Mobile Domains for SEO search now exceeds desktop. Therefore, mobile should be a key part of your SEO strategy. Perhaps more importantly, 80% of Social Traffic comes from mobile devices.
To convert those mobile clicks into leads or sales (the Conversion Rate), your visitor expects an awesome mobile experience. But you’re stuck with a mob.domain version of your site especially for mobile devices – how does that affect your SEO?
We know that Google is splitting its index into desktop and mobile versions and that it plans to prioritise mobile over desktop. We know that mobile readiness is already a significant ranking factor for mobile searches.
There are typically two solutions to presenting a mobile version of your site to visitors;
– the preferred way, recommended by Google and anyone else who knows their SEO: responsive design. Your site has one set of URLs with one set of pages and content. That content scales to fit the user’s device, mobile, tablet or desktop.
– the old-fashioned way. Create a mobile sub-domain of your site, mob.domain, m.domain, mobile.domain or whatever. Redirect mobile users to the mobile versions of pages and they get a great mobile experience. Done.
There are some serious issues with this approach if organic rankings are an important part of your digital marketing strategy.
Is It a Mobile Device?
It’s getting more difficult for your server to determine whether a browser is a desktop, tablet or mobile device. It works pretty well, but not 100% by any means.
That means that some mobile users could be presented with a desktop version of your site. That leads to high bounce rates and low conversion rate – it’ll cost you sales.
That also means that some desktop or tablet users get presented with your mobile site. Yuk! Also high bounce rates and poor sales.
What About Mobile Domains for SEO?
There’s a much more significant issue for SEO: duplicate content.
Google hates duplicate content. How does Google decide which page should be indexed for a particular term? The desktop domain version or the mobile domains for SEO version? They’re both the same content!
There are some options to deal with this;
– noIndex the pages on one or the other, leaving one set of content. That’s fine if you want to remove your mobile pages from the index, or your desktop pages from the index. But why on earth would you want to do that?
– block one or the other using robots.txt. Essentially, the same function as above. For organic rankings, that’s probably madness.
– canonically link from your mob.domain content to the desktop version. You’re signalling to the Search Engine that the desktop version of the page is the priority and to ignore the mobile version. That most likely removes the mobile pages from the index in favour of desktop. Great for desktop search rankings, but trashes your mobile rankings. Bad idea.
– canonically link from desktop to mobile version of your pages. Great for mobile rankings at the cost of desktop rankings. Also a terrible SEO strategy.
The Right Strategy for Mobile SEO
Go responsive. Bite the bullet, it’s the safest, most sensible and future-proof strategy that benefits your SEO, paid traffic, social media traffic and direct.
Responsive design is undoubtedly the right solution all round. And yes, it’s totally worth it.
Checklist for Migrating Your Mobile Domain to Responsive Design
– make a list of all pages in your mobile domain. Your sitemap and Google’s index are a good place to start.
– check and report current mobile page rankings
– check and report current desktop rankings
– redirect mobile URLs to the desktop equivalent. This is usually set in the .htaccess file on the mobile domain. You needn’t redirect individual URLs, provided the page structure and path are the same on desktop. See 301 redirects.
– update mobile preferred URLs in your Google AdWords ads and Ad Extensions, Bing Ads campaigns Facebook Ads campaigns or anywhere else. They’d get redirected anyway, but this is safer, quicker for the user and more reliable
– check your feeds for Google Shopping, Bing Shopping, Amazon Product ads and any other feeds automatically update to the standard URLs rather than the mobile version
– check Webmaster Tools for the mobile domain for errors
– monitor bounce rates, time on page and conversion rates for mobile devices and tablets using Google Analytics.
– observe mobile search rankings
– monitor desktop rankings
– check Webmaster Tools for the mobile domain and address any issues (there shouldn’t be many or any)
– check Webmaster Tools for the desktop domain
– test, test, test