Mobile SEO: Death of the '.mobi'

Aug 18, 2008 - 4:38 pm 5 by

Moderator: Rebecca Lieb, Contributing Editor, ClickZ


Dhana Pawar, Co-Founder & VP Products, Yojo Mobile Cindy Krum, Senior SEO Analyst, Blue Moon Works, Inc. Brian Wool, VP of Content Distribution, Localeze

The "one web" premise of the iPhone generation of connected devices offers a strak contrast to the former mobile standard, in which webmasters create separate a '.mobi' site, specifically targeted for mobile users.

First Speaker: Donna Pawar

.Mobi is an alternative domain name extension, like .com, .net or .org and was intended to be used exclusively for websites catering to mobile devices. Having a special domain extension exclusively for mobile devices is not really needed anymore given today’s next generation devices like the iPhone and sophisticated browsers like Skyfire which features built-in Flash and Safari.

Some stats about mobile web browsing:

84.8% of the iPhone users and 58.2% of total smart phone users access news and information from the hand-held device. 58.6% of iPhone users and 37% of smart phone users visited a search engine on their phones. 30.9% of iPhone users have tuned into mobile TV or a video clip from their phone. 74.1% of iPhone users and 27.9% of smart phone users listen to music on their mobile devices (Source: mMetrics) Nielsen mobile recently proclaimed that the mobile internet had reached “critical mass” w/ more than 40 million users today. Case Study: MizPee is a cell phone and web based service which helps you find the nearest clean toilet based on the address you enter. MizPee uses the same URL regardless of whether you come in from a web browser or a mobile browser.

Using a simple servlet (3 lines of Java code) and optimizing the mobile pages for the smaller devices, they direct visitors to the right “version” of the site based on the type of device they came in on… but users still only had to remember the same URL.

Carolyn’s note: Because consumers are so programmed to think “.com” in regards to anything internet related, it eases the burden on the marketing budget to retrain consumers to remember a different gTLD.

How did they SEO was search engine optimized through “normal” SEO best practices.

Think like a spider. Use a “normal” gTLD. Use Title Tags They provide search engines with a guide to your on page content They need to be 63 characters or less. Use Alt Tags Other ways to promote your mobile site:

Widgets so users can share with friends Run contests and polls Advertise and Linking -- Establish beneficial partnerships with other sites Second Speaker: Cindy Krum -- "4 Mobile Site Architecture Options"

Why should you care about mobile search engine results?

Mobile is important. Mass mobile convergence in terms of apps, functionality. Phones are expected to do much more than just place/take calls. It’s the most personal marketing medium ever. It knows where you are, who you talk to, what you look for, etc. There are more interactive marketing possibilities. It’s on you at all times. Mobile is Different

Mobile bots – they evaluate your site based on how it will look on a mobile device. Algorithms Smaller screen Simplified reading More sophisticated searchers – mobile searchers use much longer search phrases because they’re trying to be more specific and get exactly the info they want on the first try. Immediate intent Why Now?

Real mobile web browsing (iPhone) – ppl turn over their cell phones every 2 years, so the number of people gaining access to the better web experience on their phones is increasing quickly.

Flat rate Data Pricing Faster download speeds More processing power US Adoption has hit critical mass* (Nielson) Why is .mobi less than ideal?

Bad for SEO (Mobile and Traditional) Splits traffic, you have to duplicate effort. Splits links Splits Index size Doesn’t benefit from history Risks Duplicate content Confusing for Users There's no preferrence for it in Mobile search engines No unique assets or features Best Practices

Use basic/usual SEO Best Practices Blended Search Best Practices Local Search Best Practices – mobile search tries harder to anticipate what the user is looking for… acts more like a portal. Local search is more heavily emphasized. Mobile search engine submission Do mobile research Understand predicative text – if you understand what words phones will suggest based on the first couple characters users enter… optimize for those words because ppl are lazy Transcoding Analysis – Emultation and Testing – test your site on a variety of emulators and also test it on real handsets since sometimes things are lost in the emulation. Traditional + mobile analytics – sometimes java isnt’ executed so you’d be missing capturing traffic information that relates specifically to mobile browsers. Adhere to accessibility standards Use external CSS 4 Architecture Options

1. Do nothing – if you site renders “well enough” and are ppl using yoru site when they’re mobile anyway?

Evaluate your web site. Does it look okay transcoded? Does it look okay without transcoding? Does it look good on a true browsing phone? On a mobile browsing phone? If the answer to those questions is "Yes" or "Looks good enough", then you don't have to do anything at all.

The advantages of doing nothing? It’s easy, cheap and you can say you're mobile compatible and appear "forward thinking".

Are there disadvantages to doing nothing? Transcoding only works when people get to your site via search, so if you're relying 100% on transcoding, you might have some users who aren't able to fully enjoy browsing your site on their handheld devices. Plus, urls get modified when transcoded, so bookmarking the pages is hard for the user to do easily, plus your site gets no credit for inbound links that reference the transcoded links because they route through the search engine (so ultimately the engine gets the credit for the link, not your site.). And finally, the mobile user experience is hard to control

If that's all okay with you, then go ahead and do nothing.

2. Mobile Only Pages (tiny pages for tiny screens)

Set up a subdomain just for mobile – something like;, etc. and then duplicate your existing site on the subdomain, but tweaked specifically for the smaller format of handheld devices.

Advantages to this method? Just update your existing code. Adjust the level of content so it’s easier to read on small screens/on the go.

Disadvantages? Your traditional homepage still has to work on mobile, so it's not 100% the answer to the problem. Also, it’s an extra click from the homepage to get to the mobile exclusive content. This method also means that you have to duplicate all of your efforts -- anything you do on the "main" site you also have to do on the mobile site.

3. Mobile and Traditional Hybrid Places – Multiple CSS for ‘screen’ vs ‘handheld’

This method lets you have the exact same content but just provide different rendering instructions to the browser based on the type of device. By providing a "handheld" version of your stylesheet, you can rearrange the divs and structure the content to render in a format better suited for the narrow format of smaller screens.

Advantages? Just add new stylesheet, use the same content. No risk of duplicate content. The CSS only has to download once. Can be device specific.

Disadvantages? Not 100% reliable. Some phones won’t pull the right stylesheet (like the iPhone) and if you’re not already using CSS it’s a pain to implement.

4. Dynamic Mobile Pages

If you have a lot of money and a great coder/programmer, you can have your mobile content generated from a database on the fly based on the exact type of device (make/model/OS) that the user is on.

Advantages? Device specific experience, good for SEO if ModRewrite is used, DB is cheap or free, and you get greater insight about your users.

Disadvantages? You constantly have to update your database when new software is released or new makes/models of devices are introduced, otherwise you risk missing someone. This option is also difficult to implement and can be cost prohibitive for many businesses.

Speaker 3: Brian Wool

There are 225 million mobile subscribers, but there are only 191 million Computer/desktop internet users. With the continuing improvement of web browsing on handheld devices, it is possible that there will soon be more people searching the web via handheld devices than on traditional computers.

Primary uses for Mobile Internet

Email Weather IM Maps/Driving Directions News Local Search Sports Quick facts about Small and Medium-sized Businesses

90% of business are small business and the majority of advertising dollars across most channels come from this segment. 90% of the $15B print YP adverstising comes from the SMB segment. About 50% of SMBs have a website. Less than 0.01% of SMBs have invested in a .mobi website. It’s the App, it’s not the Web Site

60 million iPhone Apps have been downloaded. The local search providers have all made iPhone apps, so users are using the apps and not going out to actual websites. Mobile search is much more verticalized than traditional search, so the value of the Local Apps is in their ability to deliver very specific, targeted content to the end users. Points to remember from this session:

Cindy Krum: The trend we’re seeing is that the SE users use on their “real” computer is the one they tend to use on their mobile devices. So in general, when you’re optimizing for your traffic, it’s fairly safe to assume that if the majority of your visitors are finding you on Google, then that will translate to mobile.

Brian Wool: The reason I mentioned Google a lot is primarily because the Google Maps iPhone app comes pre-installed on the iPhone, so ever iPhone users has access to it.

Cindy Krum: Do keep an eye on the other SEs because they’re entering into carrier specific agreements to be featured/pre-installed on devices.

Rebecca Lieb: Mobile likes small, dumb, ugly pages.

Brian Wool: Mobile search makes the most sense for restaurants, places that sell things, etc. Stores that would benefit from being able to reach users when the user is actually looking for a product or service *right then* -- tow trucks, restaurants, physical/brick-n-mortar stores, etc.

Live blogging provided by Cshel.


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