As the world moves towards mobility, optimizing your website for desktop search engines is no more sufficient. Since mobile search engines are different from desktop search engines the search results will be much different in smart phones than what you see in personal computers. In this chapter we will check out how to optimize a mobile site for search engines.
Responsive or fluid design is the latest trend in the web designing. The elements on your site will automatically adjusted to the width and height of browser’s viewport thus providing uniform appearance of a site across all devices. Responsive design helps to save lot of time and cost by eliminating the need of setting up separate mobile site. If you do not have any special purpose to have separate mobile site, we highly recommend choosing a responsive theme for your site.
If you are using mobile redirect to serve separate mobile site to users then consider the following points for improving the ranking of your mobile site.
Indexing Your Mobile Site in Search Engines
Once you setup a redirect in a desktop site to guide users to a mobile site when viewed on mobile devices, the next important thing you need to do is to check whether your site is indexed in mobile search engines. Use “site:yoursitename” in any mobile device and make sure all site’s pages are indexed in the search engines. If your site is not indexed then probably it may have one of the below issues:
1. Mobile Crawlers not finding your site
Search engine’s mobile crawlers need to crawl your site before indexing the pages in the search database. If you have a new site, use Google Search Console to check the crawl errors on “smartphone” and “Feature phone”. Google Search Console also offers a feature to check whether a URL is accessible by mobile crawlers by using “Fetch as Google” option for the mobile crawler. Below is the fetch result showing successful response for a desktop crawler.
Enter your site or page URL, select the user-agent as “Googlebot-Mobile” and click the “Test” button. The result will show you whether a valid Sitemap is detected by Google and what are the pages blocked by your robots.txt file.
2. Submit Your Mobile Sitemap
Create your mobile Sitemap and submit to search engines using webmaster tools account. This will help the mobile-bots to understand your mobile content and crawl easily.
3. Access Issue for Mobile-bots
Your mobile site may stop the bots accessing your pages due to the reason that the mobile user-agent is not included in your site. Make sure your site is included with the mobile user agents (Googlebot-Mobile for Google) so that the mobile-bots are allowed to access your pages without any issues.
Make sure your mobile URLs are identifiable
After mobile-bots crawled your pages the next step is that mobile-bots verify your URLs are compatible with mobile devices. If your URLs are not compatible then search engines will ignore them without indexing. The important criteria for URL validation is the declaration of Document Type Definition (DTD) in your mobile site. Ensure DTD declaration in your site is using correct mobile setup like XHTML or cHTML.
<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//WAPFORUM//DTD XHTML Mobile 1.2//EN" "http://www.openmobilealliance.org/tech/DTD/xhtml-mobile12.dtd">
Setup Your Mobile Redirect properly
Once you are ready with a mobile site the important point is to setup a redirect in your desktop site. This redirect will guide the users to take to your mobile site when viewed from a mobile device as well as inform the search engines the corresponding mobile URLs of your desktop pages. Two more additional points are to be considered here when guiding your mobile users:
- Ensure your pages are equivalently matched in both desktop and mobile version. For example redirecting one of your desktop page contains particular product information to a home page of your mobile site is against the mobile webmaster guidelines.
Correct Mobile Redirect:
- Desktop – site/page1.html
- Mobile Redirect
- Mobile – site/page1.html
Incorrect Mobile Redirect:
- Desktop – site/page1.html
- Mobile Redirect
Mobile – site/home.html
Provide your desktop site’s URL in mobile site and vice versa to ensure the navigation of one site to another. This is especially useful when your mobile site does not provide all the information from your desktop site due to the size.
Same URL for desktop and Mobile Site
Some of the hosting services offer same URL for your desktop as well as mobile site. In this case switching between mobile and desktop is controlled by the user-agent. Check your site in various mobile devices to make sure the design is working on all the devices otherwise you may need to choose appropriate mobile site builders to build your mobile site.
Cloaking is to show different content to search engine bots and the users in order to increase site ranking in the search. It is considered as a severe violation from webmaster’s guidelines by search engines and as a result your site will disappear from the search results. So, whether you are using same URL or different URLs for mobile and desktop sites make sure the redirects are appropriately set and the pages are showing relevant content.
It is absolutely fine to have different content in your mobile and desktop sites due to various reasons but the redirects should lead the users and the search engine bots to appropriate pages.
Mobile Friendly Test
Search engines like Google and Bing started displaying mobile friendliness of a site in the mobile search results pushing webmasters to have a mobile optimized site.
Google mobile friendly test tool is the easy way to check whether your site passes the test. Enter any URL and click on the “Analyze” button to see the results.
Dos and Don’ts with Your Mobile Site
- Design your mobile content effectively to help the search engines and users to navigate easily.
- Setup and test your redirects in various mobile devices.
- Submit mobile Sitemap in your webmaster tools account.
- Make sure mobile URLs are accessible by mobile-bots.
- Use responsive design.
- Ensure your site passes Google mobile friendliness test.
- Monitor mobile usability issues in Google search console and take corrective actions.
- Avoid cloaking.
- Congested mobile stuffed with content.