Essential top tips to improving mobile site SEO

mobiForge recently published an excellent technical guide to help Web developers make it easier for mobile users to find their site when they are searching on Google, Bing, Yahoo etc. This is search engine optimization (SEO) and it is just as important for mobile search as for desktop search… and there are considerable differences between the two. It doesn’t matter if you have a PC and mobile site, or a responsive-design site, mobile SEO matters.

The author, Bryson Meunier, director of SEO strategy at Resolution Media, chose m.toysrus.com as an example of how not to optimize for mobile search engines. This just goes to show that if developers at a big e-commerce vendor aren’t on the ball with mobile SEO, then the likelihood is that your developers or agency won’t be getting the message either.

As you’d expect, the mobiForge article is pretty techie (make sure your Web devs read it), but the lessons are very valuable, so mobiThinking has paraphrased some of the top tips here.

1. Make sure that the site is indexed.
To test for indexing, search for the URL of your mobile site in Google, Bing and other search engines. Also try this check (and the others below) with: m.toysrus.com and do a comparison. If you see: “A description for this result is not available because of this site’s robots.txt” or no result for your mobile site at all, then assume your site is not indexed. Ask your webmaster if the mobile site is blocking the search engines’ Web crawlers (also known a spider or robots), using the “nofollow” attribute in the code. If the crawlers, such as Googlebot, can’t visit your site, your site won’t come up when a mobile user searches for a product or service you sell.

2. Determine if crawlers can visit all the pages on the mobile site.
Googlebot etc need to visit every page on your site, to do this they need to be able to easily follow the internal links. Sites that use excessive JavaScript may cause navigational difficulties for the crawlers, for example.
Check out how easy it is for spiders to find their way round your site with Screaming Frog, Xenu or Rob Hammond’s SEO crawler — the latter is recommended by Meunier for mobile sites.
Verifying your site with Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools should highlight any immediate issues.

3. Check the site uses alt text for images.
Search engines only read text, they don’t ‘see’ images, or any parts of the site rendered using Flash or JavaScript.
Hold a desktop cursor over an image – do you see words explaining what the image is? That is alt text. This is what search engines reads as they crawl the site (this is also what the Web readers used by visually impaired people read). If you see nothing, search engines will also ‘see’ nothing. You can also try running a test using a text browser such as SEO browser.

4. Is the site easy to share?
You know the theory: the more incoming links your mobile site has, the more traffic you will see and the better your page ranking will be on the search engines. So make it easy for people to share and recall Web pages.
Part of this is including easy ways for people to promote you via social media, but also it is essential that you have used URLs that are easy to recall and recommend.
Browse through your product pages – could you recall these URLs and orally recount them to a friend? Does the URL contain search-friendly key words to help Google direct mobile searchers to your produce page or is it gobbledygook?

5. Ensure the site redirects properly.
Where companies use parallel sites for PC and mobile device, with device detection, the PC site commonly redirects a mobile device to mobile-friendly pages.
Check what happens when you visit certain pages on your PC site with a mobile device – does it redirect you to similar content on the mobile site? If you don’t see the right content, your mobile visitors will not find what they are searching for, nor will search engine spiders. See Google’s advice on faulty redirects.

6. Is your content mobile friendly?
There’s a lot be said for a responsive design site i.e. one that reformats the Website to fit the device that the visitor is using, but not if the site is simply repurposing the desktop site.
Does the site display content that won’t work, or work well, on a mobile device – such as Flash videos, games or animations? Does the site take advantage of mobile devices’ unique characteristics such as click-to-call or use location information to help guide the visitor to your store?

7. Test to see how quickly your site loads on a mobile device.
Use Google’s Page Speed tool to see if you are keeping mobile searchers hanging around… because they won’t for long.

8. Give mobile visitors what they want: your mobile site, not an advertisement for your app.
As mobiThinking has explained previously Google’s new SEO guidelines punish sites that do not take users directly to the mobile site.
Test for this simply by searching on a mobile device for your site, if you are greeted by a big ad saying “download our app”, when you click through, then remove it pronto and replace it with a small banner ad or link on the Web page.

9. Make sure your development team read Bryson Meunier’s full article on mobiForge:
• Eleven questions to better mobile SEO

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