SEO + Mobile Websites = #Fail

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” 

― Albert Einstein

With this famous quote, Einstein got it right.  If we continue doing the same things we’ve done in the past, we are likely to fail.  Several years ago, thanks to Steve Jobs, Smart Phones burst onto the tech scene and forever changed the way we surfed the web.  Retailers responded with mobile websites, and for a short time we felt we addressed this significant change.  Only a few years ago, again thanks to Steve Jobs, Tablets appeared, and again our mobile website strategy cheese got moved and retailers scrambled.  An estimated 122 million Tablets were sold in 2012, in all shapes and sizes.  Today there are an incredible number of Smart Phones, Tablets, and now Phablets (combination phone/tablets), and they all come in different shapes and sizes.  That old strategy of building mobile websites is completely broken.  It is a 2008 solution to a 2013 problem.

I’ve written about this subject, and most who understand these changes would agree, the intelligent retailers are looking for a change.  Lo and behold, the technology gods delivered to us Adaptive/Responsive Web Technology, and we are thankful for it.  What is Adaptive Web Technology (AWT)?  AWT means that you can forget about having a mobile site, a tablet site, and your desktop site.  Instead, you have one single site that simply “adapts” to whatever device is browsing.  This adaptation includes changing the layout, navigation, reprioritizes content and changes calls to action.  Google the subject, you’ll be amazed when you see an example.

When I say “adapt”, I don’t mean redirect.  Redirects are also a 2008 solution to a 2013 problem.  Since most mobile websites are scaled-down versions of the main website, not every page on the main website exists on the mobile site.  That means if I’m surfing a dealer’s website on my desktop, find a cool Specials page and “share” it on Facebook, people on a mobile device may get a redirect that points them to the homepage instead (since that Specials page may not exist on the mobile website).  It is also very common to accidentally create “redirect loops” where users are bounced back and forth between mobile and desktop sites since the redirect code may not be updated.  Finally, you must keep in mind that having redirects on all of your pages will increase page-loading time, which hurts the user experience and leads to high abandonment rates.  Stop doing redirects…time to change to AWT.

If you’re not convinced yet that AWT is the technology of the future, would it help to know that both Google and Bing have embraced and recommended this technology?  This past summer they both said they preferred a single responsive website, vs. having both desktop and mobile sites.  Why did they make this recommendation.  A single website simply makes search indexing much more effective.  Google stated they prefer single URLs because ‘it makes it easier for your users to interact with, share, and link to your content’ and that is helps ‘Google’s algorithms assign indexing properties for the content.’  Bing also agreed that there are SEO benefits for single URL: ‘You have more ranking signals coming to this URL… the vast majority of mobile URLs do not have inbound links from other websites as people do not link to mobile URLs like they link to regular web-situated URLs.’  I don’t know about you, but if it’s important to Google and Bing, then it is important to me!

The Search Engines also have a vested interest.  When you have both mobile and non-mobile sites, the SE crawlers are actually crawling your site multiple times, using a lot of your bandwidth, and slowing performance for your users.  Very bad.  The indexing process is also completely duplicated, since Search Engines sees an entirely new site, potentially causing duplicate content issues.  Remember, around 30% of searches today are via a mobile device, and that number is rapidly growing.  Dealers need a 2013 mobile strategy.

From the dealer’s perspective, multiple websites means multiplying the work involved to achieve great SEO.  Third party linking must be duplicated from scratch for your mobile site, and that is not likely to happen effectively since people don’t tend to link or share mobile URLs.  Whether you do your SEO internally or use a third-party, all SEO optimization effort is duplicated, increasing costs and decreasing performance of your campaigns.  Some will deal with these problems by altering the ROBOTS.TXT file to block the Search Engines from crawling the mobile site, putting priority on the non-mobile site.  They will then use redirects to send mobile traffic to non-indexed mobile site, however redirects often fail (see previous).

From the consumer’s standpoint, we would all prefer a single website that automatically adjusted to any screen size, from the smallest Smart Phone, to the largest LED television.  Consumers don’t want a scaled-down mobile site that is lacking key content, or has out of date information.  Most consumers will form their first impression of retailers based on how well the website performs on various devices.  I know if I go to a website that doesn’t adapt well on my phone or iPad Mini, I abandon and go somewhere else.

You get the picture; you need a 2013 strategy to deal with the device explosion that is going on today.  You need a strategy that makes it so that your website is immediately compatible with the new iPad Mini the day it arrives in stores.  It’s all about conversions and sales in the end, and Adaptive websites help the Search Engines find your website, improve the experience, and help get them converted.  Adaptive and Responsive website technology is that 2013 solution, and Mr. Einstein would be proud of those ready to adapt to this change!

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