past customers thought of your business or service.
A must is to ensure you have a Google places profile set up for the site. Whether it be a dedicated mobile site or a responsive design it’s imperative to have a profile set up if location is important to your business.
Local search isn’t the only thing you can target with locations. You can target an entire country or region if you would prefer using many of the same methods.
4 - Fast is good – Slow is bad.
As with normal desktop site SEO, site speed can be a ranking factor with a fast site is seen as a good site from the users and search engines point of view. With mobiles primarily being, well, mobile they aren’t always connected to a home or work WiFi connection. This means that data needs to be quickly downloaded to the device. Having an image rich or highly scripted site will undoubtedly slow it down, especially over a mobile connection and this can effect usability and bounce rates. Search engines will also look at the site speed in a similar way and rankings could be adjusted to reflect that.
From another perspective, having a fast, clean and easy to use mobile site can work in your favour not just from the rankings point of view but also from a usability standpoint. If your site has a great user experience you may receive more links to it and even more direct visits by word of mouth.
5 - Make use of the data available.
In the same way you would with standard SEO, you can look at the data coming from mobile devices. This data can be used to identify pages with high bounce rates, organic keywords that are driving users to the site and even data on the type of device being used. All of these different metrics can help you to identify areas where your mobile site needs further optimisation or different areas that you can exploit. For example if you own a mobile site that sells, let’s say, Hats in Sheffield and you notice that the keywords ‘Black Hats Sheffield’ is bringing good organic keyword traffic from mobile search to your mobile site. You could exploit that by creating an individual mobile page for ‘Black Hats’ or make changes to the site’s content to better reflect the volume of users looking for that term.
If you have a mobile site already or are thinking of getting one it is a good idea to look at How To Go Mo so you can see how your current site looks and get good tips on where to go moving forward with mobile.
As I said, like with standard SEO there are plenty of other boxes to tick and there are plenty of Mobile SEO myths floating around the internet. If you have any more mobile SEO boxes you feel are important to tick or have a different opinion altogether please leave a comment and we can argue it out!