If you have done the right thing and made the effort to create a mobile friendly website, you may be enjoying a golden age for mobile SEO. But like any age, it will come to an end.
In the meantime, there is a great opportunity to attract more visitors to your website than you otherwise would have by relying on traditional desktop search results.
Why mobile SEO is so important right now
The most obvious reason why it is silly to ignore mobile SEO is that Google is insisting that we pull our (mobile) socks up. Google is driving heavily towards ensuring their search product accommodates the continuing boom in mobile device usage.
Consider the changes that Google has already made that underpin their focus on mobile:
- Google search results now identify the results as being mobile-friendly (if they are of course).
- Google is behind accelerated mobile pages (AMP).
- Google search results now have ads shown inline with organic search results, a clear mobile optimisation move.
- PageRank is determined somewhat by speed.
- Google has spent a lot of time and effort improving their voice activated search feature. This wasn’t with desktops in mind!
In the image below you see a Google search result on an Android mobile device. You’ll notice how they mark the mobile-friendly websites.
Given that the overwhelming majority of search (in the English speaking world) is carried out via Google, it isn’t wise to ignore their expectations. Anyone involved in the search engine optimisation (SEO) business certainly must respond.
The best way to be mobile SEO friendly
Google recommend that you use a responsive web design to address the mobile friendly website issue. This means one website version, but designed and coded in a way that allows it to reshape itself and adjust to smaller devices.
If you do this correctly Google will recognise your website as being mobile-friendly. This also means it will be eligible to appear in the mobile SEO rankings without penalty.
When it comes to mobile SEO, having a mobile friendly website isn’t enough. You still need to work on your search engine optimisation if you want those top rankings.
Using alternate websites?
If you offer alternate versions of your website, you will need to utilise some sort of redirection code. Redirection code is used to determine which version of your website, or it’s content, should be sent back to the user.
If someone is on a desktop or laptop computer then they should see the full version of your website. On mobile devices a faster, mobile optimised version should be returned to the viewer.
Sometimes this ‘device sniffing’ code gets it wrong however, resulting in some users seeing the wrong version of your website. This is why you need to test.
What happens when your redirection code makes a mistake? Well, the desktop users will find your mobile version too basic and a bit clunky. Your mobile users will find your full site slow to load and hard to negotiate. Either way, the user will likely go elsewhere straight away (bounce).
I find that tablet devices seem to confuse redirection code more than than any other device type. This usually isn’t a huge issue given that tablets tend to display both versions quite nicely.
Personally, I prefer to get the full version of a website when I’m using a tablet.
One idea is to let your website visitors determine which version they prefer. You could test to see which version produces better interaction rates with tablet users. Once you have the data to guide you, set the winning version as the permanent redirect target.
I have deliberately avoided including any device sniffing code examples here. You need to find redirection code that works for your website and server set-up. Ask your web developer for help.
Google also offer some information on using separate URLs, including how to annotate your XML site-map files (a little more advanced).
Make sure you use canonical tags
Canonical tags are essential tool for us SEO consultants. These tags allow us to have two (or more) versions of the same content, but let the search engines know that they actually refer to the same piece of content.
Why would we want to do this? I bet you already know.
By using canonical tags we avoid commiting a big SEO mistake – duplicate content.
Here is an example of this one line tag:
<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.example.com/page-name/" />
Simply add a canonical tag to each mobile page (between the <head></head> tags) and set the href value to the full URL of the equivalent page on your desktop website. This is rudimentary task for anyone familiar with HTML so ask for help from your web person if you need it.
Getting an older website up-to-speed can be time consuming, even frustrating at times. Then there is the cost. But from an SEO perspective it is a valuable investment.
I would urge you not to waste another moment if you have the resources to make your website mobile-friendly right now. Once everyone else catches up, and they will, this golden era will finally come to an end.