iSEO: Doing Mobile SEO Right – SMX Advanced 2012

June 6, 2012
By Michelle Lowery in Internet Marketing Conferences

iSEO: Doing Mobile SEO Right - SMX Advanced 2012Anything worth doing is worth doing right, right? Right. As an SEO, if you’re not taking mobile into account, you’re doing yourself—and probably your clients—a disservice. But before you can optimize for mobile, you need to understand mobile content ranking factors. Speakers Pierre Far, Cindy Krum, and Bryson Meunier will also delve into the benefits of running a separate mobile site as opposed to a one-size-fits-all philosophy. Because, you know, that philosophy always works so well in the world of SEO. Barry Schwartz and Angie Schottmuller are moderating. Let’s jump in!

Cindy starts things off with a presentation called Critical Decisions for Mobile SE[OMG]. She goes over the mobile site design options: separate mobile pages, responsive design, mixed solution (RESS).

She’s going to share some case studies. First is an infotainment site.


  • mobilization engine wasn’t pulling across SEO content
  • engine was not epxiring content properly either
  • they were accumulating 404 pages

They had a lot of DUST – Dupe URL Same Text. This kills the efficiency of the crawl. She also has a super creepy spider on that slide, and it’s freaking me out.

Because not all pages were mobilized, not all pages redirected to a mobile version, so they’d hit the back button. That’s bad.

The mobile engine didn’t have compression or page load done correctly, either.


  • Update feeds to include SEO
  • work with platform to update templates
  • have better server rules to max crawl efficiency
  • put up self-referencing canonicals

Next example was a doctor directory. The goal was to move a responsive mobile solution that increased page views and foot traffic/calls.


Their biggest problem was that they hadn’t mobilized any content. They were concerned that the landing pages wouldn’t get indexed. Also, the desktop pages were too big to use responsive design effectively. Their stuff was already compressed, so it was going to be hard to make it any smaller.


  • Move forward with current mobile beta launch on m. site
  • Start responsive design on non-mobilized directory nav pages first
  • Mixed Solution and RESS eventually

Last example is an e-commerce site. The goal was to improve mobile rankings to drive more mobile shopping and sales.


  • They had desktop ranking really well in mobile search
  • WAP and smartphone sites
  • clean, light mobile pages
  • inconsistencies between robots.txt, canonical tags, and XML sitemaps
  • other universals not ranking well

They also had a JavaScript error message was the first thing indexed and cached as the description because they didn’t have an appropriate description written. They also had some misredirection of desktop pages that were ranking well, but were redirecting to blank error pages.


  • fix parsing error in redirection rules
  • stop js error indexing with bot-specific instructions and adding a description tag
  • change linking on DIV to linking on images and anchor text
  • hard to get lots of e-commerce rankings on one search
  • improve social interactivity on the mobile content to drive more links

Cindy was kind enough to share a promo code for three months of free MobileMoxie service: SMXA2012. Check out her service!

Next up is Bryson. He’s going to talk about data.

Mobile search optimization is critical. Mobile search traffic will eclipse desktop search traffic in years, not decades. It’s big now, and it’s getting bigger.

Many Paths to Mobile Optimization

One URL vs. Mobile URL. Can you have a site that works well on all devices, like Apple has? Do you need a smartphone optimized site? A tablet optimized site? If you ask a mobile SEO expert, you’ll get different answers, which is why I want to focus on the data.

Matt Cutts has said that mobile URLs don’t cause canonicalization issues, but then the G Webmaster team selected responsive design for maintainability after that.

They did a study on search queries. He says keyword and concept research are critical to SEO. How do keywords and search behavior change on mobile phones? To find out, they looked at search data from the Google Keyword Tool. They supplemented it with Google Insights for Search. Mobile search accounts for 22% of all Google searches on average, according to the sample they took.

Google queries reveal differences in search behavior. They found the same keywords, but searched with different frequency on mobile. For example, 80% of “restaurants near me” searches come from mobile devices.

How does this affect marketers? He shows an example from Different search behavior requires different content to achieve searcher goals quickly. Mobile searchers are looking are hyper-focused on locations. Arby’s has responded to that, and made locations the focus of their mobile site.

Because their mobile search behavior is different from their desktop search behavior, they’ve adapted.

Some categories need dedicated mobile sites. They did research on different categories using Google AdWords Keyword Tool. In the dining and nightlife category, the average was 33% mobile searches, whereas for real estate, it was only 16%.

They did another study specifically on smartphone search results. They tested page speed, code validation, and other factors to find what was ranking.

Is validation key? In 2005, yes, but not now. Only one result in their study validated, so don’t believe that validation is key to results.

Is mobile usability/page speed helpful? Larry Page says yes. But according to their sample, 65% of the sites failed the page speed test. It may matter eventually, but right now, it doesn’t seem to.

Is link building unnecessary? No. It’s absolutely necessary. Most of the sites they looked at had more than 100 inbound links.

Does DotMobi help? Maybe, but you don’t necessarily need to use a DotMobi domain to be successful. It’s really not a strong signal. They found many more domains indexed in Google than DotMobi.

Do mobile sites help ranking? Yes. Having a mobile site is strongly correlated with top three rankings in Google smartphone reach.

How do the top sites approach mobile SEO? He looked at redirect strategies for some major sites. 83% of them do have some sort of mobile SEO strategy. What they do surprised him. 60% of the sites redirect to mobile URLs. Even if there’s some loss of link equity, focus on what makes sense for your users. Google can handle any kind of URL.

For a list of data-driven mobile SEO best practices, check out Bryson’s post on the topic.

Pierre is up now. His presentation is titled Smartphone Sites and Google Search. He’s going to give recommendations for building smartphone-optimized sites. Everything he’s going to go over has already been published in excruciating detail on the Google Webmaster blog, so check it out.

Are you going to have a mobile site on the same URL, or on a different one? Once you decide that, are you going to serve them with the same or different HTML? He’s using some diagrams, so I really recommend you check out the Google blog for more detail.

Two key things: all these configurations are fully supported by Google, but responsive Web design is their recommendation. So how do you do that?

Same HTML –> Same URL –> CSS media queries

Your users will see the same URL whether they’re on a desktop or on a mobile device. It doesn’t matter which Google bot crawls the site—it goes into the pipeline, so there’s an efficiency win, which allows them to have more coverage on the site, index more pages, and keep the content fresher.

Now he’s putting some code up on the screen that addresses max pixel width for mobile devices. He says there are four ways to handle media queries, and they’re trying to support all of them. They all have pros and cons, so it’s up to you which one you use.

Responsive Web Design Tips

  • max-width value
  • crawling – let Google have full access to the site so they can understand it better
  • test in modern browser

Dynamic Serving

Different HTML –> Same URL

there are two problems with this. There are caching proxies all over the world. If you send a response for your server, and you send the mobile one and that’s not the one they’re caching, that’s still the one the user is going to get.

Now Pierre is talking about Vary HTTP header and sharing more code. I’m going to recommend again that you seek this information on the Google Webmaster blog to get more detail, and a better understanding of what he’s sharing.

Different HTML –> Different URL
This treats both the mobile and the desktop version as one entity. What we want here is for you to annotate these pages to tell us which page is mobile and which isn’t. How do you do relationship annotation for the algorithm to understand?

On the mobile page, you put a rel=”canonical” to the home page. Then he goes over using a rel=”alternate” tag. It’s not a site-wide thing; it’s confined to a page.

Separate Mobile Site Tips

  • rel=”alternate” in Sitemaps
  • Vary HTTP header if you automatically redirect

Key Takeaways

  • Consider your users first
  • Use responsive Web design if you can
  • If not, understand trade-offs and pitfalls, and implement correctly

Whichever design you use, let Google bot access everything.

And we’re done! For now. We’ll be back with more SMX coverage after lunch. Stay tuned!

Get all the SMX Advanced 2012 coverage here!

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