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Google Takes a Stand on Mobile SEO

By Katerina Potter | Search Marketing Specialist & Joey Greenstone | Account Leader

Up until this week, Google had not issued a formal position on the best ways to optimize websites for smart phones and we were relying on different, sometimes contradictory, statements from Google employees on the topic. Last week Google published a blog post outlining three major recommendations for building websites for smartphones:

  1. Using Responsive Web Design, i.e. serving the same set of URLs for all devices, using the same HTML but applying CSS to change how the page is rendered on the smartphone device.
  2. Dynamically serving all devices on the same set of URLs, but each URL serves different HTML (and CSS) depending on whether the user-agent reflects a desktop or a mobile device.
  3. When it is necessary to have mobile specific sites, Google recommends using annotations to make sure that Google recognizes the site as a mobile version. For example,, Google recommends using the rel=”alternate” and rel=”canonical” annotations to indicate the mobile content that is equivalent to specific desktop content.

For website owners, Google will continue to use desktop sites in smartphone search results pages, which means that they can reap the benefits of time spent building authority to their websites. This stance from Google allows room for flexibility of mobile web browsing to fit an array of different size viewing devices…and saving the search engine resources by indexing fewer versions of the same content. Rather than developing new sites tailored to each device, web developers can treat them as facets of the same experience through Responsive Web Design. Additionally, the single URL makes it easier for users to interact and share content.

Keep in mind that leveraging Responsive Web Design should never be at the expense of the user experience. When considering building a mobile presence, it is important to take into consideration the user experience as well as the implications for SEO. Responsive Web Design may not be the best experience for complex sites. Smartphone content requires shorter copy, fewer images and more straightforward language compared to desktops or tablets. It is still completely acceptable for brands to build separate sites so long as annotations can be applied appropriately per the instructions explained above.  iProspect will continue to be involved in the process of building mobile content, optimizing the user experience, and handling redirects when it comes to smartphone content.

The down side of last week’s change is that Responsive Web Design prevents the ability to rank for both the mobile site and the desktop site in Google SERPs, hindering the capability to capitalize on more real estate. Brands should ensure that all other branded digital assets, such as social media pages, are optimized to capture any potential lost real estate in Google SERPs.

For more detailed how-to instructions, please read Google’s new Developer Guide:

1 comment

  1. Godwin says:
    Jul 18, 2012

    Good Article

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