With more and more web browsing traffic happening on mobile devices like smart phones and tablets rather than on notebooks or desktop computers, Google has for a while now structured its mobile search engine ranking algorithms to take this into account. That’s a big help for phone and tablet browsers, but a lot of owners of web site content haven’t structured their mobile seo with these algorithms in mind. You could reduce all of the advice on how to do that to “make it as easy as possible for people to access your content on their phones,” but let’s take a look at some of the details beyond that common sense approach.
Ideally, use a single URL and a single site for both desktop and mobile browsers
A lot of web sites were originally set up before mobile devices became so common, using HTML coding that optimized for desktop machines running either Windows or Mac OS, and having bigger screens than phones and tablets do. To make content that was mobile-friendly, a common solution was to put up a proxy site at a different URL with mobile-optimized content and use coding that redirected browsers to the mobile-friendly proxy when they went to the regular URL. Now, that’s not an ideal solution obviously. Redirects cause delays, plus extra IT time has to be spent keeping two sites updated instead of just one. It’s maybe a little harder to code a single site so that it works well across all platforms, but in the long run it makes more sense to do it that way. On top of the other reasons why, there’s the fact that Google’s search algorithms reward single-URL sites with higher ranking.
If you simply must use a proxy site for mobile browsers, it’s important to do it the right way, and that means following Google’s rules for annotation. You can find those here. Remember that complying with this stuff fully means that you have to modify the page markup on every single page of both your main and your proxy sites. More work? Yes, it is, but it pays off.
A this point, hardly anyone who uses mobile proxies does it right, so if you do, you’ll improve your search-engine ranking over the common herd.
Make sure your redirects actually work
All right, this should be a no-brainer, but seriously, if you’re using proxies and redirects, the worst mistake you can possibly make is to have a redirect that doesn’t work. If someone can’t even access your site at all from a smart phone, well, isn’t that obviously a problem? If your redirect results in a 404 error message or a “server not found” message when someone tries to browse your site from a mobile device, not only are you screwed in terms of that particular browser, but Google penalizes your ranking for it, too.
Again, the best advice Google offers for SEO sidesteps this whole problem by using a one-URL solution with no redirects. You can’t go wrong with that, but if you do use proxy pages, make sure your links take people there correctly.
When you offer mobile apps for download, make the download page mobile-optimized
When you are offering an application for a phone or tablet, why would you put the interstitial for it up in a format designed for a desktop, so that the mobile user has to squiggle around on the page with very little of it visible at one time? I don’t know, but it’s surprisingly common. Google’s search engines don’t like this any more than the people browsing on their phones do.
About that opt-out choice . . .
When you see a lot of people opting out of your mobile-optimized view, that’s a sign there’s something wrong with your mobile-friendly page. Take a close look at the coding when that happens. Also, when someone makes that choice, cross-link them correctly, which means to the desktop version of the page they were looking at, not to your home page or something else where they have to go through a bunch of links to find what they were looking for all over again. They won’t like that. Neither will Google’s search robots.
Make sure all the stuff works in the mobile formats
By “all the stuff,” I mean things like video. If you have a video or a soundtrack or a link or anything as part of your page, make sure that it runs in the mobile browser. Don’t just assume that because it works on a desktop or laptop, it will run properly on a smart phone. Google’s algorithms penalize for this problem, too.
Here’s the bottom line: if something is irritating to smart phone users, it’s very likely to drop your ranking with Google’s search engine algorithms, too. With use of smart phones making up a bigger share of web traffic all the time, designing your site to be digestible for mobile devices is just good sense.