Bryson Meunier: How does mobile SEO differ, if at all, from traditional or desktop SEO?
Cindy Krum: When I do a mobile SEO audit, I focus much more on usability than I would on a desktop SEO audit. There are a lot of different ways that mobilization platforms and well-meaning developers can hinder the usability of a mobile search listing or a mobile page itself. Mobile search is very action and conversion oriented, so it is not enough to rank. You have to attract the click and trigger the conversion — frequently in rapid succession — so the analysis and recommendations are a bit more nuanced, and also more focused on inspiring confidence in the mobile transaction.
With mobile SEO, it is more than just the usability of the page, but also the “usability” or utility of the search result itself. There are a lot of different types of pre-formatted mobile search results that can be displayed, so we need to make sure that the result is immediately useful for the searcher. If they are searching for a location, an interactive map should be returned, [if searching for] a product, then the appropriate products and reviews should be returned and so on. If the anticipated result is just a traditional blue link, then I want to make sure that the title tag and description tag are meaningful enough to get the click.
The terms you optimize a page for often have to be more mobile. Mobile searchers think more before they click on a result — they are in a rush, and page loads may be slow, so they are more likely to look through the top ranking results before clicking than a desktop searcher would be.
BM: Responsive design and adaptive content have really come into their own in 2012. Are these things compatible with mobile SEO? Are there any drawbacks to making a responsive site or divorcing content from the device used for presentation?
CK: In many ways, Responsive Design is great for SEO because it allows you to leverage the SEO value that you have already developed on your desktop pages to improve mobile rankings as well. The problem is that some search behavior is decidedly different when it comes from a mobile device instead of a computer. This situation is not accounted for in a purely Responsive mobile solution, so in some cases, special mobile landing pages are also needed. I have been recommending a mixed solution for most of my clients – leveraging Responsive Design when it makes sense, and special mobile-only landing pages when keywords or use-cases cannot be appropriately addressed with a Responsive Design approach.
BM: What’s important for mobile SEO in 2013?
CK: In 2012, there was a significant increase in the amount of press and attention that has been paid to mobile SEO by the search engines and the community as a whole. There is no doubt that mobile SEO is a rapidly growing discipline, and these changes and announcements will continue to increase in 2013.
I anticipate that Google and other providers will work much harder to improve reporting and attribution in mobile analytics. The search engines will continue to make policies and technologies that minimize the overhead and attention that they need to spend on mobile search (like officially endorsing Responsive Design); While these efforts are good for their own bottom line, my guess is that their decisions will also continue to complicate the job of mobile SEO and mobile development, at least in the near term.
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