SEO Can’t Be Done Without Mobile SEO

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?

Mobile share of overall search traffic was nearly one third in Q3 of last year according to RKG.

Mobile share of overall search traffic was nearly one third in Q3 of last year according to RKG.

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.

Google's mobile SEO guidelines, once limited to a single page that doesn't talk about SEO, are now nine pages, including this helpful mobile site checklist.

Google’s mobile optimization guidelines, once limited to a single page that doesn’t talk about SEO, are now nine pages, including this helpful mobile site checklist.

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.

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile Marketing | Google: SEO | Mobile Marketing | Mobile Marketing Column


About The Author: is the SEO Director at Vivid Seats, is an SEO veteran with more than 14 years experience both agency and in-house, and is a thought leader in permission marketing as a columnist and a frequent speaker on SEO and mobile marketing.

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  • MJAllDay15

    The unique challenge we’re facing now, specifically in lead gen, is with mobile search volume increasing over time, how can we get people to convert on mobile? Sure, there’s “click to call” features, but what about other options? This is a really cool and exciting area of opportunity (in my opinion) for someone to break the mold on form technology for mobile.

  • JustConsumer

    I have one doubt … Probably you can clarify.

    Most of the people have two places to visit daily – home and work. Both places have non-mobile internet access in most cases.

    Between these two place people use vehicles. No mobile for the obvious reason.

    Sometimes people are out, visiting friends, malls, restaurants, ect. Occasional usage only.

    My question is – where is this heavy mobile search traffic coming from? Or to be more precise – what kind of traffic is this?

    Is it possible, that most of this traffic are queries of the viral content or weather/location/direction/sport news/ other short living content ?

    This report confirms, that something is shady about mobile searches. Why “Smartphones and tablets generated a combined 32 percent of paid search clicks” ? Doesn’t it confirm, that mobile queries are mostly on-the-run or traffic-jam time wasting queries ?

    What do you think ?

  • HCGChica

    Just consumer- I often use my ipad to browse and read online at home where I can be in a comfier spot. My own blog is not a weather/traffic jam type blog- it’s a blog with videos and long story content and fully 50% of my traffic is now mobile. Hope that helps.

  • JustConsumer

    What is the ratio of tablets to phones in this 50% ?

  • Blueflux SEO

    ‘The Perfect Balance’. (Almost).

    1.Big Screen vs Little Screen

    2.Quick Decision vs Patiently Make An Informative Choice.

    3.Impress for the click vs Minimal and dull.

    Marketers and Advertisers have always practised these ideas on every project.

    The best way to achieve this ‘balance’?

    How about a well laid out web page that’s to the point and aesthetically pleasing for the quick and curious decision, with a little ‘customer satisfying interactivity’ and some easy to use and professional navigation for the more patient and well informed customer?

    Apply some great interactive buttons/sections (for example) and split the navigation as and when needed into separate pages. These two choices are what will determine the download times, the balance between SEO and the ‘Call to Action’ whether it’s a small screen mobile shopper or a determined desktop visitor/tablet couch-browser.


    p.s. No offence intended to any tablet users.

  • MJAllDay15

    I certainly agree with you in that the “type” of queries on mobile differ significantly from the types of queries on desktop. For me, if I’m searching for something on mobile, the thing that I am searching for is anecdotal at best.

    The vast majority of my mobile searches (after looking at my search history) are related to things that I’m watching on TV: “What other movies is this actor in? When does the new season of The Walking Dead come out? How tall is Drew Bress? Where did Troy Aikman go to college? What rating did The Dark Knight receive on IMDB? etc.

    Interestingly enough, the conversion rates on mobile for our consumers is quite high. Our conversion rates on Tablets are outrageously high. Granted, it’s a much smaller sample size, but I think that it is certainly true that everyone uses the internet differently. Also, things vary quite a bit depending on the vertical.

    After years of working in Digital Marketing and running test after test after test, the thing that I have learned is that I don’t know **** about what consumers want and how they use the internet. That’s why I use analytics tools and base my decision making off data, not intuition :).


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