As the other Mobile Mondays columnists have established, since mobile devices have become more popular, mobile sites are becoming an option for many organisations. Maybe this is because the decision makers are sporting iPads and smartphones in the board room, but there are also significant business reasons to create a mobile version of your website.
Since many websites could provide an added benefit users with a mobile offering, the only question is – when it comes to the build and what content to offer, what is the best option for your website?
Let’s look at three types of websites and what types of content they should be offering through their mobile site, and an introduction to which technology to use.
If your site is a vehicle for delivering content and information such as Search Engine Land, then you can offer the entire site with a simplified layout and navigation by simply serving a mobile style sheet through a user agent detection.
There would be no need to have a separately indexed mobile site, as search engines are (hopefully) smart enough to figure out you are offering mobile support and also, the mobile search results and desktop mobile results are virtually the same.
Furthermore, as mobile connection speeds are increasing as well as the processing power of mobile devices, you could even argue that it’s only screen size that is starting to differentiate desktop and mobile devices.
Travel Agent / Travel Services Mobile Sites
If your company sells holidays, then you may want to consider what content you offer on your mobile site , trying to book a holiday (vacation for those of you state side), would pretty much prove to be far too time consuming on a smart phone with the amount of forms and drop downs involved in that process. “But not on a tablet!” I hear you say… well, I’ll discuss the solution to that later.
So back to the holiday (vacation) website, I would recommend to my clients that if they are going to invest in a mobile offering, it has to be of worth to their user base and potential user base and provide a return on the investment.
First, we need to put ourselves in the user situation: why are they looking for your services on their mobile device? Probably for the same reason someone might read Search Engine Land on a mobile device. We need to assume that the user is looking for information while on the move, therefore we need to give them what they are looking for and not go for the hard sell and expect them to carry out a transaction there and then.
By offering the answers to a users question quickly and efficiently through your mobile site, you will be their first stop when they want either more information or and proceed with a booking.
So what’s the solution? I would recommend giving your visitors all the information they would be looking for on a mobile device such as locations, hotels and special offers along with telephone details should they wish to proceed straight away. As far as any e-commerce and travel booking systems, the ability to book flights is probably as far as some users may want to go on their phone, as this can be done relatively easily with minimal form filling.
By hosting the site on a mobile subdomain, you will send clear signals to users and search engines that they are on the mobile site and that is not the full offering. To cater for users on tablets where screen size does not limit capabilities, you could consider using a more comprehensive user agent detection script, but with new devices being launched practically every week, keeping on top of the script will be an ongoing job – which, if forgotten, could come back to bite you.
This is a fairly simple format to get right, as some of the biggest ecommerce companies have already set the standard.
Amazon is the first that comes to mind; I often buy books on my phone as I’m aware of how easy it is to do on Amazon and also because a book is a low value item and any information on the product to support your purchase can easily be found and read on a mobile device.
Along with simple ordering options such as quantity and delivery times and the fact that I already have and account with one click ordering, makes the process just as quick if not quicker on their mobile site.
In my opinion, Amazon has set the benchmark for mobile ecommerce, but let’s not forget that they have the money and know how to be able to develop a system that might look simple, but likely has taken many man hours developing.
Since duplicate content issues have been discussed on several occasions on Search Engine Land, I won’t talk about this any further, but would just like to say that search engines are getting smarter each day and I believe that they are becoming intelligent enough to know you have mobile content and that if you send clear signal that a mobile site is a mobile site, then there shouldn’t be any negative effects.
To conclude this post, I would only say this, put yourself in your users position and think why, how and when they will be coming to your site on their mobile device and consider whether it is necessary to offer your full online service. Next time around, I’ll discuss mobile SEO around these three types of sites and how your SEO campaign should encompass your mobile offering.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.