The fact that a huge portion of the global population doesn’t leave home without their mobile devices should come as no surprise. In fact, 91% of smartphone users have their phone within reach 24/7, and it takes 26 hours for the average person to report their wallet missing, but only 68 minutes for them to report a lost phone. According to Gartner Research, by 2013, mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common web access device worldwide.
This affection—or rather obsession—people have with their mobile devices presents a golden opportunity for your business in the form of mobile marketing and search. The fact that many businesses still haven’t built mobile sites can be a big competitive advantage until the competition catches on.
Mobile marketing and search are a bit of a wild west right now. New territories are continually being opened and the pioneers are fighting turf wars, or in this case fighting for platform domination. Think iPhone vs. Android and iPad vs. the Galaxy Tab. Regardless of whether one platform dominates in the end, there are a few key principles that will provide a good user experience, as well as help the user find what they are searching for.
Google uses a different bot to crawl mobile sites. The Googlebot-Mobile can discover content specifically optimized to be viewed on smartphones, as well as smartphone-specific redirects. Here are a few key tips to optimize your website for mobile search:
1. Responsive Design
There is much debate about whether to build dual sites—one for mobile viewing and one for desktop viewing—or a single mobile-optimized site. The common method has been the former, a unique, yet scaled down, site for mobile viewing with the mobile site residing on a unique domain or on “m.yourdomain.com.”
The better way to go is to use separate, scaled-down pages for mobile and integrate them with the full desktop-oriented portions of the site. This can be done by placing links on the mobile site back to the main site, with a notation that the link will take them to the fuller version, but that it’s not mobile optimized. Nothing is more frustrating to a mobile user than to find that the very content they are seeking is not available in the mobile version. By linking a mobile page to the full version, even with its desktop layout, you are giving your user, as well as Google, more of what they want, as well as more internal links which offer an additional SEO boost. For optimal SEO benefits, it’s best to keep your mobile site integrated within your existing site, using mobile style sheets. With these different style sheets for displaying pages on mobile devices, you can reduce or eliminate headers, optimize and reduce rendering of images and file sizes, and declare the proper mobile format. All of this combined presents a fast loading, clean user experience that gives the user more options and leaves them in control, without compromising quality and information.
2. Optimization for Local Search
Half of all local searches are performed on mobile devices. Optimize for local terms and locations, as well as searches and Siri. For example, a restaurant in New York City can optimize its search ranking by including the neighborhood and street. Examples of hyperlocal are: Pizzeria in Chelsea or Pizzeria on 19th Street.
Use shorter, more concise search phrases. Imagine your prospect standing on a street corner typing into their mobile device. You want to help them find you with the minimal number of keystrokes.
Mobile ranking is more dependent on social indicators such as reviews on CitySearch or check-ins on Foursquare than on inbound links. The remaining standard SEO ranking components will be gathered by the desktop version of the page, particularly if it’s hosted on the same URL. Because of the importance of social media, you should facilitate and encourage sharing, reviews, and comments as part of your mobile strategy. There are many tools and plugins available that put sharing options on your site pages, both regular and mobile. Visitors respond well to an encouraging call to action such as ”Please like us on Facebook” or a request for a review positioned next to or above the link to a review site.
Reviews from sites such as Yelp or Localeze can be a boost to your social proof, as can mobile search rankings from the geo targeting they provide. Negative reviews will boost your rankings temporarily, but will turn off prospects in the long run. This underscores the need to monitor your online reputation, as well as encourage happy customers.
A link on your mobile page to your reviews online makes the page more user friendly for the visitor, eliminating their need to go initiate a new search to read your reviews. Conversely, you can have a link from your mobile webpage to your Facebook page or a review site, with a call to action to leave a comment or review.
Jane Tabachnick is a digital marketer and content strategist. She works with companies to create lead generation programs. Jane can be reached via her website, www.Web1Ranking.com.