June 6th, 2012 – Mountain View, California: Google finally comes out with an official stance on mobile and smartphone-optimized websites.
We’re sure this is because smartphones have now become the defining technology that binds our people across the nation. The most recent data from comScore states that there are 234 million Americans who carry mobile devices. Of this number, more than 100 million of them are carrying smartphones.
Sure, according to the latest report from IDC, some smartphone users are decidedly Android (59% of the market), and some are Apple (23%), and others hang on to Symbian (6.8%), RIM (6.4%), or favor Windows (2.2%), but the popularity of smartphones over the not-so-smart variety has driven not only a culture of information super consumers but also the way we create and design information so that it can be easily consumed. Hence, the Google “Recommendations for building smartphone-optimized websites” article a few weeks back.
As stated in the article at the Google Webmaster Central blog, Google is “working hard on improving Google’s support for smartphone-optimized content.”
Those who have been watching the developments out of Mountain View were happy to see the December 2011 release of the Smartphone Googlebot-Mobile user agent. We knew then that the big hamster wheel at Google was officially starting to turn and that more support for mobile was due to arrive within the year. And so it has.
What does this mean for web developers and search marketers?
First off, it should be mentioned that if you’re looking for a comprehensive list of actions you can check off as you re-develop your website, you may be disappointed. The blog article is surprisingly short – only 600-some words. Right off, Google states that they are providing recommendations for building smartphone-optimized websites, as well as an explanation on how to build them so that your sites have the best chance for performing well in Google search results. What the article actually delivers is a summary of recommendations and a link to the new smartphone section of the Webmasters page on the Google Developers site. Of course, the content on that page recommends a link to another page where the actual details can be found.
Google-Supported Mobile Site Configurations
- Sites that use responsive web design – In that the same HTML is served up to all devices and CSS is to be used to alter the rendering of pages to meet the needs of the device (max-width value of 640px, etc., etc.).
- Sites that dynamically serve all devices on the same set of URLs – Where your server responds with different HTML and CSS per the request of the user (desktop or mobile device).
- Sites that have separate mobile and desktop URLs – Essentially, each desktop URL has a similar mobile URL (with some recommended annotations from Google, of course).
In the end, these are just a few recommendations from Google. Fortunately, there are a number of supported implementations. What best suits your specific site and its users is entirely up to you, the developer or site owner. Google has made its stance on mobile official. More information as it becomes available.
What does this mean for SEO?
Aside from the normal SEO, mobile site optimization comes with two primary items for SEO’s to implement. The first thing is to create a Mobile XML Sitemap. A mobile XML Sitemap is slightly diffrent than your typical XML sitemap for you desktop site. Notice the mobile sitemap-mobile declaration at the top and
the <mobile:mobile/>. If you are searching for a site map creator, make sure it codes your mobile pages properly.
Beyond the mobile sitemap, any site that redirects automatically should use the Vary HTTP header. This helps Googlebot and search algorithms understand your sites configuration. For example if your main site has www.URL.com/article22.html your redirect for a mobile device may be m.URL.com/article22.html. To properly communicate this as a mobile redirect you should let Googlebot and Googlebot-Mobile crawl your site just like any other user agent. Adding the “Vary” header to the HTML is sort of like the rel-canonical equivalent for mobile redirects.
For complete details from Google on mobile optimization click here.