Mobile SEO: Tips for optimizing your site for mobile search

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.


1. Pew Inter­net

2. Mash­able

3. Search Engine Land

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