Mobile Search Optimization

Apr 10, 2007 • 3:34 pm | comments (2) by twitter | Filed Under Search Engine Strategies 2007 New York
 

Chris Sherman starts the session off by introducing Mobile Search as an ever-increasing build-up of new ideas that will soon catch up with earlier expectations of consumers. You can't optimise for mobile in the same way as you do for the web, although as few people have currently adopted it - you can get ahead of your competition.

Cindy Krum recommends optimising your existing site, rather than a new .mobi site. You need to make sure in mobile search that your pages are device independent, in order to broaden your user base. The industry is in its infancy with some niche mobile search engines still requiring manual submission. Search results for mobiles use a different dataset to web search, with its own crawlers and slightly different algorithm. Code Best Practices should be strictly adhered to; mobile browsers are less forgiving than traditional browsers, so sites should be W3C compliant (preferably XHTML). External CSS style sheets are a good idea as they limit the amount of code that needs to be downloaded and helps when scaling for different resolutions and screen sizes. CSS allows you to have a separate stylesheet for handheld devices as well as your original stylesheet. Cindy suggests showing different pages based on which mobile browsers are being used, although this is more likely for hiding features rather than your web copy. People won't learn your website's format so organise buttons consistently and logically. Text links should be used rather than images, which may not download and will increase page loading times. People prefer navigation below the content of a page, as they don't want to keep scrolling down on each page to find your information. This can be done via CSS styling (I try to do this anyway for websites as it pushes content to the top of the page and helps prevent duplicate content flagging). Anchors (links to sections within the same page) are no longer confined to the 90's; it means that people don’t have to keep scrolling on their device. Do not use frames or flash on your pages, as most mobile browsers don't support them and they just slow things down. Keep file names short so that URLs can be easily viewed and managed on small screens. Do not use pop-ups and use heading tags correctly. You can get mobile device emulators to check to see what your site looks like, such as Mobi Ready. Make sure that if you go to the trouble of optimising your site for mobile that you advertise your site as mobile compatible. Get links from mobile sites and directories; it helps with SEO and for people seeking mobile sites. Make phone numbers clickable, you can send a number directly to the mobile device by prefixing tel: to a phone number in a link (like when using mailto: for clickable email addresses).

Greg Markel from Infuse Media starts by mentioning Google's Voice Local Search service (currently in BETA lab for the US), which is easier and more convenient than searching using a stylus. There's no cost to get into these search results, your business simply needs to be in the main Google Local index. Mobile adoption is slower in the US than anticipated, with only 19% people using mobile search. Most of those people end up using mobile portals, often operated by their phone carrier. A good place to find industry data about Mobile Search is M:Metrics. Unlike the more precise search queries being used in web search, terms on mobile search are usually quite generic e.g. "movies". This is most likely a result of the time it takes to type queries on mobile devices. Brand terms are also very popular, as users don't want to have to type in the full URL. A majority of users don't scroll through results, putting a lot of pressure to rank positions 1-3 for your target terms. Google has recently released a new version of mobile search, which offers similar functionality as found in web search after signing into your Google account. Google Mobile has a good help section that explains a lot about mobile search and is a very good resource.

Rachel from iCrossing has spoken to her clients a lot about mobile search recently, 1.3 billion people around the world use a mobile device and is a market that should not be ignored. Mobile devices can't currently duplicate the same user experience as found when using a browser on your computer. This shouldn't be an issue as people using a mobile device are looking for different things such as contact details and snippets of content. A lot of people are still using WAP rather than mobile browsers, especially for news and sport results. People are starting to understand what’s available to them on the wireless web though, and many are migrating across. The average salary of mobile searchers is higher than the national average and age groups are starting to level out. Most mobile users are not just surfing aimlessly; they are actively looking for something, such as movie reviews, DVDs or services. Google now allows you to submit a separate XML sitemap for mobile. When visiting Google, users are not automatically sent to the mobile optimised result set, although this is expected to change soon. Many companies have also failed to acknowledge the need for mobile search optimisation - a search for McDonalds on Google Mobile for instance has a mobile-friendly BBC news page as the number one result.

Note: This is live coverage of SES NYC 2007. Please forgive any spelling or grammatical errors that slipped by in the interest of speed.

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Comments:

MobileGuy

04/11/2007 05:43 am

The best way to optimize is using a .mobi URL, IMHO. This lets everyone know, up front, that your site is optimized for viewing on mobile devices. Concurrently, it is difficult, if not impossible, to optimize a PC based site to render properly on a 2" screen. Everyone should have a separate mobile website.

Jake

04/18/2007 02:38 pm

Great recap. Thanks I think dot-mobi is really important.

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