It’s 2014, which means we are officially one year away from the year that Kelsey Group predicted mobile search will eclipse desktop search. Are you making your mobile resolutions to ensure you’re ready for when that time comes?
2013 In Review
Hopefully, you were with us last year as well, when we used this column to give tactical advice on how to do mobile SEO well, provided case studies to illustrate mobile SEO success, and left the responsive versus mobile web debate in 2012 (as I promised to do in my 2013 mobile SEO resolutions).
Okay, so maybe I fell short on the last two resolutions. I was asked to talk more about responsive web design after promising not to and ended up writing even more about it than in the previous year.
This seems to have been met with your approval, as (in spite of the virtual hate mail from those who make their living selling responsive at all costs) my responsive columns were my most popular, with two landing on the top mobile columns of 2013 list on Marketing Land, and one even appearing on Search Engine Land’s most popular search columns of 2013 list. An article I wrote for Smashing Magazine called SEO for Responsive Websites in November actually ended up becoming my most socially engaged article of all time.
I hope the fact that you made my 2013 a success means that the columns were helpful to you, and I will do my best to continue at least giving you more tactical advice on how to do mobile SEO well, and more case studies about brands who have had mobile SEO success. To that end, if you have any case studies that you’d like to share with me for publication, please reach out to me via email and they could be showcased at some time in the New Year.
Mobile SEO: Then And Now
Before we get into case studies or best practices this year, I’d like to start the new year with a short reflection of how far mobile SEO as a discipline has come in less than five years. When I started researching mobile SEO back in 2005, Motorola Razr was the preferred handset, and most of the advice that was given was to validate your XHTML code in order to provide a better user experience for the majority of people in the hopes that Google would reward the webmaster’s efforts in search results.
All of it was speculation, as Google didn’t talk about mobile SEO beyond these basic mobile web best practices that have been available since about 2007. It was a niche topic, presumably because at that time most searchers accessed the web via desktop, and only a small percentage of webmasters were concerned with becoming visible to searchers accessing the web via mobile devices. Cindy Krum and Rachel Pasqua were talking intelligently about mobile SEO then (as they do today), but not many others.
As the iPhone launched in 2007, and ease of use drove more searchers to the mobile web, many more people speculated about whether an SEO devoted to mobile searchers would be necessary, given that many of the searchers are looking for the same sites and using the same keywords that they would on a desktop or laptop.
When the iPad launched in 2010, this caused many more to question the logic of having sites and SEO devoted to mobile searchers, as the fact that a device was technically mobile didn’t necessarily mean that people were using it on the go. In recent years, the responsive web design and adaptive content movements have grown up out of this idea, as more users expect to be able to access the same content from multiple screens.
And yet, this convergence doesn’t mean we can stop doing mobile SEO. On the contrary, Google’s guidelines for smartphone optimization have only increased since more searchers are accessing content from mobile devices, even announcing smartphone-specific ranking changes in 2013.
This will continue as the majority of searchers access content from mobile devices, which Yahoo! predicts will happen on its properties sometime this year. If you’re an SEO trying to drive qualified traffic to the site(s) you manage and you haven’t read and understood Google’s guidelines on building smartphone, tablet and feature phone sites, as well as Google’s recent checklist and videos on mobile SEO, as well as commentary from this site and others on how this affects the practice of SEO, you’re going to be at a disadvantage in the search results compared to your competitors who have.
And, this is not just mobile search results and mobile SEO. As I predicted a year ago, at some point saying mobile SEO will be redundant — like saying “wet water” or “black darkness.” Not paying attention to mobile users will be like not paying attention to links.
This month, Jay Taylor at Search Engine Watch said that time is here, asserting that “mobile SEO should no longer be considered separate from desktop SEO. Rather, they are two parts of a complete SEO strategy.” I agree with this completely. And, SEOs who still don’t should probably prepare to watch their traffic drop as they unintentionally frustrate what will soon be the majority of search engine users.
Thanks for a great 2013! Stay tuned to this column in 2014 as mobile SEO becomes more important than ever.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.