SEO for Mobile Sites
As anyone can see, the world is going mobile, with so many people using mobile phones on a daily basis, and a large user base searching on Google’s mobile search page. However, as a webmaster, running a mobile site and tapping into the mobile search audience isn’t easy.
Configure mobile sites so that they can be indexed accurately
Mobile sites not only use a different format from normal desktop sites, but the management methods and expertise required are also quite different. This results in a variety of new challenges. While many mobile sites were designed with mobile viewing in mind, they weren’t designed to be search friendly. Here are some SEO for mobile sites notes and troubleshooting tips to help ensure that your site is properly crawled and indexed:
Verify that your mobile site is indexed by Google
If your web site doesn’t show up in the results of a Google mobile search even using the site: operator, it may be that your site has one or both of the following issues:
Googlebot may not be able to find your site.
Googlebot must crawl your site before it can be included in a search index. If you just created the site, Google may not yet be aware of it. If that’s the case, create a Mobile Sitemap and submit it to Google to inform them of the site’s existence. A Mobile Sitemap can be submitted using Google Webmaster Tools, just like a standard Sitemap.
Googlebot may not be able to access your Site
Some mobile sites refuse access to anything but mobile phones,making it impossible for Googlebot to access the site, and therefore making the site unsearchable. Google’s crawler for mobile sites is “Googlebot-Mobile”. If you’d like your site crawled, please allow any User-agent including “Googlebot-Mobile” to access your site
For Example: Use SetEnvlf User Agent Allow “Googlebot-Mobile” allow_ua
You should also be aware that Google may change its User-agent information at any time without notice, so I don’t recommend checking whether the User-agent exactly matches “Googlebot-Mobile” (the current User-agent). Instead, check whether the User-agent header contains the string “Googlebot-Mobile”. You can also use DNS Lookups to verify Googlebot.
Verify that Google can recognize your mobile URLs
Once Googlebot-Mobile crawls your URLs, you should then check whether each URL is viewable on a mobile device. Pages that Google determines aren’t viewable on a mobile phone won’t be included in Google’s mobile site index (although they may be included in the regular web index).
This determination is based on a variety of factors, one of which is the “DTD (Doc Type Definition)” declaration. Check that your mobile-friendly URLs’ DTD declaration is in an appropriate mobile format such as XHTML Mobile or Compact HTML. If it’s in a compatible format, the page is eligible for the mobile search index. Also avoid duplicate content. For more information, see the Mobile Webmaster Guidelines.
Running desktop and mobile versions of your site
One of the most common problems for webmasters who run both mobile and desktop versions of a site is that the mobile version of the site appears for users on a desktop computer, or that the desktop version of the site appears when someone accesses it on a mobile device. In dealing with this scenario, there are ta couple of viable options:
1. Redirect mobile users to the correct version
When a mobile user or crawler (like Googlebot-Mobile) accesses the desktop version of a URL, you can redirect them to the corresponding mobile version of the same page. Google notices the relationship between the two versions of the URL and displays the standard version for searches from desktops and the mobile version for mobile searches.
If you redirect users, please make sure that the content on the corresponding mobile/desktop URL matches as closely as possible.
For example, if you run a shopping site and there’s an access from a mobile phone to a desktop-version URL, make sure that the user is redirected to the mobile version of the page for the same product, and not to the homepage of the mobile version of the site.
Google occasionally finds sites using this kind of redirect in an attempt to boost their search rankings, but this practice only results in a negative user experience, and so should be avoided at all costs.
On the other hand, when there’s an access to a mobile-version URL from a desktop browser or by our web crawler, Googlebot, it’s not necessary to redirect them to the desktop-version.
For instance, Google doesn’t automatically redirect desktop users from their mobile site to their desktop site; instead they include a link on the mobile- version page to the desktop version.
These links are especially helpful when a mobile site doesn’t provide the full functionality of the desktop version, so users can easily navigate to the desktop-version.
2. Switch content based on User-agent
Some sites have the same URL for both desktop and mobile content, but can change their format according to the User-agent. In addition, both mobile users and desktop users access the same URL (i.e.: no redirects), but the content/format changes slightly according to the User-agent.
In this case, the same URL will appear for both mobile search and desktop search, and desktop users can see a desktop version of the content while mobile users can see a mobile version of the content.
Please note that if you fail to configure your site correctly, your site could be considered to be cloaking, which can lead to your site disappearing from Google search results. Cloaking refers to an attempt to boost search result rankings by serving different content to Googlebot other than to regular users. This causes problems such as less relevant results (pages appear in search results even though their content is actually unrelated to what users see/want), so Google takes cloaking very seriously!
So what does “the page that the user sees” mean if you provide both versions with a URL? As I stated in the previous post, Google uses “Googlebot” for web search and “Googlebot-Mobile” for
To remain within Google guidelines, you should serve the same content to Googlebot as a typical desktop user would see, and the same content to Googlebot-Mobile as you would to the browser on a typical mobile device. It’s OK if the contents for Googlebot are different from those for Googlebot-Mobile.
One example of how you could be unintentionally detected as cloaking, is if your site returns a message like “Please access from mobile phones” to desktop browsers, but then returns a full mobile
version to both crawlers (so Googlebot receives the mobile version). In this case, the page which web search users see (i.e:. “Please access from mobile phones”) is different from the page which
Googlebot crawls (i.e:. “Welcome to my site”). Again, Google detects cloaking because they want to serve users the same “relevant content” that Googlebot or Googlebot-Mobile crawled.