SEO on the Go: Recognize the Differences When Formatting for Mobile Search

Posted on by Brian Quinton

New research by Covario shows that mobile search and attribution modeling across multiple digital media types are the two most important issues to search marketers in 2012. CHIEF MARKETER recently talked with Michael Martin, senior SEO strategist at Covario, about the top issues marketers need to keep in mind when optimizing their sites for mobile.


Only 27% of the rankings on localized terms are the same on Google mobile as on Google desktop, compared to 42% of the non-localized results. This, according to Covario, shows that Google is very sensitive to the location of the query more on mobile devices than on desktop.

For smartphones, the onus in local search is on location — so in the results, Google Places often trumps regular results, says Martin. “In addition to having a localized page on your own domain, claim your presence on Google Places and Bing Business Portal.”

And keep in mind the type of device your user may be using: Since feature phones aren't touch friendly, there's a need to have the phone number show up in search results, as well as the address.

User Agent Detection

Domain structure is vital in mobile search. Martin recommends having a user agent detection system in place that will tell the search engine what type of device the user is coming in from — and then customize the content the user sees. Because Google uses different “Google-Bots” for desktop and mobile devices, it is key to know what page to serve to each bot.


For the most part, advertisers are best served in mobile search by using the same URLs on their mobile site as the desktop version. While Google does delineate between types of mobile devices, all mobile rendering should be done on the same domain, says Martin.

Covario's research shows that advertisers should redirect to a mobile subdomain only if there is a specific subset of pages that are going to be used for rendering on mobile search.

Content/Site Design

It may seem like a no-brainer, but many marketers still haven't taken the essential step of making their mobile sites scroll- and touch-friendly, says Martin.

As for content, mobile users — and the search engines — love video and customer reviews and rankings, so make sure those are plentiful and easy to find on your mobile site.

<< Continued from Page 1: Formatting for Mobile Search

Toolfetch Goes Mobile

Having a site optimized for mobile helps Toolfetch reach prospects who are doing business outside of their office.

“We're trying to go after that person who is remote, say a construction worker who doesn't have access to his desktop but does have his phone,” says Andrew Brown, president/cofounder, Toolfetch. “Say they're on the job and breaks a drill bit — he can place an order by phone.”

Toolfetch sells over 200,000 different products in nine different categories, targeting buyers ranging from Fortune 500 companies to government agencies to individuals in a range of markets including automotive, banking, restaurants and medical.

At press time, Toolfetch's mobile site was in the testing phase of becoming shopping-cart enabled. “We want to see how that would affect the performance and speed of the site,” says Brown, adding that he hopes the capability would be live before the holidays.

When the mobile site is shopping-cart enabled, gauging the return on investment will be more clear-cut. Until now, the ROI has been determined by how many people connected to the company by phone via the mobile site.

Since launching the mobile website, Toolfetch has seen its mobile Internet traffic go up by 30% year-over-year. In addition, 80% of the search terms that drive traffic to the mobile site also generated incremental traffic to the company's main site.

While more and more users are connecting via tablets and smartphones, a portion of customers still comes in from feature phones and BlackBerries. Are there differences in search behavior for mobile customers compared to those coming in via desktop? Not surprisingly, a lot of the mobile searchers are doing research and comparing prices, says Brown.


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