Google has just released an update to its startup guide on optimization for search engines of websites. A comprehensive guide for beginners, as well as a much-awaited new section on SEO of mobile websites .
This new version of the guide that can be downloaded here: ” SEO starter guide “, includes indeed a new section on the SEO (*) sites for mobile. Given the rapidly growing number of internet consultations from i-phones or other mobile phone devices, an official version of SEO tips from Google is indeed welcome.
If these four pages (pages 24 to 27 of the guide) do not reveal how to better position a mobile site on Google’s mobile index, they have the merit of recalling some essential good practices. Here we outline, and add a few remarks (and open-ended questions ) based on our experience to date.
The webmaster with a mobile version of his site will be able to check first if it is included in Google’s mobile index, for example using the “site” command. Google also recommends adding a sitemap (*) for the mobile version using the GWT (*).
In case of problems, it is necessary to check that the mobile robot of Google: “Googlebot-Mobile” can crawler and thus freely browse the site. Note that it is better to allow crawl to users agents (*) containing “Googlebot-Mobile” rather than an exact match, the full name and UA of the mobile robot can be modified. We will then verify that the URLs (*) of the mobile version are taken into account by Google as valid version of the mobile site. Indeed if the format of the mobile pages is deemed inappropriate by Google to be consulted from portable devices, this one will consider that they are candidates for its standard index; attention to potential problems caused by duplicate content and risk of page deindexing!
If you do not intend to study all the W3C recommendations for mobiles to develop the mobile version of your site, you should know at least use a compatible language format (eg XHTML Mobile or Compact HTML) and specify a correct Doc Type (*) (an example is given on page 25).
Now with respect to the overriding issue of operating standard and mobile versions of the same site in parallel , Google suggests 2 main alternatives:
a / Redirect mobile users (as well as Googlebot-Mobile) to the mobile version of the site and therefore to separate urls. Be careful to redirect page by page to content similar (or close) and not all pages to the home page of the mobile site, which some have tried voluntarily … or not! This practice is clearly “discouraged” by Google, arguing a bad user experience (rightly amha). These server-level redirects (for example, by the php header or htaccess) will limit duplicate content risks.
b / Automatically change the format of the same URL (*) or page according to the visitor’s “user agent”. With this solution the url of each page is identical, the standard / mobile users viewing the standard / mobile versions respectively, but pay attention to the “errors” and risks of cloaking (*) and therefore potential blacklisting!
However, Google generally admits that as long as Googlebot / Googlebot-Mobile sees the same versions as the standard / mobile users respectively, changes to the content of the same page (there is often a simplification on mobile versions more or less are not considered cloaking. This makes this alternative plausible.
To date, the fact that many mobile versions of websites are not always as complete as standard versions, makes us prefer the first solution; which also facilitates management. We often place the mobile version in a subdomain (eg mobile.ndd.tld). Although it is always preferable to notify on a case-by-case basis, this is an intermediate solution between the use of a new domain name, resulting in an initial loss of awareness, and the use of a sub-directory, retaining the notoriety, but often more complicated for the important sites.
In addition we add a link to the standard version on the pages of the mobile version, thus leaving the choice to the user. If it does not seem to us really useful to redirect automatically the standard users who could browse the mobile version, the automatic redirection of the mobile users to the mobile url is preferable, not everyone having the patience to wait for the loading complete one page designed for a standard screen and / or without an unlimited portable plan!
Note that very often, it is still the standard version that appears first on the serps (*) mobile search (sometimes a negative consequence of the choice of a subdomain, but one would think that Google favors the mobile version of a mobile search site). So obviously Google has progressed in the crawl and identification of mobile versions (at least compared to the beginnings where some will bitterly recall untimely deindexations due to content perceived as “dupe”, leading them to add an aberrant “noindex” their mobile pages), the positioning on the mobile index contains … some shadows!
Google Update: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2011/02/making-websites-mobile-friendly.html
* see lexicon on SEO
PS: The old version of this guide was translated into French at the end of 2008 (see this article: Guide of the referencing on Google ), but did not include at the time of heading on the mobile sites.