The presence of mobile usage is growing rapidly. Is your website optimized for mobile devices? Because there has been an explosion in the use of mobile devices among consumers, a company must take the new context for marketing itself online seriously. Whether its business is considered big or small, management and/or ownership must assume that at least one quarter (25%) of those visiting its website have both access to and desire to use a mobile device. In an article released at the beginning of 2013, marketing industry analyst Walker Sands states that mobile web traffic is up 78% from the previous year, with no signs of a slowdown or decrease. Mobile activity will be asserting new rules for marketers and business owners in the coming years. Nowhere are those new rules more apparent than those for search engine optimization (SEO). Even without the context of mobile optimization, SEO has become much more difficult to predict and understand for analysts and consultants in recent years. Marketers have been trying to interpret signals of what works best in searches from Google for years, and it makes sense that they get these signals right, since Google accounts for 67% of all search traffic. However, in recent years, marketers and SEO analysts have not had much success in determining what Google search engineers want. Search algorithm updates called "Panda" and "Penguin" have largely perplexed the old SEO world and have given them less control over the algorithm, according to Vanessa Fox of Resolution Media. Additionally, the need for their customers to appear in search engine results when users are accessing the web with smartphones, tablets and iPhones requires landmarks for SEO in these new, more torturous waters. How does the small- and/or middle-market business successfully navigate meeting their mobile users on the web by both gaining and maintaining visibility in search engine results? Have marketers learned anything that would constitute the new rules to follow? While there are still no rules, search engine analysts believe that the most prudent course of action is to determine what the search engine company defines as best practices and follow them. Given that basic structure for mobile decision making, clearly the starting point for determining good mobile SEO starts at what constitutes a good website, according to Google. When it comes to website marketing to mobile users, the evidence gives SEO marketers two central questions.
1. What is the best basis for the design of mobile websites, according to Google?
Buried in a June 2012 blog post on its Webmaster tools site, search engine giant Google openly states its preference with respect to mobile site design. Its recommendation was and is that site owners use responsive web design. A responsive design reacts to the browser of various devices when a visitor lands on a business's website. In other words, the site will respond differently to an iPhone that browses the website than it will respond to a desktop computer's access to the website. Users will see information to help them navigate the site in a way that fits their respective devices. Of course, this means that mobile proxy design and mobile redirect design could possibly receive substantially less standing in the future than responsive designs. A redirect would typically have the letter "m" in front of a web address. The m.website.com URL would deliver the mobile version of the site when a device accesses it with a browser that is required to do so.
2. Does a business make any of Google's identified common mistakes for mobile website design?
On its developer website, Google outlines common mistakes on what it calls "smartphone sites." Web designers and business owners need to make sure that they don't fall into any of these categories unwittingly: - Does the website have any unplayable videos? - Are all devices redirected to live pages? - Do all users, both smartphone and desktop alike, land on functioning pages, or do smartphone users land on "404" pages? - Are smartphone users interrupted in their browsing experience with an intermediate, interstitial advertisement? - Does the smartphone site page render quickly or is its load time substantially longer than comparable pages on the web? Websites that fall into these mistake categories can very easily lose search positions to those that follow these "rules." This is the starting point for the kind of mobile design that must also accomplish search engine visibility. Although all other optimization rules will need to be followed, business owners and marketers will want to make sure that these fundamentals are in place.