The growth and evolution of mobile devices inevitably leads to convergence with other technologies and disciplines. One such being search. The convergence of mobile technology and search technology creates complications and considerations for the usability of website content.
A shift in user behavior and technology has led to the evolution of search. Mobile platforms create complications to web searches. Search engines have adjusted to this shift; offering mobile versions of their products that address some of the limitations of mobile technology.
However, to ensure website content can be found and usable, mobile SEO best practices should be utilized. First and foremost, heavy interactive websites (graphics and rich media) have historically created issues with mobile platforms. While Adobe’s Flash Player 10.1 release is looking to change that, it’s far from solved. As such, content needs to be mobile friendly which that means limiting rich media.
If you don’t have content that is supported, you have bigger fish to fry before considering mobile SEO.
Mobile Website Development
As with all SEO, the code is one of the most critical factors and major hurdles for optimizing a mobile website for search engines. One of the common and most used practices for mobile SEO is still building a mobile website counterpart for your standard website. This isn’t always necessary but still a best practice.
For most mobile websites, avoid WAP/WML (Wireless Markup Language) and make use of a more familiar markup language, XHTML. Most mobile browsers these days can handle XHTML. Additionally, common HTML elements are supported such as body, head, title, meta, H1, H2.
Mobile SEO Best Practices
As you would for your standard website, developed a list of keywords and map them throughout your site for targeting. Certain mobile tags and attributes should be used to create a mobile search-friendly website. Utilize keywords via the available SEO elements such as H1, H2, alt tags, etc.
The size of a web page is an important aspect to consider when designing mobile-friendly pages. Bandwidth is still an issue, thus keep it simple. Under 20KB is best practice.
W3C has a great tool for helping validate your mobile site – W3C Mobile OK Validator.
Mobile Website Accessibility
Similar to accessibility in standard web development, mobile sites need to be found, crawled and indexed. As such, a mobile sitemap should be developed to assist mobile search engine bots.
Mobile search engines crawl and index sites that are specifically developed for mobiles platforms. As such, they require a mobile XML Sitemap, which adheres to the Sitemaps Protocol with a specific <mobile:mobile> tag.
This is a unique XML sitemap from your standard website XML sitemap and requires a unique location. Anytime you have multiple XML sitemaps, including mobile, you need to have Sitemap Index file to support them.
Developing a stand alone mobile site isn’t always essential for your site content to be found on smartphones, however it is essential to consider mobile SEO best practices if you want your site content to be found and remain usable on mobile platforms.