Recent research estimates that among the 83% of American adults who have a mobile phone, 42% of those have a smartphone; this translates to roughly about 35% (or approximately 100 million) of all US adults. With 25% of mobile users claiming that their mobile device is their primary connection to the Internet, it’s becoming increasingly important for companies to optimize their sites for mobile search. If the sheer number of mobile users doesn’t convince you, then consider divergent search habits and trends of mobile vs. desktop.
- Search on mobile devices tend to focus more on generic, non-branded keywords rather than brand-based keywords. For example, users will search “women’s shoes” instead of Nine West (with the end goal of looking for a non-specific women’s shoes retailer close by), unless they are actually looking for a Nine West store.
- There is also more emphasis on proximity and local terms in mobile search. For that reason, Google Places listings and businesses with a local intent sometimes will appear higher in mobile search results. This makes optimizing and claiming your Google Places listings essential.
- Depending on the location of the searcher, different search results will appear, especially if those queries are location specific. So if you’re a brick and mortar type of business, having semantic HTML (using microformats and location tagging, for example) could be the difference between a convertible lead and a non-converting visitor.
- Due to the nature of touchscreen smartphones, typos tend to appear more often. So for many mobile devices, autocomplete/autocorrect results can act as search results themselves. Optimizing for mobile suggest can help divert users to high quality content they would have otherwise never found.
- While Local/Places have a strong impact on desktop searches (drawing the most eyeballs even if they’re on the middle of the page), reviews and social signals tend to grab the most attention on mobile search. A recent Mediative study revealed that businesses, even if they’re in the top 3 positions, will be relatively ignored if they lack reviews and social signals, especially if their competitors have reviews.
Not only is user intent different between mobile and desktop search, but Google announced a smartphone Googlebot in December that is meant to refine searches for mobile devices, placing a preference on serving up content that is fast, simple and relevant to mobile devices. This means that user experience will differ based on the search device.
In the end, what does all this mean? As we begin to move forward with new SEO strategies for 2012, a mobile-specific SEO strategy should be in your project plans for the upcoming year. A one size fits all type of SEO strategy will become obsolete as Google continues to refine search algorithms to reflect the diverging search intent and habits on different devices.