Distilled Live | Mobile Sites & Mobile Search
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Distilled Live | Mobile Sites & Mobile Search

Will: Hi everyone. Welcome to another Distilled
Live. I’m Will, and I’m joined this week by Bridget, who’s going to be talking to us about
mobile SEO and mobile websites in general, which we’re finding kind of a fascinating
topic at the moment. Bridget is one of the consultants in the London office. She’s been
digging deep into this stuff. So Bridget, I’d like to start, I think, by
talking a little bit about what do we actually mean by mobile SEO? Bridget: I think it’s good to remember that
SEO is a part of a larger picture. So when we’re talking about it, it’s always going
to be intertwined with the idea of the user experience. But if we’re saying what is specifically
SEO for mobile, I think it’s the things we can do to help get a better result in the
search engine when you search on a mobile phone, especially if you have a separate mobile
site. Will: I guess there are two parts to that.
One is, what kind of search query does someone do when they are mobile? And what do we need
to do to make sure our website performs well on a mobile device? Bridget: Yes. Will: So talk us through both of those. Do
you have an example of each kind of thing? Bridget: As far as the types of things people
are looking for on a mobile and the way that might differ from traditional desktop search,
something we’ve seen a lot with recently is a lot of local search. I think one in three
searches on a mobile is local, whereas on a desktop, it goes down to one in five. Will: That makes sense. And I guess sometimes
it’s a local intent, even if they don’t type a local descriptor in. I mean, if you search
pizza restaurant on your phone, there’s a lot of stuff baked into that. The phone knows
where you are. There’s GPS, all that kind of thing. It makes it a bit more sensible
search query than on a desktop. Bridget: I think that’s also something to
remember when you’re talking about mobile is that you can also make use of these phone
functions that you get, especially with a smartphone. You get geolocation and that sort
of thing, which can be cool. There’s stuff in page titles, you can have click-to-call
numbers and that sort of thing is very useful. Will: Yes. Certainly pushing some of that
stuff into your titles, into your meta information is a good idea. But the other side of things,
making your website work well on mobiles, we’ve not seen any evidence yet that this
is directly a ranking factor. In other words, the search results on your mobile aren’t particularly
skewed towards friendly mobile sites. Bridget: Yes. Nothing conclusive, really.
I think Google has been experimenting at some point with a little mobile icon next to sites
that sort of a more mobile friendly experience. But it’s not something that’s been rolled
out and . . . Will: And they used the rel=alternate thing.
Wikipedia is a good example of that, isn’t it? If you see Wikipedia in the mobile search
results, you see the regular desktop version listed. But if you click, you get taken straight
to the m. version, which is kind of interesting. So which leads us on to Wikipedia has two
sites. There’s a www. and an m. That’s not the only way of doing mobile, is it? Bridget: No. There’s quite a lot of debate
over which is the best way. Google and Bing have both sort of stated that responsive or
a sort of single URL is a good way to go, largely just because it cuts down on the amount
of pages they are crawling. It prevents problems with redirects not working and that sort of
thing. Will: Redirects can be a bit slow on the mobile. Bridget: Yes. But I think, as well, you have
to consider it for you own site on an individual basis, because there are certain reasons you
might choose to use a mobile site as a separate URL, rather than just incorporating it into
your current desktop design. Will: Which, I guess, one of the biggest reasons
would be if you had a different set of pages for mobile. Then I guess it’s almost verging
on to being app. Bridget: And that’s sort of another question
that people have asked is, “Can’t we just use an app, and isn’t an app the best way
to sort of cater to mobile users?” There’s a few reasons that they might not be the case.
I think an app is generally best used as an additional thing, and the form following the
function. So if there’s a good reason to have one, if
you’re sort of have a big enough customer base that they’re going to be willing to download
it and be able to find it in the store, because at the moment the search results in the Apple
Store or in the Google Play store are not as easy to find things. Will: Yeah. They’re not necessarily fully
integrated with the regular search results. We can kind of see how that plays out. But
I guess so what we’re saying, at the one extreme you need phone specific functionality. It’s
probably the biggest reason to have a native app. Verging through, it just needs to be
a bit different to the desktop site, is best reason to have its own URLs. Then, at the
complete other end of the spectrum, we’re saying either serve the exact same site, or
what did we call the other? Adaptive? Is that the kind of middle option? Bridget: I’ve heard adaptive dynamic serving
is another description which is sort of describing when you have a single URL, but based on the
user agent that’s detected, if it’s a mobile, it’s going to be served different HTML, which
is different from responsive, because responsive just changes the CSS style sheet. So it takes
the blocks that you’ve got and stacks them differently, whereas the dynamic serving can
be a completely different look, but it’s the same URL. So it’s sort of in between. Will: So let’s just end with the technical
considerations there, because that’s sounding a little bit dangerously like cloaking, if
we’re serving different HTML based on the user agent, to different people. So what do
we need to do to make sure that Googlebot doesn’t get confused? Bridget: Well, that’s the beauty of the new
smartphone Googlebot that has come out in 2011, because it has the same sort of user
agent as an iPhone. So as long as what the Googlebot is being served is the same as what
the user sees, then technically that’s not cloaking, and you can also use the http vary
header to make sure that that’s made clear to the crawler. Will: To regular Googlebot. Okay. So as long
as regular Googlebot knows that the user agent’s making a difference here, as long as the smartphone
Googlebot gets served the same as a real smartphone, then we’re all okay. Bridget: Yes. Will: Okay. Good luck optimising your mobile
websites, people. We’ll see you again soon.


  • Ryan Glass

    Neat video, thanks for sharing the great info. This is the first time I've heard about adaptive html instead of just responsive design. I'm glad you mentioned the cloaking concern, because that's one item I'd been interested in and had to ask Stephanie Chang about at last SearchLove.

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