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Guide to Mobile SEO

Posted on 9.30.2013

There are numerous misconceptions about mobile search engine optimization. Website Magazine has discussed the barriers to mobile search optimization previously, which include speed, redirects and the like (e.g. users’ experience), but there are other issues remaining.

For example, understanding what search terms users are leveraging to find products, service and information from local businesses is really, really important. But thanks (or rather, no thanks) to Google moving to 100% secure search recently and effectively encrypting those keyword sand not providing them to website owners, that’s not really an option. Yet there are far more insidious problems that must be addressed.

While responsive sites have far less work to do to ensure they’re optimizing their presence on the search engines for mobile users, those with dedicated mobile sites (those which are entirely separate from the traditional desktop site) have much more to be concerned about and contend with. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that many Internet professionals turn to DIY mobile website builders (which do not typically offer a lot in the way of control in an SEO regard) without thinking about or thinking through the strategic or tactical side of doing so.

But focusing on how a dedicated mobile site is indexed and ensuring it can be crawled is the optimal course of action and it doesn’t really take a lot of work.

Accessibility: Indexability and Crawlability in Mobile SEO

One of the most common mistakes made by those deploying dedicated mobile sites relates primarily to a failure in accessibility – both “indexability” and “crawlability” – the opportunity for Internet professionals to have their websites and their individual web pages ultimately included and seen in the indices of popular search engines.

Websites can’t be accessed however if SEOs prevent search bots from doing so. Often, few visitors to a mobile site is the result of an error made on the part of the SEO team. For example, you will want to make sure that your website’s robots.txt file is not disallowing crawlers from accessing and indexing the mobile site. Believe it or not, it is a common problem.

Another step that can be taken, should your website actually feature different content than that of the desktop site, is to submit a separate mobile sitemap to the Webmaster Tools areas of Google and Bing. There are numerous rules by which you’ll need to abide (make sure it only contains mobile URLs, and that it includes the tag) but it’s an easy fix really to a big potential problem.

Another problem for the SEO initiative of dedicated mobile sites arises comes in failing to plan for the issue of duplicate content. The best way around this is to use the rel=canonical tag in tandem with what are known as bidirectional annotations or redirects. Essentially, what’re you are telling both users (through an HTTP Sniffer) and search engines is that a mobile or desktop version is available and where it can be located.

Mobile SEO is not any different from traditional, desktop-based SEO, but there are many important practices that must be engaged in by digital enterprises. The Internet policy for your SEO team should be, if you’re running a dedicated mobile site specifically, to make sure that it is accessible to search engines, can be crawled and indexed. The biggest barrier to successful SEO in general is accessibility so do what you need to do to achieve that state.

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