In the White House digital government strategy released a few weeks ago, the White House has made it clear that it wants all government agencies to ensure that the American public can find its critical services via their mobile phone. This is not surprising considering that currently 46% of the American public owns a smartphone, and that 57% of smartphone users search on their phone every day, and it’s predicted that by 2013 globally there will be more mobile searches than desktop searches.
The 5 Steps to Appear in Mobile Search
It’s not enough to assume that your desktop pages will appear in mobile search. Google puts more weight toward ranking mobile landing pages in mobile search than desktop pages.
Like desktop SEO, appearing in mobile search is based at a high level on creating a webpage that search engines can crawl and understand, labeling the pages with words used by real live Internet searchers (and for some searches/industries the keywords used on mobile are different than desktop), and links/social sharing signals toward those pages.
1. Create Mobile Landing Pages That Are Findable by Search Engines
At the SMX Advanced conference, Google announced formal SEO guidance for mobile website design and announced that there are 3 mobile site configurations supported by Google:
- Sites that use responsive Web design, i.e., sites that serve all devices on the same set of URLs, with each URL serving the same HTML to all devices and using just CSS to change how the page is rendered on the device. This is Google’s recommended configuration.
- Sites that dynamically serve all devices on the same set of URLs, but each URL serves different HTML (and CSS), depending on whether the user-agent is a desktop or a mobile device.
- Sites that have separate mobile and desktop URLs (for example huffingtonpost.com/mobileweb vs. huffingtonpost.com)
Google also recommends that webmasters create a mobile xml sitemap (basically a table of content of all pages) and upload that sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools.
Why Does Google Recommend Responsive Web Design for Mobile Sites?
Ultimately, this will make Google’s work easier in relation to finding and crawling your pages, and provides less room for error (and possible challenges with indexing) than the other options. It also saves Google resources as they will only have to crawl one site. This option also requires no rewriting of content or creation of new content.
2. Label Those Pages with Words Used by Your Target Audience
SEO Copywriting is just as important to mobile pages as desktop pages, and regardless of which way you execute your mobile SEO strategy, you’re going to want to make sure that your pages are optimized for top target keywords.
3. Create Mobile Pages that Work for Your Users
Like the rest of the web, mobile web pages need to be usable and liked by real live human searchers. Google has admitted to using human evaluators to improve their search results and one of the questions that they are required to answer is, “Would you share this page with your friends.” Additionally, more than half of these potential customers would not recommend a business with a bad mobile site and 40% would then visit a competitor site after a bad mobile experience on yours. It’s really important to create pages that work for your users, and with online usability testing becoming more affordable, there’s really no reason not to test a design before launching.
And when building mobile landing pages, keep in mind that mobile searchers use their thumbs…so make things navigation and clicking on links easy for finger clicking.
4. Be Fast
Both search engines have been really focused on the speed in which a page loads, and this is directly related to mobile search behavior. So while Google at the moment is just focused on making sure that mobile pages are set up in a way that they can find and index them, you will lose your human mobile website visitors if your mobile pages load too slowly. In fact, 60% of mobile users expect a site to load in 3 seconds or less, and 74% are only willing to wait five seconds or less for a single web page to load before leaving the site based on Compuware’s survey of global mobile users.
Not sure how to check how fast your site is loading? Both Google and Bing Webmaster Tools will tell you, and as free accounts, there is NO better place to get intelligence directly from the search engines about your website’s performance.
5. Tell People About your Mobile Pages and Let People Tell Others
I’m amazed how many people build web pages and websites and then forget the promotion piece (which is the most important piece). So make sure that you have a plan in place to let the world know about your mobile pages, and let your mobile visitors tell others by making it easier for them to share to their social networks. While not a huge ranking factor in mobile search now, it certainly will be in the future.
Mobilizing your Agency’s Site
So what is your agency doing to meet the White House memo related to making two pages mobile optimized? Are you using responsive web design? I’d love to hear from others about how you’re moving forward toward capturing your mobile audience.