An Informative Guide to Technical Mobile SEO

FACT:Smartphone users are a significant and fast growing segment of Internet users.

To implement a mobile website you need to know how Google crawls, indexes, and ranks mobile content and presents it to searchers on mobile devices. Building Smartphone-Optimised Websites.

Another area that people are talking about is how Google has mentioned that changes in ranks results for smartphone searchers will be influenced by mobile user experience.

So taking this into consideration we have compiled a condensed guide for you to refer to when constructing your mobile website so that your users are happy and your website is optimised.

If you are designing your mobile website from scratch then you need to consider the three options available for a mobile site:

Responsive web design

Responsive web design is a setup where the server always sends the same HTML code to all devices and CSS is used to alter the rendering of the page on the device using media queries. As the screen size gets smaller, the page may show fewer images, less text, or a simplified navigation. There is one URL for both desktop and mobile device.

Points to consider:

  • Don’t block crawling of resources such as CSS and JavaScript
  • Page load time needs to be speedy so don’t load up a heap of video’s or advertisements.
  • What content are you showing? If it is different from the desktop user then maybe Mobile URL’s are the go for your situation.

Dynamic Content

Dynamic content is a web page or site with web content that varies based on parameters provided by a user or a computer program. Content that changes frequently and engages the user. There is one URL for both desktop and mobile device.

Points to consider:

  • a good option if loading the full content from the desktop version would slow the mobile page down
  • ensure you are using the Vary: User-Agent HTTP response header since you are serving different content in different instances.

Mobile URL’s

Each desktop URL would have an equivalent different URL serving mobile-optimized content. This could lead to the desktop and mobile user having a completely different experience. There are different URL’s for both desktop and mobile devices.

Points to consider:

  • It can be a lot easier to keep track of technically
  • It works well for both users and search engines
  • If the content you’re serving mobile users is fairly different from what you’re serving desktop users, this options makes a lot of sense.

Once you have decided on the best mobile site set up and you are off and running with your mobile website, you need to ensure that both your mobile and desktop pages redirect appropriately. Mobile user-agents that access the desktop pages should be redirected to the mobile versions and desktop user-agents that access the mobile pages should be redirected to the desktop versions. This ensures that if you decide to share a link via twitter or facebook on your mobile phone then someone else clicking on that link might be sitting at their desktop. Re-directing them to the desktop version ensures they get the full experience and not the ‘condensed mobile’ version. You don’t need to do anything special for Googlebot-Mobile, as it crawls as a mobile browser, so both it and the regular Googlebot will be redirected correctly if these redirects are in place.


  • Google recommends redirecting tablet and iPad users to the desktop, rather than the mobile, version as their data show that’s what uses prefer.
  • Don’t block the mobile pages from being crawled via robots.txt as this prevents Google from mapping the desktop and mobile page into a cluster.
  • Google uses a single index for serving content to desktop and mobile users, but clusters the desktop and mobile pages together and serves the appropriate version. So in knowing that, you can add meta data to assist Google in the mapping of your mobile site.

Metadata Code For SEO


Use the desktop value for both the mobile and desktop version. This consolidates indexing and ranking signals (such as external links) and prevents confusion about potential duplicate content.

<link rel=”canonical” href=””/>

Rel=alternate media

This attribute enables you to map the desktop and mobile URLs. Use this attribute on the desktop page to specify the mobile version. You don’t however include this attribute on the mobile version to specify the desktop version.

<link rel=”alternate” media=”only screen and (max-width: 640px)” href=””/>”

You can also specify the alternate in the XML Sitemap.

Make sure you specify the canonical version of the mobile URL and don’t dynamically just include the URL in the browser address bar, which might include optional parameters.


If the site includes paginated content, you would also include the Rel=next and Rel=prev attributes. However if the number of items listed per page is different on the mobile vs. desktop version, you can’t use Rel=alternate media to cluster the corresponding pages together – the content has to match.

Vary: User-Agent HTTP Header

Whether the site redirects based on device type or simply shows different content, configure the server to return the Vary: User-Agent” HTTP response header

Moving on to rankings and mobile devices we know that when you search Google from a smartphone, you are searching through the same index as you would from a desktop. Google however clusters the desktop and mobile pages and so when searching, mobile users see the desktop version of the URL listed. Then when the mobile user clicks, Google loads the mobile version, not the desktop version leading to the page loading faster and ensuring a better user experience.


  • Mobile issues that prevent an ideal user experience may hinder the site’s ability to rank well to mobile searchers, but won’t impact the site’s ability to rank well to desktop searchers.
  • Google bundles indexing and ranking signals for pages with both a desktop and mobile version, so pages that are mobile-only will have fewer signals and this may lead them to not ranking well.
  • Google wants to send searchers to pages that provide the best experience, and slow loading pages hinder that. So slower pages may not rank as well.
  • It takes 0.6 seconds for a mobile device to get a connection for a page request. This means that each redirect adds a minimum of 0.6 seconds to the load time so make sure that you are redirecting directly to the target.
  • Lastly Google sees pop ups and overlays as ‘roadblocks’. If you want users to jump on an app have them make an extra click with ‘download our app’ button.

So in summary Google has identified some common mistakes in mobile websites that can result in lower rankings:

  • Unplayable video – not as big an issue anymore as most video providers are providing mobile friendly tags using HTML5 video.
  • Faulty redirects – Follow Google’s recommended configuration and have a one-URL site, otherwise make sure your redirects are set up correctly.
  • Smartphone-only 404s – Some websites serve 404s to mobile phones when a mobile-optimized page isn’t available. At the very least, make sure that you serve your desktop content since smartphones can render it reasonably well. Maybe not the best mobile experience but much better than an error page.
  • App download interstitials – Google has begun discouraging app download interstitials by ranking down the search results of sites that present this type of interstitial.
  • Irrelevant cross-linking or incorrect opt-out behavior. If users opt out of your mobile-optimised view, they should be taken to the desktop version of the page, not to your homepage or some other landing page.
  • Page speed – As mentioned before page speed is an important factor for both user friendly mobile sites and ranking.

Mobile traffic continues to increase rapidly so it is critical to have a well constructed mobile website that gives the user a great experience. It is critical to make the most of Google’s mobile SEO ranking algorithm and by implementing Google’s recommendations and avoiding common mobile SEO mistakes you will improve search results for your mobile site. Contact us about more tips on mobile SEO that helps and does not hinder your lead generation and conversion rates.

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