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Key tips on mobile site design and search engine optimization

May 18, 2010

Matt Smith is search engine optimization specialist at

Matt Smith is search engine optimization specialist at

By Matt Smith

Going mobile right now has never been more uncertain. With the development of the iPhone and Android platforms, browsing the Web on a phone has never been easier. Therefore you may be asking yourself “If most users can view your full Web site with an iPhone, what is the point of creating a mobile webpage?”

While the mobile industry is constantly changing, one thing is for sure: you need to have a mobile Web site.

There are currently around 68 million mobile Internet users. This number is growing exponentially and will only speed up.

With the release of 4G sometime next year boasting speeds of twenty times faster than your home broadband Internet, 4G Internet will change the very existence of the mobile Internet. Therefore, yes, you had better get a mobile Web site and now.

Here are a few ideas surrounding the mobile industry and how you can set up your first mobile Web site.

Mobile site requirements
• Your mobile site should be XHTML compliant
• Do not use frames. It is OK – most likely your site will look like one giant column. That is normal
• Create a mobile sitemap that tells Google which site is your mobile Web site and which is not
• Follow the specific mobile design guidelines and outlines
• Typically you do not want content deeper than three links. If you thought the attention span of a desktop viewer was short, try mobile surfing
• Use external CSS style sheets to speed up your mobile Web pages

Amazon has one of the best examples of a mobile Web page.

In its earlier design, the retailer created large stylistic buttons that were easy to click.

If you have ever surfed the Internet from a phone you know what a big pain it can be to click some of those small links.

However, recently Amazon changed to the middle design. This design is great because it offers consumers the ability to easily search the mobile site or view their hottest products.

Amazon also includes a nice “PC Site” button on the top of the page. This gives the consumer the ability to easily switch between designs if they are so inclined.

The second design I liked was Element Fusion. You may say this is a poor example of a mobile page because of its slow load time and use of graphics. However, with the change in 3G/4G speeds its mobile page will load quickly and present a easily navigated fresh design.

If you are just starting your mobile design you should probably find a design that is in between the Amazon and Element Fusion designs. You want a mobile design that attracts attention and is easy to navigate.

The best advice I read was that your design should look like a nice polished application that you would download from your mobile application store.

Moreover, adhere to the design guidelines to ensure mobile quality. However, here are a few links to help you with your design and overall layout.

Useful links:

Mobile Web Best Practices
Google – Developing Mobile Sites

SEO tips for mobile sites
Search engine optimization for a mobile site will be essentially the same as SEO for your normal Web site with a few additions.
• Focus on effective title tags, meta descriptions and content. However, for mobile I suggest adding the word mobile to your description and title Adding these elements will help Google recognize the pages are specifically made for a mobile browser

• Google has a bot specifically made for only mobile sites. It is important to create a sitemap for your Google mobile pages and a different one for your normal pages. Specifically, add your mobile sitemap through Google Webmaster Tools

• However, even with proper indexing, Google can choose whatever it wants to serve on its search engine results pages. To help you better understand this principle, here is an excerpt of the Google mobile patent:

In some implementations, based on one or more terms in the search query, the results mixer classifies the search query as “mobile,” i.e., whether it is likely to be intended as a search for mobile resources, e.g., pages (step 306). If so, the results mixer will increase the search result quality scores of the mobile search results (step 308). For example, if a search query includes the term “ringtones”, the results mixer can determine that such a query is likely to be intended as a search for mobile resources, because the word “ringtones” is closely associated with mobile devices …

So what this means is that whenever someone is on her mobile browser and looks for a product or service, Google will determine if the keyword used is more relevant to mobile or not. This has a huge effect on local companies offering services or products.

For example, if you type pizza in your mobile browser, you are served with a lot of pizza locations around you. If you are selling a product that is not specific to a location, then mobile Web sites will not have the same preference as before.

Therefore, if you have a service or product that is mobile- or local-related, you need to get a mobile Web site right away

• Use the rel=canonical tag with the mobile sitemaps and product pages. You want to ensure that Google knows your main Web page is the most important link
• Google recently announced that it is incorporating site speed into Google rankings.

With regards to mobile this idea is even more important when creating and optimizing your mobile site.

When designing your mobile site you need to assume that your viewer will be on a slow data connection. You need to follow the design guidelines recommended by Google to build a fast efficient site. 

To test the speed of your mobile site, go to is a free service that will show you any speed problems you may be encountering
• For most businesses you should submit your company to all local directories that you can find.

As we learned from the Google local patent, if someone searches for a local term it will place mobile and local sites above normal organic rankings. Therefore, get your business listed on all major local directories.

Useful links:

Google Local Submission
Yahoo Local Submission
Bing Local Submission

Matt Smith is search engine optimization specialist at, Bluffdale, UT. Reach him at

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