Let’s start with a few words from a recent Search Engine Journal post:
A recent study revealed that only 6 percent of the top 100 Fortune 500 companies have websites that comply with Google’s mobile requirements. Two-thirds of these websites could see a drop in search rankings because they don’t serve mobile versions of many indexed pages. Taking steps now to make your website accessible to people using smartphones and other mobile devices will save you headaches, increase customer loyalty, and — most importantly — help you outrank your competitors in search.
Mobile, mobile, mobile. You’ve heard it and read it all over the place for quite some time now, but as you can see from the above quote not many are really giving it the weight it deserves. Pew Internet gives us some hard numbers to look at:
As of May 2013, 63% of adult cell owners use their phones to go online.
34% of cell internet users go online mostly using their phones, and not using some other device such as a desktop or laptop computer.
For more specific information on cell internet access, visit our recent report.
Add in the fact that 56% of American adults own a smartphone, and the current picture begins to take shape. Since everything is cooler with an infographic here is a visual representation of global mobile usage, courtesy of Statista:
Keep in mind that the overall number, 17%, is more than a 6% increase since 2012, when 11.1% of traffic came from mobile.
These are numbers and trends that you ignore at your peril. As tablets and wearable computing devices proliferate ignoring mobile can be a severe disadvantage, if not outright self-destructive.
The removal of the Internet from the desktop computer is a vital change, and one that has been gaining momentum for some time. The advent of laptops was the first burst of mobility, followed later by the quantum leap represented by smartphones. I know a number of people who use their iPhones or Android devices for all their Internet-based needs, while our insane levels of connectivity constantly call for new strategies and best practices.
One really big factor in designing SEO for mobile is the issue of redirects. Improper use of them can actually get you hot water with Google. Search Engine Journal takes note:
Under Google’s new guidelines, sites could be penalized if a full web page redirects mobile visitors to an irrelevant page on the mobile-optimized website. In the example below, mobile visitors who navigate to www.example.com/bears or www.example.com/sharks are redirected to the homepage of the mobile site, instead of to information about those specific topics. This makes it harder for users to access the content they want, which can be frustrating and ultimately lead to site abandonment. Since in Google is in the business of rewarding positive user experiences, it frowns upon improper redirects.
Fortunately, there is an easy fix: simply redirect visitors from the desktop page to the corresponding mobile-optimized page. If the full web page doesn’t have a mobile-optimized equivalent, consider using no redirect at all and serving the full desktop page. It’s better to keep visitors on the full web page than to redirect them to an irrelevant page.
SEO is on the move as we approach 2014, and mobile is rapidly growing into an 800-pound gorilla. Check out the Search Engine Journal article linked above for more basics on how to cope with the need for mobile optimization.
George "Loki" Williams is the community and brand manager for award wining game company Savage Mojo, Ltd. and the owner of SocialGumbo, LLC, an online consultancy specializing in Web content and online communications. Loki has produced content for clients including the Open Society Institute, National Association of Broadcasters, Kobold Press, and Kaiser Permanente. His work has been seen or written about in The New York Times, The BBC, Air America, The Gambit Weekly, and NOLA.com, among others.