With the latest Google Hummingbird update, it's clear that search is adapting to its new mobile environment. Studies say that 25% of searches made today are on mobile devices. Whether your audience is looking for your service through their desktop, smartphone, or tablet, you want to make sure you're doing everything you can to optimize your site's SEO. Watch today's Daily Brown Bag to learn about mobile SEO, where mobile search is heading, and how to optimize your site for the growing number of searches taking place on mobile devices!


Hello, and welcome to our daily Brown Bag where, today, we’re going to be talking about mobile SEO, what it is, and why it matters. I’m Chad Hill and I’m joined by Adam Stetzer.

Good morning, Chad! Mobile SEO is kind of a fascinating topic because the internet is evolving and we used to see sort of a single channel, and now people dancing through different devices, accessing the internet, continuing their experiences between desktop and mobile devices. I’ve seen this in my own behavior. Sometimes at night, I’m sitting in front of the TV with a laptop in front of me, but then I have a tablet over to the side and I’m actually jogging between the two mobile devices. So, behaviors and attentions are definitely changing, and people who study this, our mobile internet marketing audience, of course, wants to know how to best be prepared as these demographics shift. Here’s a few numbers. There are 1.2 billion users accessing the web via a mobile device currently. Some estimates say that 25% of searches are now conducted on mobile devices.

I know Google has been pretty vocal about the fact that this trend is likely to explode, and of course their heavy investment in Android shows that they’re going to be right there. So what are some top points of advice we have for people trying to conquer mobile SEO, get their heads around this, and understand the consumer behavior?

Well, usually the first question people have is, “My website is ranking well in desktop search. Isn’t it going to rank well on mobile SEO?” Today, I think that’s, for the most part, largely true. The interface of seeing the results are a little different, but typically the results are similar. There are some improvements Google is making where you’ll sometimes see in a mobile search that there’s an icon that might say that the page that you’re going to is mobile-friendly, because nobody wants to see that result, click on that link, and on their mobile device, go to a page they can’t view from a mobile device, so they are making some changes there. But I think that the really important thing that people need to start thinking about is how the context of what people are looking for when using a mobile device is different.

When you’re on a desktop, thinking about the environment, or you’re on your couch, Adam, you’re sitting in front of a large screen that you can consume or scroll through. When you’re searching on a mobile device, you might be walking, you aren’t supposed to be, but you might be in your car. You’re trying to get to some information very quickly, and so people are looking to take quicker actions, get results quicker, and then take an action. So, you need to be thinking about what you’re doing for the percentage of your audience that’s coming to this page on a mobile device versus the percentage of your audience that’s coming to the page through a desktop device. So, it really becomes about what you’re doing for the conversion of the audience that’s on your website.

Yeah, so this is a complex topic. Mobile SEO, what you’re saying, has several layers. Let’s see if we can peel back the onion a bit. Certainly, context and consumer intention are pretty big to get your head around this topic. You’re right. People on the go are looking for directions, they’re looking for the closest gas station, where is the post office? Or, they may be doing simple transactions like ordering a pizza or finding a restaurant to take their families to. Those would be very typical contexts in which a consumer is probably going to execute on a mobile device versus making a long, well-researched purchase decision for a new car or a new computer or put a new roof on your house.

My guess is those are not contexts or purchasing decisions that would gravitate towards a mobile device just because the format, as you said, isn’t long enough form for people to get the information when they really do want in-depth information. So, that’s probably a first level you can kind of cut. You think about the consumer behavior. But the other thing you said, Chad, that’s interesting is that the search engines aren’t really there yet on understanding or at least folding into their signals these different contexts and consumer behaviors. As you said, the principles are still essentially the same, but I guess we’re really focused on how if you understand your audience and who you’re going after, you need to optimize that user experience, and that’s basically onsite SEO. But, I think we’d be foolish to think that the search engines won’t evolve in this direction. We know Google’s great at that and they’ve got to be pushing hard in this direction.

Yeah, exactly, and we have a little bit of information here that says that back in June, Google started rolling out some changes that would actually change around the rankings a little bit, based on a couple factors. I’m going to read some of these. One thing is faulty redirects, so if a redirect goes to an irrelevant page on a mobile optimized website. We see this a lot, where the result is taking you to a deep piece of content on a website, you click on it, and it redirects you to the homepage of a mobile optimized website. That’s a miss on experience for a customer. They wanted to get to one piece of content. Now they have to actually find it, if they can even find it on the mobile website. So, they’re going to start cracking down on that.

Smartphone only errors, so again, their crawlers are going to get smarter about looking at the content not only from the perspective of a desktop or browser, but also from a smartphone, and if your site doesn’t work on a smartphone, they’re not going to put you in the search results. Bot errors, site speed, so if your website is extremely slow to load, most people on mobile devices tend to have a slower connection than at home. That’s changing, but they’re going to potentially influence rankings there. So, they’re making a lot of changes here that I think, over the next several months and years, are going to get smarter, and results for mobile device and for desktop will start diverging more, but we’re early in this right now.

Right, so I think the really practical advice for small business websites is first, get into your analytics and understand how many people come to you from a mobile device. That’s data that’s fully discoverable and that you should have at your fingertips to understand just how critical this is for you. Also, think about the things we said at the top end of this video in terms of who your audience is, what kind of product are you selling, what’s their purchase decision likely to be, and if that’s something you want them to do on a mobile device. As you take those things into consideration, you can decide how much mobile search optimization you really need to do, and if the answer is “a fair amount”, you can see that the criteria are quite different, and even if they’re not in the search engine algorithm today, you can bet they will be soon. And regardless, that user experience, that UX, we know is just so important anytime.

Those are some of our thoughts on mobile SEO. We’d like to hear your stories and comments on what you’ve done for mobile, or maybe if you haven’t done anything, and we also ask you to subscribe to our videos.