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14 Mobile SEO Tips and Best Practices

The number of mobile subscriptions is on a seemingly endless bull run. World over, the number is 6 billion and over 1.2 billion people access the web on their mobile phones. In the US, 85% adults have a cell phone and 45% have smartphones. With the mobile gaining such importance, mobile SEO strategy is now as crucial a factor in mobile marketing as designing a great mobile site. So, we have here some great tips to trump up your mobile SEO:

1. Know the crucial details:

You can use tools like Google Analytics/ Webmaster Tools to know imperative details like:

  • Number of site visitors using mobile
  • Devices and screen resolutions
  • Mobile traffic
  • Keywords, pages and content consumed
  • Most popular parts/aspects of your site

It is now time to delve into the actual task.

2. Be a search whiz:

In mobile searches, people use shorter tail phrases and depend on the Google Autocomplete feature to complete their query. Often, these searches tend to be local. So you need to optimize shorter tail phrases when optimizing meta titles, descriptions and keywords: Be search Whiz

3. Your first priority - Social:

Most mobile users are connected to the social networks 24/7 through apps. About 82 million US mobile users would have accessed a social networking site on their phone by the end of 2012. Embed your mobile site with social media links and ensure content is easily shared across social networks through increased exposure, traffic and engagement. Studies have shown that about 85 percent of people use mobile phones to pass time, be amused or for entertainment. So, the content on mobile sites should be entertaining. First Priority Social

4. No cloaking:

In Google’s own words, “cloaking refers to the practice of presenting different content or URLs to human users and search engines”. Cloaking is considered by Google as a violation of its webmaster guidelines since it provides users with different search results. If you are using responsive design, you needn’t worry about cloaking because you are showing the same content to desktop and mobile users. But, if you are using a parallel site in “m” sub domain (not a responsive design), you need to create a mobile sitemap and upload it using the mobile sitemap feature in the Google Webmaster tool. You also need to link between the two sites, particularly if you’re using different URLs. The Google crawler bot cannot see that there are different versions of a site. So it is important for you to make sure that it is seeing the right code for indexing.

5. Screen resolution sizing:

Mobile phones either have small keys or they have touch screens. In both the cases, pressing a navigation button is difficult (particularly when you are on the move). Streamline navigation so that users can focus on the most important/popular pages of your site. Vertical navigational menus are best for mobile screens, which are easier for people to use when they want to click on links: Screen Resolution Sizing Your analysis of your site (Step 1) would have told you about the devices that are being used to access your site, Android, iPhone, BlackBerry or any other. You need to know how your site looks on these devices. Screenfly is an online tool that helps you see how your site looks in different devices in different resolutions. Google Webmaster tool’s ‘Fetch’ feature has a setting for smartphones, which can give you a lot of information about the way your site is being crawled. This will help you avoid unnecessary re-directions which may negatively affect mobile traffic.

6. Exclusive mobile site:

Develop a site exclusively for mobile phones. Don’t use a scaled down version of your desktop site fitted into a mobile screen: Exclusive Mobile Site

7. Mobile site design:

When you are developing your mobile site, you also need to factor in the way you are going to develop it in. There are basically three ways you can develop your mobile site:

  1. Responsive Web Design
  2. Dynamic Serving
  3. Parallel Mobile Site

Here is a table that illustrates the pros and cons of each way: Mobile Site Pros and Cons

Image source:

Depending on your technical capability and content needs, you need to choose the most suitable format for your site from the above three.

8. Link to the main desktop site:

Even if you have the best mobile site, you need to have a link to your main desktop site there. Users can click on the main site link should they require details that are not there on your mobile site. Access to the main site must never be limited: Link to main Site'

9. Phone numbers:

Put your contact number on the mobile site and highlight it so that users can find it and call you easily when they want to. The contact number should be embedded on every page with easy calling access: Contact Us Phone Numbers

10. Moderate the use of heavy content:

Web pages with heavy, rich content like videos and images take a long time to load on mobile phones and users tend to lose patience. Cutting down the size of such content ensures quick loading speed and it gets better visibility: Moderate to use heavy Content

11. Mobile site or Apps:

Before you take a call on this, think about the reasons people visit a website or an app. An app is a tool people will use repeatedly when they want to get something done. A website is mostly an information mine about a company or its products. A mobile site is the best choice for some companies. For some, an app makes the most sense. It depends on companies’ business requirements and target audience: Mobile Site or Apps

12. Using canonical tags in mobile sites:

Google recommends adding a link rel=”canonical” tag on the mobile site pointing to the desktop URL and a special link rel=”alternate” tag pointing to the mobile URL. Doing this helps the Googlebot learn about your site’s mobile pages’ location. These changes are applicable when you are using different but equivalent URLs for desktop and mobile-optimized content.

13. Don’t block Googlebots:

Make sure that you don’t block any Googlebot of page assets like CSS, javascript and images with robots.txt or by any other means. Complete access to these external files helps Google’s algorithms in detecting your site’s responsive design configuration and gives it appropriate treatment.

14. Using mobile URL:

Google has now said that you can use mobile URLs for your mobile website. This lay to rest the discussion about whether mobile URLs split link equity and social shares. But, using mobile URLs does not affect a site’s organic search traffic. Google has also brought out a means of knowing which URL was intended for mobile searchers and desktop searchers. So, regardless of the device used to access the site, the correct URL is always shown. So, what have your experiences been when working on your mobile site’s SEO? Share with us.

Team Position²

Position2 is an innovative digital marketing agency that accelerates demand through integrated Content Marketing, Paid Acquisition, and Marketing Technology solutions. Our demand acceleration solutions map the buyer's journey across multiple touch points such as search, social, mobile, media, and email. These integrated campaigns are powered by cutting-edge content creation, digital advertising, web design/development, marketing automation, and analytics. We serve hundreds of clients ranging from VC funded startups to Fortune 500 multinational firms. Our 200-member team is based in Silicon Valley and Bangalore and consists of marketing gurus, engineers, data scientists, writers, and designers. Founded in 2006, Position2 is backed by Accel Partners.