How to Ride the Mobile Search Wave

With smartphone penetration in the U.S. at 47 percent as of Q2 2012, more Americans have smartphones than feature phones according to comScore. Smarter phones with their always-on connections enable quicker access to information, which is what mobile search is all about.

With more than 110 million smartphones in hand, many of the searches conducted are increasingly local. Advertising experts firm BIA/Kelsey estimates that while searches today are three times as likely to happen on a desktop computer as a mobile device, mobile devices will dominate local search by 2015.

That’s good news for businesses with optimal mobile presences, and an opportunity for those still thinking about setting up a mobile site. Already, Pew Internet reports that 74 percent of smartphone owners use their phone to get real-time location-based information, and 30 percent use their phone to decide whether to visit a business. So how can you ride this surging tide of mobile searches?

Mobile Site Structure

There are three options in developing a mobile site. Using responsive design, so that the URLs remain the same for each page of content but the content is styled differently according to device type via CSS, is the preferred method for SEO. The second best method for SEO is to dynamically serve different HTML and CSS files on the same URL depending on the capabilities of the user’s device. And the fallback option is to develop a separate site for mobile browsers on a subdomain like For much more information, visit Google’s guidelines for building mobile-optimized websites.

Mobile Keyword Research

Mobile users tend to search differently than desktop users. Maybe not dramatically, but differently all the same. The Google Keyword Tool allows you to research by device type. The default shows keywords for searches conducted on desktop and laptop computers, but it can easily be changed to mobile devices.

Mobile Optimization

Just as you would for a typical web site, optimize any mobile site pages for the keywords identified in the mobile keyword research. Target the title tags, meta description, headings and body content, in that order, for optimization across the site.

If you’ve chosen a responsive site structure, the trade-off is that there are no uniquely mobile pages to optimize. In this case, the best you can do is weave those mobile keywords into the responsive pages in such a way that they don’t conflict with the desktop keywords, which will likely draw a much larger audience for the next few years at least. Watch your analytics for signs that the organic search-referred traffic is tipping too far toward the desktop or mobile.

Jill Kocher is a seasoned SEO professional and all-around technogeek. By day, she manages Resource Interactive’s SEO practice here in Chicago and serves as contributing editor at Practical eCommerce. By night, Jill landscapes her home in the far northern suburbs of Chicagoland while enjoying a glass of wine and thinking about SEO some more. Family discussion centers primarily around SEO, analytics, social media, mobile apps, android, iOS, how-was-your-day and cats.

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