Despite some predictions that mobile SEO will be of negligible importance, mobile search has grown 5x in the past 5 years -- far outpacing PC searches -- and the growth is only set to continue with the rapid uptick in smartphone sales. Already, mobile searches may account for some 16% of all Google queries, and that amount is almost certain to rise.
Clearly, mobile search engine optimization is going to be important for sites moving forward, especially for sites that target a mobile-oriented or tech-savvy audience. However, mobile SEO is still a bit of an enigma in many ways and is a lesser-known skill to even the best at SEO.
If you want to optimize your site for mobile SEO, here are 8 tips to get you started that can help maximize your potential on the mobile web.
1. Have Mobile-Formatted Content
This may seem obvious, but sites that are formatted well for mobile devices tend to get preferential treatment for searchers using those devices. Offering a mobile-specific version of your site not only makes it easier for your readers but also encourages Google to give you top billing, as it is the best result for searchers.
2. Don’t Forget rel=canonical
When building your mobile-formatted content, you need to make sure you don’t accidentally create a duplicate content issue for yourself. A canonical page is the preferred version of a set of pages with highly similar content. Using a rel=canonical tag in your HTML to designate your “official” page spares you this problem, and you can always direct mobile visitors yourself using a variety of tools and plugins.
3. Focus on Mobile Keywords
Mobile searchers tend to look for different keywords than desktop searchers. So, when seeking keyword ideas using Google’s Keyword Tool, click on the “Advanced Options” link, and set it to show statistics for “All Mobile Devices." This should give you a better idea of keywords you can target to reach out to a mobile audience.
4. Leverage Predictive Search
Mobile searchers rely on predictive searching much more heavily than desktop searchers. As such, it’s important to structure your keywords so they are likely to show up in a predictive search. You can test this with your own phone and also look at Google’s Keyword Tool for more suggestions.
5. Create an Effective Mobile Sitemap
Google has a guide on how to use a mobile sitemap with your site. However, it is important to use the correct formatting, as doing it improperly can result in your links disappearing from the search engine rather than appearing in it. It’s also important to make sure that your sitemap contains only links to content appropriate for the site map and only content on your site. Doing otherwise could result in it being ignored.
6. Consider a .mobi Domain
The .mobi top-level domain (TLD) was designed as a designation for mobile-only domains. Although you’ll likely want to forward this domain to either a subdomian or a directory on your server, having and using the .mobi TLD sends a clear signal to search engines about what this version of the site is for, making it more likely to be listed in mobile results.
7. Avoid Flash, Large Images, Etc.
Obviously, you’re going to want to avoid anything that might limit your audience on the mobile web, including Flash, larger images, and anything else that might not be readily viewable. Sites with this content typically get a lower priority in mobile searches simply because there are many mobile phones that can’t access them. You’re best off building your mobile site in HTML5, keeping your images a reasonable size, and shortening your ALT tags to ensure they display neatly.
8. Focus on the Web, Not the App
Finally, though it’s tempting to join the trend and build a great native app for iPhone, Android, etc., it is important to focus more on your website first, not an app. Apps simply have limited reach and don’t show up in search engines. Making a mobile version of your site your biggest priority, both in terms of effort and linking, will help you rank well in search results. Besides, you can always add an app later to cater to an audience you want to target more.
All in all, most SEO for the mobile web is the same as SEO for the desktop web. It’s about good content, inbound links, and solid page structure. That being said, there are some rules that do change and, by watching out for them, you can help ensure your site is at the top of any relevant mobile search.
That, in turn, is going to be more and more important as time goes on. The web is becoming more mixed in terms of the types of systems using it, and that means you need to be prepared to reach out to multiple audience and platforms all at the same time.
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