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Mobile SEO

By Paul Morris
I have stated a few times on this blog that there is fundamentally no difference between optimising a website for desktop as there is for mobile. Whilst I stand by this statement it’s about time I confirmed my mobile optimisation beliefs, show how my statement is (slightly) deluded and make reference to how Mobile SEO will evolve.


Broadly “optimising for mobile is the same as optimising a website for desktop SEO”. At present. Fact.


…However there are differences.

To start some obvious differences/ points of interest are:

People generally search on mobile with shorter and more concise phrases. As a result after looking in your analytics and the propensity for people to search for your products/ services on mobile in the future you might need to change your Fat Head, Chunky Middle and the Long Tail strategy to one of spending less time targeting the long tail and more effort on targeting more competitive keywords.

To ‘Mobile optimise’ should not simply mean getting to the top of Google for relevant search terms. It should ultimately mean converting Search traffic into business. Whilst you could get top of the search results on a mobile by following desktop optimisation principles e.g. 300-500 words per page, this many words displayed on a mobile will not cut the mobile conversion mustard.

Google themselves offer up some mobile optimisation advice on this very issue. Broadly responsive is the way to go. If you are using responsive HTML and CSS (something like then ensure you use the vary HTTP header (a signal to Google that a mobile variant of the page is available aiding crawling/ indexation).

However responsive is not always possible/ right. If using separate domains/ sub domains then you need a mobile sitemap with canonical tags pointing back to the desktop URLs to avoid content duplication. Plus you also need to sort the other side of the coin out by adding the rel=”alternate” tag to the desktop URLs (essentially the reverse of the Vary HTTP header telling Google there is an alternative mobile version of the page).

Mobile SEO does actually offer different results again making my belief seem misguided. E.g. On mobile universal search is often tailored with maps and local results getting much more prevalence at the top of the page, knowledge graph results now showing up in mobile SERPS, etc.

Mobile does also offer different functionality to desktop such as the Universal search options at the top of the page and the fact there is currently no way of Google +1’ing on mobiles.

Then there is the question of HTML 5 or platform specifric apps…

My belief of there being ‘no’ difference of optimising search on a mobile is blown out of the water if you take into consideration app optimisation. You search on apps on a mobile hence this should form part of mobile seo – just not many people’s conventional view of mobile seo. You can specifically optimise apps for search and I cover these in my more recent Ass… App Store SEO post.

The Future

With people starting to search in a multitude of ways e.g. Google goggles, voice, the Bing Ipad app, etc and with mobile SEO becoming ever more important mobile does require a specific algorithm and I can see the desktop and Mobile Search algorithm diverging at some point.

Here are some different signals Google could take into account for Mobile SEO:

  • Mobile will become much more personal. Personalisation based on past search behaviour, your location and the very platform you are using (IOS, Blackberry, Android, Windows 7 and Tablet V’s mobile) will become more pronounced. As an example if I’m searching on an android mobile phone in Manchester about fitness the results will feature more mobile friendly sites about fitness, digital versions of fitness books, local (and I mean super local) fitness establishments and also introduce android fitness app results at the top of the universal search results.
  • Mobile bookmarks on Android will act almost like a vote for that site.
  • Could Google move into QR readers and the very fact people are using QR codes give Google a small signal as to how seriously that brand takes mobile?
  • Mobile versus desktop search volume
  • And then developing the above, mobile usage data in Google+ and Google Reader
  • And then developing the above even further; could cheeky Google even take into account KPI’s such as bounce rate, dwell time, pages visited, etc from your Google analytics account and benchmark them against the norm for your sector?
  • Google has launched its GOMO Meter where it is clearly trying to stimulate best practice mobile optimisation. The tool scans your site (is the speed, site images, site text and navigation fit for purpose?) and gives you some overarching advice on what to fix. What I find most interesting is that here Google is telling us what it deems to be most important thus I would not be surprised if parameters such as site speed and readability become more important on mobile SEO than it is for desktop SEO.
  • Could the very fact you have a HTML 5 or .mobi site elevate you above the competition?

I will leave SEO experts with something to ponder. We use past knowledge and CTR studies to guestimate CTR and thus sales for SEO based on past CTR studies. As Mobile becomes increasingly important we must make separate mobile guestimates and remember past CTR studies are unreliable for mobile as CTR will be completely different.