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Mobile SEO: It’s About The Value, Not The Viral

Posted on Aug 19th, 2010
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    Mobile SEO At SES San FranciscoTake a deep breath if you feel one step behind in terms of mobile Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  If the crowd size for the session Getting Mobilized! Mobile Marketing Strategies at SES San Francisco is any indication, you are in quite good company.

    The session, moderated by Paul Cushman, Senior Director, Mobile Sales Strategy, Yahoo!, featured on its panel:

    • Cindy Krum, Chief Executive Officer, Rank-Mobile, LLC
    • Sandeep Aggarwal, Managing Director, Internet & Software, Caris & Company
    • Michael Martin, Owner, Mobile Martin

    “Mobile is a channel, not a strategy,” states Kushman. “Channels may change, but marketing strategy is marketing strategy.”

    Creation of a mobile app (whether for iPhone or Android) for no other reason than to launch something ‘really cool’ carries roughly the same weight as creating something viral just to create something viral.  Both are fun, both are consumed, and both are easily forgotten.

    True value is invisible.  Think of a neighborhood restaurant website that appears at the top of mobile rankings whenever you search for it.  The entire website and menu display in your mobile device just as they would on your PC.  Even better, this same website takes reservations directly from its mobile version.  Flashy and viral? Not really.  Valuable and profitable? Absolutely.

    In a sense, mobile search is local search.  This statement isn’t to suggest that mobile SEO is of value only for local search, rather, its to drive home the point the point of personalization.  Mobile search results should match what the user is searching for, their location, and their mobile device.

    A few mobile SEO tips from the panel:

    • Understand the popularity of mobile.  In a statistic cited by Aggarrwal, 15 million plus Android phones are shipped each year.  Find out how many of your website visitors are arriving via these devices, and whether you have to move on mobile tomorrow or yesterday, by reviewing your analytics.
    • Realize that different mobile users will see your content in different ways.  Feature phones (ie not Smart Phones) will oftentimes stack content from your site in a mobile browser while Smart Phones may display content either in zoom or postage stamp mode.  Implementing mobile style sheets or building unique mobile content can ensure your content displays properly for any user.  And because different mobile and traditional search listings can appear in the same search results, user agents and redirects can be implemented to ensure the user is served the right content.
    • Duplicate content concerns? Don’t worry. According to Krum, mobile content is not counted as duplicate – even if it is the exact same minus the platform.  This is straight from Google Webmaster.
    • Create a separate mobile XML site map and ensure it is convertible to mobile.
    • Implement microformats. More and more, these will appear in mobile search results as rich snippets which can help compel the click.

    Full disclosure?

    In my role at TopRank, I will not be tasked with creating a mobile app, developing a mobile site or working with any style sheets.  We leave that to our genius-level SEO design professionals, like Thomas McMahon.

    If any of the advice communicated in this post went a bit over your head technically, that’s OK.  What is important to realize is what’s possible and what your users expect.  Use this to shape the strategic direction of your campaign and tactical direction you give to your design team.

    You can bet this session will shape one of the first conversations I have with my team post-event.