Technology

Mobile Matters: Google Gives Smartphones SEO Priority

By / Jun 25, 2013 (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

In a series of recent comments, Google has suggested that sites failing to properly tailor their approach to mobile SEO could drop significantly in its search rankings. Make sure yours isn’t one of them.

Search engine optimization has gone mobile. Is your content up to snuff?

Recent comments by Google suggest that sites that give users poor experiences on smartphones could be hurting their results in search engines. Among the key points you should keep in mind about mobile SEO:

Webmasters really should consider whether their user experience needs to be dramatically different for mobile users and, if not, pursue a responsive-design solution as the ideal.

Avoid misconfiguration: Earlier this month, a Google blog post called out practices in mobile site design that do not respect smartphone user experiences, such as redirects from deep links on desktop sites to the front pages of mobile sites, as well as errors only affecting smartphone users. (Check out the full list here.) “Avoiding these mistakes helps your smartphone users engage with your site fully and helps searchers find what they’re looking for faster,” Google wrote. The post came with a warning: “To improve the search experience for smartphone users and address their pain points, we plan to roll out several ranking changes in the near future that address sites that are misconfigured for smartphone users.”

Google likes responsive: As SEO expert Richard Kirk  explains on the site Search Engine Watch, Google’s coming changes could give a big advantage to sites that feature responsive design over separate mobile sites. Google prefers responsive, because the indexing remains the same no matter which screen is being used. “With dynamic serving and separate sites there is always the opportunity for either bad redirects to land the user on [an] irrelevant page or for no content to be served at all,” Kirk writes. “Webmasters really should consider whether their user experience needs to be dramatically different for mobile users and, if not, pursue a responsive-design solution as the ideal.”

Don’t force your app on users: You may have an app, but that doesn’t mean you should shove users in its direction when what they really wanted was your mobile site. Many sites (such as the New York Daily News and Rotten Tomatoes) use that approach, but Google has specifically asked webmasters to take care in how they do this, noting that some solutions “may cause indexing issues of smartphone-optimized content and others that may be too disruptive to the visitor’s usage of the site.” Instead, the company suggests using banners instead—which do not disrupt users’ ability to read the requested content.

Google’s statements make one thing clear: If you’re not treating the mobile web user as a first-class citizen, you could be hurting your search rankings significantly. A comment by Matt Cutts, a highly influential member of the Google Search Quality team, during the Search Marketing Expo earlier this month underscored this point.

“Mobile matters, and it will matter a lot faster than people realize,” Cutts said. “It will surpass desktop traffic in the next two to three years, so don’t completely ignore mobile. Think about it and how you can do it well.”

What techniques have you used to ensure your content gets equal treatment on mobile and the web? Let us know your suggestions below.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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