Mobile SEO for Small Businesses

Travis Bliffen
by Travis Bliffen 19 Aug, 2014

A joint survey conducted by ComScore, Neustar Localeze, and the agency 15 Miles indicates that 78 percent of mobile, local searches result in an offline purchase. As a business owner, this should make two things very clear, mobile search optimization is very important and positioning your company highly in local search is also very important. Today, we are going to look at how you can take full advantage of the growing number of mobile searchers to increase your leads and profits.


Develop a Mobile Friendly Website 


The user friendliness of a mobile site is a known ranking factor used by Google.


This one almost goes without saying but some of you still do not have a mobile-friendly website. I am not going to go into a lot of detail on this but the first thing you need to do is get a responsive website or set up a mobile-specific website. If you choose the latter of the two strategies, make sure to redirect each desktop page to the appropriate mobile page, failing to do this is one of the biggest mistakes made when using a separate mobile/desktop site.



(Image source: Google Webmaster Central)


Customizing Your Marketing for Mobile Users


This step transcends SEO and is important for any form of mobile marketing. When you are setting up your site, ads, or even links that are likely to send referral traffic to your site, you need to think about the needs of the user. Simple steps such as ensuring you have a clickable phone number on your site can significantly increase conversions and since user experience is at the core of this, it will be rewarded by Google as well.


As a cross between user experience and keyword selection, you should also consider how people in your area search versus how people nationally would look for the same term. Many studies have been conducted and each of them has uncovered a pretty significant variation in how similar searches vary by location and if you really want to dig deeper into this, Cornell University conducted an interesting study identifying search terms specific to an area, even without a geo-modifier preceding a keyword. 



Choosing the BEST Keywords for Mobile

In addition to locational search variations, people also search differently on a desktop browser than on a mobile device. Part of this is because the high percentage of localized mobile searches and part of this is because mobile searchers are closer to taking action. 


Let's say you own a local sporting goods store and you want to optimize for mobile searchers. You may be tempted to use the same terms your desktop site is ranking for but this could be a mistake.


For example: We will say Bob is planning an out-of-state fishing trip to the city your store is located in. While preparing for the trip, Bob is going to research the area, find out what types of equipment and tackle he may need, and even look for maps of fishing hotspots in the area. Targeting informational terms would increase the likelihood of Bob finding your store while doing his pre-trip research.


Once ole Bob and his friends arrive in your town, they are going to be looking for a place to purchase the hot new lure they read about when planning the trip. At this point, your mobile site ranking for the name of the lure + some variation of "buy" is the most likely way to get Bob to your site and store.



Maybe you are asking- Why not just rank both versions for all of those terms? By all means, if you have the budget, go for it. If you are like most small businesses your marketing budget can be tight sometimes so segmenting keywords to the most appropriate device can save you money.


To make a long story short: when choosing mobile keywords, location-based terms with buyer intent are the highest converting and they generate the greatest ROI.


Is Your Content Mobile Friendly?

Did You Know? When compared with desktop browsers, mobile viewers often spend a reduced amount on a website. The exception to this is video-based content which has a higher average viewing time on mobile devices than desktop browsers. 


That being said, if you opt for a dedicated mobile website, you should structure your content to be even more easily scanned than a standard post. Shorter content, more headings, and several easy navigation options will allow you to share your message to the mobile viewer effectively. Don't forget to optimize images for mobile viewing as well. This is one of the advantages of having a dedicated mobile website but if your site is responsive, you can still rank well in mobile. This is another reason why keyword selection is so important, if you have your terms properly segregated, you will have a good idea of which pages on your responsive site should use a mobile-first approach when designing the content.


I will leave the debate of responsive versus dedicated mobile sites up to you! So, which is better? 


Cast your vote on Twitter: @websitemagazine or the SEO gods will be very displeased with you!


Now, back to the important stuff you come here to read!


Link Building and Mobile SEO

Link building is not dead, not dying and not ineffective either. In case you haven't heard, links are still one of the most important ranking factors in 2014. 





There you have it, straight from Matt Cutts (see video above), Google sucks without counting links!


While I am not going to delve into a lengthy discussion about how or how not to build links to your site, you should actively be seeking authority and niche relevant links. They will help your website rank on mobile, desktop, and any other device someone may use to search. 


Important Tip: As we discussed above, mobile searches are often local searches. What does that tell us? Part of your link building campaign should include building location specific links and citations. Citations are links made by submitting your site to local directories with or without a link. Location specific links are back links made from local sites like your Chamber of Commerce, a local newspaper or any other quality link from a site specific to your location.


If you aren't sure where to start, competitive analysis is a good way to find sites that would be good to get a link from. Here is how you can get started with that for FREE.


Step 1: Search Google for a keyword that you want to rank for.


Step 2: Make a list (URL) of the top 10 results for that keyword.


Step 3: Go to - ignore the pop up ads and enter the URLS of your competitor one at a time. Download the list of links and repeat until you have the links from all the top 10 competitors.


Step 4: Merge all the links into a single Excel sheet, select the duplicate urls and save them to a separate page. You can use Excel for free at 


Step 5: Start by visiting the sites that linked to more than one page. This is either a good link or an easy link.


Step 6: Work through the shared links page and then move on to the large list of all competitor links, building any of them you can.


Step 7: Outrank the competition and be proud of a job well done.


Moving right along… What Now?


Social Media Signals

For a while SEOs could completely ignore the value of social media, those days are in the past now. Whether you are a small business or a large brand, leveraging social media is a necessity. While you do not have to be active on every platform, choosing a few sites to build a following on can be very helpful. As part of optimizing your website for mobile, you need to make sure that social sharing is easily accessible when your site is viewed from a mobile device. If you cannot figure out how to implement social media into your marketing strategy, there is plenty of good advice here on Website Magazine if you take a few minutes.


You need to have a fast, mobile-friendly website.


When selecting keywords, think about the different goals and behaviors of mobile searchers versus desktop searchers.


Responsive Site Owners: Make sure pages geared toward a mobile audience have shorter content, makes use of video when possible, and includes navigation and social sharing options that are easy to use from mobile.


Dedicated Mobile Sites: Make sure you set up the redirects properly. Check you load times, and structure content specific to the mobile viewer.


Link Building and Social Media are both very important for ranking so make sure you have a plan in place.

If you are working your tail off and not getting anywhere, contact a professional. They can offer you consulting or ongoing services and point you and your site in the right direction.


Oh, by the way, I think that responsive sites are better than dedicated mobile sites. With the growing number of devices that can access the internet, responsive sites are better positioned to adapt. (pun intended)


If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear them below.