Mobile SEO

by Jessica Ramesh iCrossing

iCrossing explain why your mobile SEO strategy should take into account the differing needs of your users.

It’s very hard to ignore the statistics: In 2012 51 per cent of the UK owned a smartphone and this number is expected to continue to rise to 60 per cent in 2013 . Tablet sales in the last quarter of 2012 grew by 75.3 per cent over the same period in 2011. Market analysts are now forecasting that tablet sales will outnumber notebooks in 2013.

mobile seo

Our audiences are now truly connected; touching and interacting with traditional and new marketing channels on a variety of different devices, in a variety of different situations. Understanding these audiences, how their needs on mobile devices differ to their needs on desktop and how each of the channels and situations interact with one another will underpin any successful mobile strategy.

Mobile SEO should be an integral part to defining this overall strategy. As SEO becomes ever more entwined with content and UX, your choice of mobile site architecture should be informed by a combination of best practice and current search data. Whilst budgeting may allow for a fully responsive site, your mobile audience may be searching for specific content that could be better displayed on a separate mobile site. These considerations will provide the foundations of a bespoke strategy that will maximise ROI not just for the SEO channel but across all of the marketing mix.

On average, our clients have seen a 15.26 per cent rise in mobile traffic from natural search in the last two years. Fifty-three per cent of the UK’s smartphone owners use their phones to search daily and the differences between desktop and mobile search results are continuing to grow.

Capitalising on these differences and employing a mobile specific SEO strategy has the potential to provide large ROI.
Considerations of a mobile SEO strategy

Following on from Google’s 2012 Penguin and Panda updates, and most recently Penguin 2.0 in May 2013, the SEO industry has had to adapt. The new pillars of SEO, as defined by iCrossing, combine a technical focus alongside the creation of high quality, natural links through influencer and consumer engagement. The days of high volume, unnatural links are over. Mobile SEO also needs to build strategies based on these new pillars but with slight alterations to linguistic profiling (keyword optimisation) and technical optimisation, specifically aimed at targeting both your mobile audience and mobile search engine algorithms.

Opportunities between mobile and desktop will be different, with shorter, more localised keyword sets having higher affinity to mobile audiences. Mobile users are more likely to click on higher ranking results than desktop users and will also be more likely to use auto-complete suggestions. Using these factors as part of our linguistic profiling for mobile is essential.

Once mobile specific opportunities are identified, there are several technical aspects of your site to be considered to maximise visibility within mobile search engine results pages:

  • Page speed
  • Code compliance
  • Switchboard tagging
  • Technology compatibility
  • Internal linking
  • User agent redirects
  • On-page meta content

All of the above are considered by mobile search engine ranking algorithms and can make the difference between your mobile optimised site, your desktop site, or no result at all being displayed within search engine results pages.

Search engine algorithms are focusing more on user signals to measure the usefulness and relevancy of your site to a search query. Looking at session times and bounce rates from your site back to their search results page provides a great signal of whether your site deserves to be ranking highly or not. It is therefore important that high visibility pages are used as the subjects for UX testing.

Finally, tracking and monitoring your campaigns to highlight potential improvements and show successes should be implemented via your analytics and within 3rd party tools to ensure that data is segmented into useful categories. Measuring local and mobile device rankings enable insight on potential traffic and revenue increases from the mobile channel. Reporting on device and operating system usage as well as the standard split of mobile versus desktop will also provide more data for attribution modelling. Looking at the impact of channels on each other, for example organic visits from a tablet after exposure to offline advertising such as a TV advert, is an interesting development within this sector.

In conclusion

Your mobile SEO strategy, whilst based on traditional SEO activity, should take into account the differing needs of your mobile users. It is an integral part of your overall mobile offering and should be taken into consideration when deciding on site architecture, content offering and user experience. Like desktop SEO, it can no longer be an autonomous program of work but must entwine with other marketing and technical channels in order to maximise ROI and your bottom line.

Finally, with the forecasting of tablet dominance in 2013, smartphone penetration within huge markets such as India and continued development of mobile specific search engine algorithms, traditional SEO programs can no longer cover the intricacies of your multi-device offering. If you don’t already have a mobile SEO strategy, now is the time to initiate one.

For further information, or if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact