Mobile SEO Tips for Success This Holiday Season

By — 09.15.15

Analysis on Mobile Phones

Our friends at Pure Oxygen Labs share their tips for successful mobile SEO heading into the holiday season.

This past April, Google made big changes to how they score the quality of pages which now also changes how websites are ranked in search results.

For the first time, it began including “mobile friendliness” as a key factor in SEO scoring calculations. The term “Mobilegeddon” was coined to mark this change and of course the rest is search engine optimization history! There were winners and losers. Some saw their rankings improve after Mobilegeddon, some saw their content disappear from the first search results page, and others saw no change in their search rankings.

It’s no secret that Google is the dominant player when it comes to search marketing, so it’s key for online retailers to take the steps that will capitalize on these changes to give them the highest possible rankings during the holiday season. While the countdown to Q4 has begun, there are still changes ecommerce players can make that will have a positive impact on SEO.

What is “Mobile Friendly”?

Simply put, mobile friendliness is about removing the friction mobile users experience when navigating a page (i.e. on their way to checkout!). Achieving Google’s “mobile friendly” status occurs when a page adheres to basic mobile usability guidelines, such as:

  • No pinching and zooming required
  • Text large enough to be readable
  • Links spaced apart to avoid accidental clicks
  • Mobile content free of mobile redirect errors

A variety of mobile strategies can be deployed to comply with Google’s mobile friendly guidelines. The main strategies Google supports are mDot (mobile URLs), Dynamic Serving, and Responsive Design. According to a recent analysis of the Internet Retailer Mobile 500 by Pure Oxygen Labs, most retailers still use mDot sites. However many are shifting towards Responsive Design (which is easier to maintain) and Dynamic Serving (which allows for the most tailored approach by mobile device). Read more details in this article.

Good vs. Bad Mobile Example

Good Mobile Site vs. Bad Mobile Site Examples

Mobile SEO Best Practices

While each of these strategies can help achieve basic mobile-friendliness, each also have unique technical signals that can be optimized. Here’s a brief checklist to help you and your technical teams optimize your mobile performance for the holidays. The list isn’t comprehensive but it can help get you started, depending on which strategy you employ:

mDot / Mobile URLs

  • Create mobile versions of all desktop pages so they can be indexed and found in mobile search results. Many retailers only provide mDot versions of their most important pages, creating an opportunity for savvy competitors. Use mobile SEO analysis tools to audit competitor sites for such vulnerabilities and develop a plan to target those phrases.
  • Identify and fix any faulty or irrelevant mobile redirects. Mobile server redirects are like invisible links, making them difficult to see and audit, especially at scale. Use tools that can help analyze your desktop and mobile presence for opportunities.
  • Add alternate link markup to each corresponding desktop page. This is key to enabling search engines to discover the mobile content, and few retailers take advantage of this.

Responsive Design

  • First and foremost, solve for page speed. The typical retail responsive page is actually about 2x slower loading than the average mDot page. This is the result of serving all devices the entire desktop HTML, stylesheet, and image payload, instead of serving only the payload that is rendered by that device (also known as adaptive strategies).
  • Keep page weight under 500kb and keep the HTTP requests required to generate the page to around 50. These guidelines are not required by Google, but are based on what other leading retailers are achieving with responsive design to keep load speed at or under one second, which is a Google requirement.

Good Mobile Site vs. Bad Mobile Site Example

Good Mobile Site vs. Bad Mobile Site Examples

Dynamic Serving

  • Dynamic serving offers consumers the speed benefits of an mDot site with the format fluidity of responsive design, all using server logic to vary the content by user agent.
  • Add support for vary by user agent header. To search engine crawlers, dynamic serving sites can look like they are cloaking, since the content varies by user agent. Google’s sole requirement for sites that use dynamic serving is that they disclose in their server header for the desktop URL that the content varies by user agent. While there is no penalty currently for non-compliance, very few retailers take advantage of this signal.
  • Create dynamic mobile versions of all desktop pages. As with mDot sites, many retailers only provide dynamically served mobile versions of their most important pages, creating an opportunity for competitors. Mobile SEO analysis tools can be used here as well to audit competitor sites for vulnerabilities and develop a plan to target those phrases.

Mobile Apps 

  • Implement Smart Banner meta tags to promote your iOS app to a captive audience. Smart Banners are not only a great way to drive more app installs for free, they also double as a deeplink for existing app users to open your app. There are some limitations to keep in mind, namely that embedded browsers like in the Facebook and Twitter apps don’t support displaying Smart Banners.
  • Add app indexation code to desktop. The same alternate link markup used to help search engines discover mDot content can now help Google and its searchers discover app content for iOS and Android apps.
  • At the very least assign URL schemes to your app’s home screen which will trigger mobile SEM to drive the app

For many online retailers who have a long list of priorities, keeping up with SEO best practices can be a challenge to say the least. If you need help with SEO strategy on mobile and desktop, contact us today for an evaluation. We can let you know what is possible and in what timeframe. The clock is ticking and shoppers have already begun their searches for holiday gift ideas!


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