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Do Mobile Blog Templates Have Enough Substance For SEO?
As more online activity shifts to mobile devices, bloggers are becoming aware of the benefits of having mobile versions of their websites. As luck would have it, the developers of major blogging platforms recognized this, and stepped-in to provide default solutions for those wanting to serve-up content to a mobile audience without a lot of investment.
Let’s take a look at three of the major players.
WordPress Mobile Versions
There are two versions of the WordPress platform: the hosted WordPress.com service, and the self-installed WordPress.org package that you can run on your own server. Let’s start with the hosted version.
When visiting a WordPress.com blog, the system looks at the visitor’s user agent setting, which identifies what web browser they are using. If it recognizes the browser as being phone-related, it will substitute the usual webpage with an abbreviated version designed for mobile, at the very same URL – no redirects to another page like m.anything.com.
The mobile version isn’t just streamlined from a visual standpoint – the underlying code and content are also slimmed down. Post excerpts are kept short (about 160 characters) and sidebar content (e.g. “Popular Posts”) is removed.
Overall it’s a very functional adaptation, and one that owners of WordPress.org packages can also enjoy, because it’s based on the freely available WP-Touch plug-in. Once set-up, this plug-in will produce the same behavior on your own server.
From an SEO standpoint, the lack of redirection keeps things clean as far as indexing is concerned. From a content standpoint, the home page obviously suffers due to the abbreviated excerpts. But that’s not a huge loss from an SEO standpoint; the typical blog lacks keyword focus on the home page anyway – lots of posts, lots of topics. A blog’s SEO fame will usually be tied to its inbound linking or individual posts, not to home page content, and those will be uneffected.
It’s also important to note that individual blog posts are not shortened, they are presented full-length on a single page, just like on the desktop. In fact, the mobile version’s lack of sidebar content may actually help SEO for these pages, by giving them an exclusive focus on the topic at hand.
Blogger On Mobile Devices
Blogger also makes use of user agent detection to make decisions about what type of template to show, but the action it takes is slightly different. When receiving a page request from a phone, Blogger will redirect you from the main URL (e.g. myblog.blogspot.com) to a mobile variation (e.g. myblog.blogspot.com/?m=1)
Being a Google product, one would presume that Blogger’s redirect method won’t cause any problems with Googlebot-Mobile’s efforts to index the mobile site, or with the link equity you have on your home page. But Blogger’s mobile template is still officially in beta, so you’ll want to pay attention to how Google’s mobile search engine reacts to it, and post feedback to Blogger’s staff if you see anything suspicious.
As far as content is concerned, the trade-offs are identical to WordPress: a clipped home page, backed by full-length blog posts.
Posterous & Mobile Templates
Posterous is the newest of the platforms covered here, but they have a reputation for innovation so it’s no surprise that they’ve already introduced mobile templates, both for their Blog and Groups products.
The scenario is very much what we’ve described for Blogger and WordPress, however Posterous takes a more minimalist approach.
Home pages are reduced to a simple list of blog post titles, with no excerpts given. The complete lack of non-link content may take your home page out of the SEO game altogether – it’ll get indexed, but there’s literally nothing to read here. Your SEO efforts on a Posterous blog will center entirely on getting individual posts to rank well.
Best Practices For Mobile SEO
The good news is that all these platforms are taking a similar route, so best practices are easy to formulate. Here are a few factors to keep in mind as you manage your blog:
- Post titles are more important than ever, because they become a large portion of the visible content on your blog’s home page. Engines and users alike will be very dependent on your post titles to figure out what your content is about.
- Posts themselves are largely untouched, so there’s no technical need to write shorter posts. One might argue that mobile users will have a get-to-the-point attitude when it comes to mobile content. But my opinion is that commercial sites need to be brief (“Where’s that 1-800 number?”) whereas blogs are for readers, and readers, well, want to read. For more on this, check out my previous post on brevity versus mobile SEO.
- A suggestion specific to self-hosted WordPress bloggers (or anyone self-hosting a platform) would be to constantly maintain updates for your mobile plug-ins. Because these plug-ins rely on user agent lists, these lists have to stay updated to keep-up with new phones being released to the market. At minimum, you’ll want to update whenever you see a new wave of TV commercials for a hot new phone.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.