6 New SEO Tips for Reaching Mobile Search Customers
Google estimates three out of four mobile searches trigger follow-up actions, including a store visit, phone call, purchase or word-of-mouth sharing. Google also reports 60 percent of mobile searchers look only at the first page of mobile search results.
The following tips coupled with the use of free mobile diagnostic tools can serve as a helpful road map for improving mobile search visibility and engaging deeper with the growing set of consumers who are driving the mobile revolution:
1. Relevance matters on the small screen. There's a complex web of mobile "air traffic control signals" operating behind the scenes of your site. In the land of mobile, the device, site design and even the link you click can influence what content is served, including error messages. Sites that eliminate barriers to mobile content earn higher positions in mobile search results. TIP: To boost your mobile rankings, make sure your server redirects route mobile searchers to deep, relevant mobile pages vs. the mobile site homepage.
2. Follow Google's advice regarding canonical link markup. Google enjoys a 95 percent share of worldwide mobile search queries. To get your mobile site content indexed and visible, follow the search giant's recommended best practices for canonical link markup. TIPS: Each desktop page should contain a "rel=alternate" metatag that points to the mobile URL, and each mobile page should contain a "rel=canonical" metatag that points to the desktop URL.
3. Clarify whether content varies by device type. In mobile developer speak, a user agent is the string of code that identifies the type of browser your customer is using to request a particular page. Google recommends all sites that customize their mobile experience based on user-agent settings make it clear to bots that the content varies by user agent. This behind-the-scenes mobile routing must be clearly stated in the code. TIP: When the server redirects your mobile customer or a mobile bot, the Vary response header should contain "user agent."
4. Check thoroughly for errors to appease the engines and your customers. Recently, Google announced changes to how it ranks smartphone search results. It's not yet clear when the new algorithm will be rolled out, but your site could be put in the penalty box if you're serving error pages to your mobile customers. Beyond finding yourself in mobile search oblivion, few mobile searchers will return to your mobile site once they encounter an error. TIP: Confirm that none of your desktop pages lead mobile users to a 404 error page.
5. Make your iOS app more visible. With the release of iOS 6, Apple introduced a new way to promote your iOS app and deliver an improved mobile experience. It's called the Smart Banner metatag and gives one-click access to download and/or open your app. If you've invested in an app, why not drive more iOS downloads to a captive iPhone and/or iPad user base? TIP: Use Apple's Smart Banner metatag to make it easier for organic iOS traffic to download your iOS app.
6. Be responsible with responsive design weight so pages load fast. Page weight matters, especially for sites that employ responsive design techniques, the emerging trend recommended by Google. Overuse or incorrect use could cause your site to operate as if it has an ACME anvil tied to it. If this happens, your search rankings will suffer and the customer experience will be less than ideal (just ask Wile E. Coyote). TIP: The total time to download a mobile page should be less than one second.
These are just a few tips for optimizing your mobile site. The pace at which things change is fast, so it's important to keep up with emerging trends in search and continually seek out tools to help diagnose problems early.