Mobile SEO: You snooze, you lose!


Kathrin Schwerthelm


Why go mobile?

Smartphones have become an integral part of our daily lives, whether we are waiting for the bus, sitting on the train or lounging on the sofa, we are constantly surfing the web with our mobile devices. Therefore it does not come as a surprise that over the last three years the search volume on mobile devices has increased by at least 500%. Those changes and developments regarding mobile search are generating a multitude of innovative opportunities, especially for e-commerce businesses.

A global mobile research project undertaken by Google and Ipsos MediaCT shows the strength of mobile websites in regard to the potential of increasing revenue. Figures show that smartphone users in countries like the UK, Germany and the USA regularly search online when on the go or whilst travelling. 52% of smartphone users in the UK, 46% in German and 62% in the USA make daily use of an online search engine on their phone. In addition to that, 21% of smartphone users in the UK, 24% in Germany and 21% in the USA have made a purchase online after looking for local information on their smartphones. But local mobile search does not only drive online purchases amongst smartphone users, it also increases in-store traffic. Statistics show that 40% of smartphone users in the UK, 37% in Germany and an astonishing 50% in the USA visited a local business after looking for information on their smartphone.

It is important to notice the new opportunity of mobile search and adapting to it by establishing optimized mobile websites for successful SEO for smartphones. Mobile-friendly sites are proven to be more engaging to the mobile user, which in return reduces the bounce rate. However they have to be constructed in such a way that they not only benefit the user, but at the same time work well for Google. Google’s research found that 59% of smartphone users in the UK only look at the first search engine results page, 45% in Germany and 61% in the USA. A professional mobile SEO strategy will thus be necessary to stay competitive in the mobile world.

Google acknowledges the growth of mobile searches and launches GoogleBot-Mobile

End of last year Google released Googlebot-Mobile. This bot crawls the content of websites in order to give the mobile user the best results in terms of webpages that are optimized for mobile use, as well as redirections to content, that has been optimized specifically for smartphones. As part of Google’s philosophy to provide the best user experience possible, this ultimately increases the quality of search engine use for smartphone owners.

Google takes a clear stance on smartphone mobile site designs

Google supports a few different methods in regards to smartphone mobile site design. There is the responsive design method that controls via CSS3 the style and layout for the mobile website, which is preferred by Google. In addition to that, webmasters can use dynamic serving methods. Here the HTMLs are different to the stationary devices with either the same URLs or different ones, depending on which mobile site design is used. When using a dynamic serving method, one has to bear in mind that it is vital to communicate to Google that based on the user agent the content might change to avoid a drop in ranking.

Poor mobile SEO can lead to low rankings and lower repeat visits

Making your website mobile-friendly for smartphones, can be quite complicated if you don’t have the technical know-how and the insider knowledge of SEO practices. Thus it is advisable to talk your mobile site design approach through with an SEO expert beforehand, as the mobile specific bots for the mobile search engines have different algorithms. This has to be kept in mind when creating your mobile site. You can’t stay competitive in the mobile world, if you are not listed in the search results or as Google puts it, “just because you can see your desktop site on a mobile phone doesn’t mean it’s mobile-friendly”.

In addition to that, mobile SEO, like classic SEO, needs On-Page, as well as Off-Page optimization. A mobile website might be compatible with the presentation of its desktop site, however in terms of user experience, keyword optimization and conversion potential there are different demands. When creating a mobile site you want to rank high in Google’s mobile SERPs. When not doing mobile SEO correctly, your site might not be shown or be shown incorrectly in mobile SERPs. This could mean that, the user gets forwarded to a mobile homepage, although a detailed page exits, or that the user gets forwarded to a desktop landing page although a mobile optimized landing page exists. In these cases mobile users need more steps to get the wanted information in comparison to fewer steps on a desktop device. And as a result a huge part of the growing mobile search engine traffic is left unused. SEO experts know about the different demands of mobile SEO and can guide you.

What’s next?

One may suspect that the volume of mobile searches will further increase over the years to come and more and more purchases are potentially made via smartphones. Thus “going mobile” seems to be vital to stay competitive on the online market in the future. In this context, Google’s approach to mobile search is a step towards an independent mobile ranking, where smartphone friendly websites, which are perfectly optimized for mobile devices, will rank higher in Google’s mobile SERPs than those that aren’t. So it’s best to be prepared for the mobile revolution in terms of mobile websites and mobile search, because everyone knows: if you snooze, you lose.