Jason Taylor is the vice president of platform strategy at Usablenet. Usablenet’s platform powers the mobile sites of 20% of the Fortune 1000, including Estée Lauder, Hilton, Delta, Victoria’s Secret, FedEx, ASOS and others. Follow @Usablenet on Twitter.
Google’s Eric Schmidt recently noted that mobile search is growing much faster than desktop search. As mobile increasingly becomes a primary gateway to the Internet, it is crucial for companies to incorporate forward-thinking SEO practices into their mobile strategies to ensure their mobile sites are easily detected by search engines and found by consumers.
More than 60% of consumers search for brands from mobile devices before purchasing, and another 49% of mobile searchers made a mobile purchase in the past six months. Businesses must view mobile as a significant piece of their overall marketing campaigns that can drive substantial traffic and increase revenue.
Here are some high level SEO strategies that brands can implement into their overall mobile efforts to ensure they are getting maximum visibility.
1. Develop a Device Agnostic Approach
Search engines incorporate various criteria in mobile browsers to determine page rank. These factors include overall site performance, usability, download speed and screen rendering. A fully optimized mobile site that extends all functionality and key content from a website will rank higher in search results than a website that has simply been reformatted for a smaller screen.
For example, simply transcoding a webpage through the use of a cookie-cutter template will strip it of key content, leading to incomplete pages and decreased overall usability. Difficult navigation and broken pages will result in a lower page rank and a negative user experience that discourages repeat visits.
The type of devices that consumers use to search the mobile web also factors into site ranking. Different mobile web browsers render pages in different ways, which is why it is essential for brands to develop a device agnostic mobile strategy that supports the wide variety of available mobile operating systems.
For example, Staples’ mobile site was developed to support all web-enabled devices. To decrease bounce rate (when a user views only one page on a site, but then leaves), brands’ mobile sites must automatically recognize the consumer’s device as it loads, and render the page accordingly to ensure a view that is best optimized for the user’s particular screen.
2. Leverage Traditional SEO Practices on a New Platform
Brands will ensure that their site stands out in a crowded market by translating traditional web SEO practices to mobile. Common SEO tactics that should be incorporated into all mobile sites include:
- Appropriate Keywords in Headlines and Text: Consumers use mobile for more focused and task-oriented searches (i.e. for a specific location or product). This is different from how most people search from a desktop computer. By understanding consumer behavior, brands can anticipate queries and incorporate key search terms into page text, increasing detection from search engines.
- Relevant Page Titles and Accurate Page Descriptions: Page titles are one of the first factors mobile browsers use to determine where a page will show in results. Similar to traditional SEO, it is important that these titles reflect the terms that people use to search, increasing the likelihood that the site will appear relevant and receive better page rankings.
- Outbound Links: Despite less real estate associated with mobile screens, incorporating outbound links to relevant sources provides a more complete user experience and associates the mobile site with other trusted brands.
- Standard Coding: The wide variety of operating systems supported by mobile makes it extremely important for brands to follow valid HTML coding. Browsers parse through HTML code to determine search relevance. Any errors or invalid coding will result in broken pages and a lower ranking. Sites built in accordance to standards will ensure a consistent experience across all devices.
3. Incorporate Linking and Digital Newsletters
More than 20% of email marketing is read from mobile phones, which is why it is crucial for companies to test and support all incoming links from digital newsletters and other promotional materials. But how can brands make sure that their linking practices translate to mobile? In practical terms, these links provide one fully integrated experience while also allowing brands to cast a wider net by creating a connected presence across the mobile web.
For example, Staples incorporates multiple links in its digital newsletters that lead consumers to different product pages or special offers on its mobile site. Consumers who click on “Hot Deals” are directed to the Staples homepage, which is different from users who click links for product promotions which lead directly to the specific product pages.
The Future of Mobile Search
The rapid consumer adoption rate of smartphones, coupled with increasing advancements in mobile technology, means that mobile SEO is a powerful tool to move the needle on mobile traffic. Next-generation coding languages like HTML5 can be incorporated into mobile SEO practices to enhance a mobile site’s usability and performance, resulting in higher page rankings in search engines.
Advancements in location-based search results and integrated real-time social search results will further impact how consumers use mobile search and how browsers position results. In order to increase traffic to mobile pages and drive revenue, it is essential for brands to think strategically about how to leverage common mobile SEO practices in order to increase brand loyalty and maximize traffic.
Disclosure: Staples is a client of the author’s company.
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