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Seven Mobile SEO Myths Exposed
Not too long ago, the article Mobile SEO is a Myth got a lot of people fired up about the foolish notion that mobile SEO is a construct developed by salesmen to sell more SEO services.
I responded in the comments to the author’s points, and have addressed this point in multiple articles over the years, so I’m not going to argue it here again.
While I don’t agree at all that mobile SEO itself is a myth, there are many myths around mobile SEO that practitioners need to be aware of.
Here are a few of the most prevalent…
Myth #1: A Dotmobi TLD Is Necessary For Indexing & Ranking
According to the first result in Google for the query [mobile seo best practices], “the best way to build your mobile web site for SEO is by using the dotMobi domain”.
One of the reasons dotMobi gives for this is the following:
“Building a dotMobi site means that your URL will automatically feature on the ‘zone files’ that we maintain for ICANN (the meta-Internet registry organization), and which are regularly requested by mobile search engines, directories and other sites and services as ‘seed lists’ for the indexing of mobile-centric web sites (in much the same way as they use DMOZ).”
DotMobi should be commended for their dedication to mobile content, and building your brand new mobile site with a DotMobi TLD is no better nor worse than building it at m.domain.com or other popular alternatives, but the fact is Google has more m.domain.com sites indexed than any other.
Futhermore, no DotMobis appeared in the results of an upcoming Resolution Media study that deconstructs the smartphone search results for some top mobile queries in Google. The percentage of .com sites in our upcoming smartphone search results study at 73.97% was actually larger than the Internet as a whole at 55.1%.
There may be good reasons for using a dotMobi TLD, but SEO clearly isn’t one of them.
Myth #2: Metatxt Is Necessary For Mobile SEO
Though I haven’t heard much about it recently, for a while, Bena Roberts and Visibility Mobile were pushing the metatxt standard for better indexing of mobile content. A metatxt file is similar to a robots.txt file and an XML sitemap in that it is a text file at the root location of a server that helps mobile search engines discover mobile content.
The problem with metatxt?
It’s not supported by Google or Bing, which get over 99% of mobile market share, so it won’t get you a lot more visibility in the engines that people use. It’s also just a solution for indexing, so if your content is already indexed well, the metatxt file won’t help you at all. It’s just a txt file, so it doesn’t hurt you to put it up, but it’s certainly not necessary for visibility in mobile search.
In Resolution Media’s upcoming study of the top mobile queries and the ranked sites in Google, zero ranking sites used the metatxt standard, further busting the myth of metatxt for mobile SEO.
Myth #3: Code Validation Is Necessary For Mobile SEO
This one appeared first on this parked domain from 2005, and people keep repeating it because Google keeps ranking the site for mobile SEO queries (#4 currently for [mobile seo].)
It makes sense in theory. Mobile (feature phone) browsers are more primitive, and search engine spiders try to display content that is accessible to the devices that display them. If content isn’t accessible to mobile users, mobile search engine spiders won’t be able to index it.
However, this only applies to the feature phone index, whose importance is receding for mobile SEO with the growing popularity of smartphones.
When it comes to smartphones, validation does not matter, as all ranking results in the sample set failed validation, and 66% of them were so unusable that they scored a zero out of 100% on the W3’s mobileOK test, which is used to determine probable usability of sites on mobile devices, and more than 78% of the listings received a score of “Bad” from Ready.mobi’s mobile validator.
Myth #4: Mobile Sitemaps Are Necessary For Mobile SEO
These can help with indexing feature phone content, and for letting Google know that you want your content to appear in their index of accessible mobile content. But if you’re indexing smartphone content, you don’t need it, says Google’s John Mueller. To back him up on this, none of the ranking sites in the upcoming Resolution Media study on smartphone search results used mobile sitemaps.
Mobile sitemaps probably can’t hurt, and like Web sitemaps, they could help sites get more unique content indexed, but they’re not necessary for mobile SEO unless you’re concerned about indexing feature phone content.
Myth #5: Mobile Formatting (Handheld CSS) Is Enough For Mobile SEO
The mobile SEO is a myth article claims the best strategy is to allow your site to be viewed on all types of devices with CSS. This is a common argument, as I explained before here.
Also, as I explained before, the problem with this argument is that a site that uses a mobile-centric information architecture and keywords to develop content for a mobile user, rather than reformatting desktop content for mobile devices, will always be better-optimized for mobile searchers, because it gives users content that’s based on their specific user experience.
Case in point, if State Farm had not only considered the mobile user experience for their mobile site, but made it competitive for towing and roadside assistance queries that are more heavily trafficked in mobile than desktop, they would have had an opportunity to get even more traffic from search engines.
Responsive design is the easier option, so it’s very popular among designers going mobile because of what is perceived as efficiencies. However, in my experience talking with companies who design this way, many of them end up building a mobile site architecture down the line, making responsive design ultimately less efficient for them, as they have to redo it later on.
Myth #6: Mobile Queries Are Shorter
This one was just repeated in an article in Forbes, but that doesn’t make it true. The theory is, it’s harder to type on mobile devices, and because of this mobile searchers will use fewer words in their query to find what they’re looking for.
However, research from Google in 2009 showed that feature phone searches are only slightly shorter than computer-based searches (2.44 words for feature phones compared to 2.93 words for computers), and that iPhone searchers used the same number of words that computer based searchers used on average (2.93 words).
When some of the same researchers studied spoken queries in early 2011, they found that longer queries have a higher probability of being typed than shorter queries. Never mind your instincts. Mobile queries are no shorter than Web queries.
Myth #7: People Aren’t Searching On Mobile Devices
All due respect to the late innovative marketing genius and eccentric billionaire Steve Jobs, who famously said in 2010, “search hasn’t happened on mobile devices,” but search is happening on mobile devices. Quite a bit of it, actually.
Google reported early this year that 1 in 7 queries come from mobile devices on average, with certain industries (like restaurants) getting as high as 30% of their queries from mobile devices. And Yahoo! has reported that mobile search on average makes up 20% of their total search queries. Jobs was trying to demonstrate that people use apps instead of browser-based search, but Google research on smartphones from April shows that more smartphone owners search (77%) than use apps (68%).
Want to do your part in helping to eradicate these persistent mobile SEO myths?
If you’re calling yourself a mobile SEO expert, as many people do these days, stop repeating them. If you’re not a mobile SEO expert, but want to promote the spread of good, accurate information, share or link to this post and/or check out this list of credible mobile SEO resources until Google gets its act together and stops propagating these myths on what matters for mobile SEO.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.