What’s Different about Mobile SEO (Part 1)

With Google CEO Eric Schmidt calling for a mobile revolution at the World Economic Forum late last week, and Google’s Matt Cutts naming mobile as one of four things SEOs should focus on in 2008 late last year, mobile search marketing and optimization have recently been in the spotlight for many in the mainstream SEO press. If you’re looking for more information yourself, you may see a lot of experts telling you that mobile SEO is SEO, and as such traditional SEO best practices apply. While this is true to some extent, there are certain aspects of traditional search optimization that do not apply to mobile optimization and vice versa. For those of you who are new to mobile search optimization, I’m going to take the next two days to post about some aspects of mobile SEO that may throw traditional SEO practitioners for a loop:

1. Mobile Users Search Differently
That 15-18”x7” tray full of numbers and letters in front of you isn’t available to most mobile searchers. If you are trying to search from your phone, you’re probably not doing it from a standard keyboard, and you may not even be indoors. The mobile user experience is altogether different from the experience of the casual web browser, and often results in different queries and different search volumes. In a recent study I did on Characteristics of Mobile Web Queries in AT&T’s Media Net, query intent of mobile queries, search volume and categories of queries were all radically different from their computer-based counterparts. If you’re using traditional keyword tools like WordTracker or KeywordDiscovery to get relative search volume or sample queries you’re at an immediate disadvantage. There are ways to do keyword research for mobile devices, but they’re often dissimilar to methods in basic SEO.

2. Optimizing for Hundreds of Devices
In web search, there are two browsers that have about 95% of the market share, and the most recent versions of them are all able to run rich internet applications like Adobe Flash movies and AJAX. Combine this with the two dominant server types and two dominant operating systems and you have a fairly simple equation when it comes to making content accessible for the desktop web.

The mobile web, on the other hand, is a different equation altogether. As of November 2007 there were 181 commercially available mobile devices in the US market alone, and only one of them is the iPhone. Accessibility is an issue in traditional SEO, and it’s always good to optimize for the simple user that the search engine spider mimics, but the stakes are much higher in mobile search. W3C validation is controversial in the traditional SEO community, as accessibility for web search can be accomplished without validating every page. However, given the high price of inaccessibility on the mobile web, validation is frequently recommended and encouraged, both for W3C accessibility standards and Mobile Web Best Practices.

Check in tomorrow for Part 2, where I’ll give more insights into the vast world that is Mobile SEO…

Posted by: Bryson Meunier, Product Champion, Natural Search


Anonymous said...

I work in a very large company and today, I participated in some SEO training. I asked the consultant facilitating the session when he's with his clients, whether he recommends different approaches for traditional vs mobile SEO and he brushed me off. My 'gut' told me he was embarassed that he didn't have a good answer and yet that same gut told me I was on to something even though I'm new to SEO. THANK YOU for validating my gut feeling and offering us newbies some solid evidence to work with and present to top decision makers.

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