SES: Mobilize Your Site For Mobile Search

    December 6, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

Millions of people carry cellphones, and many of those devices can surf the Internet. Search engine companies have recognized their potential and are targeting mobile services both to consumers and advertisers. Our Chris Richardson tapped out some notes on his cellphone while speakers at SES Chicago discussed the topic of mobile search optimization.

Mobilize Your Site For Mobile Search
Mobilize Your Site For Mobile Search

Site publishers who have developed their websites on big monitors years ago probably never thought they may have to someday make them work on a 2.5″ screen. That time to do so has arrived slowly in the US, as a general reluctance to shell out big bucks for data service on a cellphone could be overcome by more efficient and less expensive wireless technology.

Plenty of people use those services today, and since they represent an audience with enough free cash flow to afford (or have someone else pay for) the Web on their mobiles, it makes sense to target a profitably desirable niche.

Doing so for five particular vertical industries should be an essential part of those industries’ strategies: consumer goods, fast food restaurants, entertainment, travel & hospitality, and financial. A new domain, .mobi, has been established for sites created for mobile websites to help drive their development.

Today, Google does transcoding that permits existing websites to fit onto a small screen from a Google mobile search. The process does remove graphical elements, so sites that run CPM ads will need to consider that.

Yahoo accepts .mobi site submissions at their site, and webmasters can create a mobile sitemap for Google to index.

The normal SEO practices one uses for a conventional website still apply in the mobile realm. Just because the viewing space is smaller doesn’t mean visitors want anything less than useful content; that’s even more important to a time-pressed traveler on the run.

Cindy Krum of Blue Moon Works spoke about the ins and outs of optimizing for the mobile experience, one that is in its infancy here. The traffic from mobile doesn’t compare to PC-based web traffic yet.

But if it catches on here as it has in Japan and through Europe, that will change. Currently, Krum recommends coding a mobile site in XHTML to make sure mobile devices can properly render it.

Keep the code lean to enhance loading times, and separate content from format by using CSS, preferably through an external style sheet that can be loaded into a mobile browser’s cache once and used repeatedly.

Since mobile devices vary in size, from the smaller vertical screens on flip phones to the wider real estate on smart phones, the webmaster should test for compatibility with different screen sizes. This is another place where the external style sheet will help.

The use of appropriate headers and MIME types helps clarify which content goes to the browser and to the crawler. For the browser content, label buttons clearly and organize them logically. Finding the right place to click should be easy on a small screen, not difficult.

Including text links for navigation, and placing navigation below the content, should make for a better experience on the mobile platform. Optimized content needs to go up top, as always.

While some may debate just how long it will take for inexpensive and fast wireless services to emerge for mobile users, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes activity aimed at making that happen. Being a first-mover with quality content and an effective design and navigation scheme could make one’s site a must-see on the mobile web as more people embrace its usage.


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.