SEO in a Mobile World

“I don’t care about pollution,” sang Pete Townshend in The Who’s “Going Mobile.” “I’m an air-conditioned Gypsy/That’s my solution/Watch the police and the taxman miss me/I’m mobile!”

Although these particular advantages may still be relevant in some sense of the term “mobile,” when it comes to the mobile web, you don’t want anyone to miss you. (Well, except maybe the taxman.) You want your existing and future customers to find you whether by laptop, tablet, smartphone, or traditional PC. As stated previously in this blog, failure to accommodate mobile visitors puts you at a distinct competitive disadvantage.

Among the many considerations for making your website mobile-friendly, you need to think about optimizing your SEO strategy for mobile.

SEO for Mobile? Seriously?

Yep. At first blush, you might think that SEO is SEO is SEO, and if you drop in the right keywords and take all the other recommended traditional SEO steps, you’re covered on all types of user devices. And you’d be mostly right.

But there are subtle differences in the way users navigate the web on mobile devices versus traditional computers, and these differences can be exploited with a mobile-savvy SEO strategy.

Tips for Mobile-izing Your SEO

Mobile users typically do not fire up their browsers to find cat videos, clever animations, or games. There are apps for those, and they generally do a much better job than any website on a mobile platform.

People who go to the web on their mobile devices are usually looking for information. Whether it’s to settle an argument at a bar, find the pronunciation of an obscure French wine varietal, view product reviews of a cool gadget seen in a brick-and-mortar store, or get directions to the nearest Starbucks, users are looking for facts, and they want them right now. With that in mind, here are some mobile SEO tips:

  • Location, location, location: People who are out and about want to know where, physically, to find things. If your business has a physical location, make sure any conceivable location identifier is among your keywords. This includes city, state (abbreviated and spelled out), county (ditto), neighborhood (such as “Hollywood” or “Greenwich Village”), ZIP code, and area code (or codes—don’t forget “overlay” area codes). And of course, don’t forget to include your address and phone number (remember, a smartphone is still a phone) in a standard, consistent format.
  • While on the subject of location, make sure you have a presence on review sites, such as Yelp, and that you can be found in Google Maps.
  • Tell web crawlers that your site is optimized for mobile. Google and other search engines can classify the sites their crawlers find according to whether the sites are mobile-friendly or not and then rank the mobile-friendly sites higher in the results requested by mobile users. So don’t hide important clues that tell the crawlers your site is mobile-friendly. These clues include resources (such as CSS and JavaScript files), image sizes and resolutions, and more.
  • Avoid mobile-unfriendly features on your mobile pages. Flash animations and unplayable video will reduce your ranking in the mobile-friendly search results.
  • Take advantage of the user’s location information. Most mobile devices are location-aware, usually through a GPS receiver, and a website can access and use this information. Most browsers will require the user to explicitly allow a website access to the user’s location, but once this permission is granted, you can “localize” the page to emphasize location-specific information. (“You’re 150 feet away from a great deal!”)

“Mobile SEO” incorporates not only traditional SEO (keywords, metadata, and such) but also design principles because designing for mobile makes a difference in your mobile search rankings. Also, there are coding tricks you can use to optimize the user experience on your mobile website. Talk with your web developer about more ways to optimize your mobile SEO strategy…as Pete Townshend might say, “like a hippie Gypsy.”