Mobile Sitemaps: Only For Those Older Mobile Sites, Not New Ones

Dec 27, 2010 • 9:05 am | comments (3) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

There is a short but useful Google Webmaster Help thread taking place between the BBC UK webmaster and Google's JohnMu. The BBC's webmaster said they are trying to ensure their URLs are the same on the mobile version of their site and desktop version but want to know if that would be considered cloaking.

The simple answer is no, it wouldn't. As long as you serve GoogleBot the desktop version and Google MobileBot the mobile version, and they have the same content, you should be fine.

But often what webmasters forget is that there are two types of mobile sites. One that Googlebot-Mobile should see and one that they should not see. If you have a mobile friendly web site that was specifically designed for the iPhone, Android devices or similar smart phone devices then you do not need to serve that to Googlebot-Mobile, Googlebot will access that fine. But if you have a site that you want to access on those old internet enabled phones, like by Nokia, then you do want to make a special version for Googlebot-Mobile and a special sitemap.

When I asked John from Google about this he said:

Yes, with "mobile" we mean the traditional mobile phone browsers, not smart-phones (which we generally treat the same as desktop browsers given their advanced capabilities). Using special CSS/HTML templates for smart-phones would be fine and would not require submitting them via mobile Sitemap. It keeps things a bit easier if you want to focus on smart-phones, but there are still a gigantic number of more traditional phones with limited internet browsing capabilities out there :-).

Got that?

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

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Jonathon Hewitt

12/28/2010 04:23 pm

Due to the fact that our company was not too sure about how Google would handle seeing the same content on the main site as they would see on the mobile site so we decided to create unique content for our main website pages and also unique content for our mobile website pages which sit on a subdomain of the main site's domain. Using Google Webmaster Tools this is easy as it is treated as a separate website and now provides us with data that shows us how Google is interacting with our mobile site. This is much better in my opinion than having a single site that is "mobile compatible" as we would not have that valuable data.


12/29/2010 08:10 am

You might prefer separate sites for your internal reporting - but what about the user experience? Why should a user be expected to remember a different subdomain/url just because they are using a mobile device? You should serve both formats on the same url and then deploy different analytics platforms/accounts depending on which browser type is accessing the page.

Jonathon Hewitt

02/04/2011 06:55 pm

We have an automatic redirect in place so that when a user hits the main website they are directed at the mobile compatible version of our website, thus leaving nothing for the user to remember or even know of in the first place :) A domain and a subdomain all in one analytic account seems preferable to me as I have lots of analytic accounts. Much easier to manage and to report with.

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