Search Engine Optimization for Mobile Websites: 3 Models

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 three 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.

Model A. Keep status quo

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.

Model B. Responsive design

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:

An image comparing the desktop version with the responsive mobile version of a website.

Desktop version of a website (on the left) compared to the responsive mobile version (on the right).

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.

Model C. A separate website

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).

An image comparing the desktop version of a website with a separate, more minimalist mobile version.

Desktop version of a website (left) compared to a separate, more minimalist mobile version (right).

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.

Use data for your mobile strategy

When choosing which way to go, it is important that you use your analytics data to assess your mobile users’ behavior and develop a mobile strategy that takes into account what content your mobile users are looking for.

Try to map out the behavior of those users who visit your website through mobile units and look at the involvement as well as what content they most often view. You will see a clear tendency in what the users look for when they visit your website through a mobile device.

If the top 10 visited pages are 90% of the page views in connection with mobile access, then it would be a good starting point to optimize those 10 pages and make them functional to users who access the website through mobile devices. Doing this can make a seemingly impossible web project, the development of an entire mobile version of your website, reduced to the optimization of few strategic pages.

For an easy introduction to SEO, download the guide “17 Killers of Your SEO Efforts – and How to Fix Them”.






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by Siteimprove
September 19th
2013

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