Traditional search engine optimization (SEO) tactics are all about using keywords and backlinks to help people find your content. But as more people surf the Web using smartphones and tablets instead of desktops and laptops, what will it mean for SEO?
Do you need to revise your tactics for mobile SEO? And what impact will Siri, the new Apple iPhone 4S voice-enabled personal assistant that searches the Web for you, have on your SEO efforts?
Here's a guide to the top five things small businesses should know about mobile SEO. But first a clarification: this article describes tactics and strategies for organic search engine optimization, rather than paid-search campaigns.
1. Shocker: Mobile Web use is exploding and will only keep growing.
In a March 2011 study conducted by ROI Research Inc., 49 percent of mobile search engine users made a purchase on their device within the past six months. What's more, 83 percent of respondents said they search for local retailers on their mobile devices, while 63 percent use smartphones and tablets to search for product information before making purchases in a bricks-and-mortar store or from a catalog.
Meanwhile, Google's former CEO Eric Schmidt said earlier this year that 78 percent of smartphone owners shop online using their mobile handset, and that mobile web use is growing at supersonic speed. "We look at the charts internally and it's happening faster than all of our predictions," Schmidt told attendees at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's annual leadership meeting. "This is the future, and everyone will adapt."
To Schmidt's point, a Microsoft infographic predicts that by 2014, mobile Internet use will be more prevalent than desktop/laptop Web surfing.
So what does this mean for your small business website? If your business depends on attracting new customers via search, it's time to take mobile SEO seriously. This is especially true if you cater to local customers, because mobile search results are typically tailored to the user's current location.
For example, if you search for Indian restaurants using Google on your iPhone, Google assumes you're looking for nearby restaurants and serves up results based on where you are (which Google knows from the iPhone's GPS).
2. Good news: You don't need to radically rethink your SEO to optimize for mobile Web searches.
Fundamentally, mobile SEO works the same as desktop SEO; in fact, most SEO experts don't believe there's a need for a mobile SEO strategy. This is because, in most cases, the order in which search results are ranked doesn't differ much between mobile and desktop browser searches.
Fact: the same basic principles of SEO apply regardless of whether you're optimizing for mobile or computer searchers:
- You still need to optimize your content with the most relevant keyword phrases.
- You still need to attract as many backlinks from other sites, because the search engines view those backlinks as votes of confidence for your content.
- And you still need to ensure that your site is search-engine friendly, as opposed to laden with tons of Flash and other content that slows it down and makes it difficult for search engine spiders to crawl. (Flash is particularly bad news if you're trying to appeal to iPhone and iPad users, whose browsers don't support Flash and probably never will. More developers are increasingly using HTML5 to add Flash-like content to their sites because Apple iDevices support HTML5.)
However, it's worth noting that because typing a search query on a smartphone or tablet is more cumbersome, mobile search queries are typically shorter than desktop search strings. If you're hoping to attract more mobile customers, optimize your Web content using a phrase with just two keywords when possible.
Apple's virtual personal assistant Siri and other voice-activated smartphone search technologies might change this over time; see point number five in this article for more information.
To explore mobile-friendly keyword phrases, use the free Google AdWords Keyword Tool's mobile filtering option. Look for 'Advanced Options and Filters' near the top of the page and select 'Devices: Desktops and laptops,' then select a mobile option.