Last week's blog post was about the need for mobile websites. And if your website isn't already mobile friendly, you're probably thinking of doing something about it. However, not all mobile websites are particularly search engine friendly, so in this blog post we will briefly present 3 options to help you make the right decisions on how to go about building your mobile website.
First and foremost it's important to note
that SEO for mobile websites is almost the same as for standard
websites. The main difference is that local results are weighed
higher on mobile searches. But even if you have complete control
over the SEO of your website, you may still encounter problems
depending on the mobile website model you choose.
1) The easiest solution (but not necessarily the best) is to do nothing at all. If you already have a user friendly and search engine optimized website, it's possible to leave it at that. Smartphones do a really good job of displaying standard websites, but often the user will have to use the phone's zoom function to be able to read the text and hit the right links and buttons. This method isn't the most user friendly, but your website will be visible to mobile users. Try to visit your website via a smartphone and test the navigation. If you get annoyed by the lack of speed and usability, you should strongly consider one of the other options.
2) Another option is "responsive design," which is about designing a website that provides a good user experience regardless of which device you use to access the site. That means the design is scalable so that the same page looks different depending on whether you visit the site via a smartphone, tablet, or desktop PC. On a smartphone, you would typically see one long column with the different components which on a desktop PC will typically be displayed in several columns:
From an SEO perspective, this is the best
method to create a mobile friendly website. The main advantage of
this model is that you only have one version of the website and one
URL. This makes it easy to manage - there aren't two different
versions of the site to be maintained and optimized - and you avoid
taking a position on the SEO problems that can be a result of
separate URLs. It also gives a good user experience because users
always see the same site, although the elements may be arranged
slightly different. On the downside, it often requires a
redesign/adaptation of the design and code of the website. Both
Google and Bing recommend this solution.
3) The third option is to create a separate website for the mobile market on a separate URL. This way you avoid making changes to the design of your existing website. One of the drawbacks of this model is that you get two versions of the website that have to be administered and maintained. However, there may well be good reasons for choosing this model, for example, if mobile users are using the site for significantly different purposes than desktop users. This example shows how the HSBC/Bank of America mobile website considers how their mobile users are typically interested in online banking and local content and making that content easily available (note how they also link to the desktop version at the bottom):
There are different opinions in the SEO community as to whether a separate mobile URL poses a risk of problems such as duplicate content and link juice dilution. So if you choose this option, be cautious and follow Google's guidelines carefully.
When choosing which way to go, it is important that you use your analytical data to assess your mobile users' behavior and develop a mobile strategy that takes into account what content your mobile users are looking for. As explained in last week's blog post about websites for mobile devices, this may also save you a lot of money.