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When & How Is The New Smartphone Bot Affecting Search Results?
Even though Google has launched a smartphone bot to improve mobile search results and the user experience on smartphones, it doesn’t mean that everything in mobile SEO has changed.
Google is still detecting what handset users are searching from, and adapting the results that they send based on the handset; some phones are set up to pull from the desktop index using mobile indicators and phone-specific ranking factors. Other phones will trigger the mobile-only index that has been in play for a long time, serving mostly feature phones, older HTC and Windows Mobile phones and BlackBerrys.
The image below shows the top mobile search results for the query ‘Taylor Swift’ on an iPhone 4, a BlackBerry Curve and a DROID Incredible. The tool allows you to scroll through the results, but we are only looking at what shows above the fold on the search. Try your own keyword searches here, using the mobile search simulator tool.
If you look closely, you can see that both the BlackBerry and the DROID Incredible are showing the same first result, which is a bio page on CMT.com, but the iPhone is showing the Official Taylor Swift website first, and a news story from MTV after that.
The next results on the BlackBerry and the Droid Incredible are both a bio page on Last.FM and then TicketMaster concert dates, a music video on YouTube and then Amazon.com for a CD or MP3 purchase.
Conversely, the next results on the iPhone are from Wikipedia, IMDB, MTV and MySpace. It is only after MySpace that you see CMT Artist Profile page on the iPhone, though ranks first on the BlackBerry and Droid Incredible. Rounding out the results on the iPhone, you get a run of social media inclusions, with 2 YouTube videos, Twitter and Facebook, and the last result is TaylorSwiftWeb.net.
When you look at the end of the BlackBerry and Droid Incredible results, after Amazon, you see VH1, Twitter, Celebrity Gossip.net Buzworthy.mtv.com and m.Zimbio.com, which is another celebrity biography site.
While it does appear that the BlackBerry and the DROID Incredible are getting the same results, they are not 100% the same because of a difference in the ‘Related Searches’ at the bottom of the page.
On the BlackBerry, there are only four related searches included (taylor swift songs, taylor swift biography, taylor swift lyrics, taylor swift albums), but on the DROID Incredible, there are eight (taylor swift songs, taylor swift biography, taylor swift lyrics, taylor swift albums, taylor swift twitter, taylor swift quotes, taylor swift tour, taylor swift wardrobe malfunction). This change could be related to the phone, or it could be a fluke, or perhaps Google is just testing something.
None of the results on the iPhone are from pages on an ‘m.’ or ‘/m’ and I checked to see if the new smartphone bot was honoring mobile redirects on these pages, and it did not appear to have had an effect yet, except for the Wikipedia listing and IMDB. MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, MTV, CMT and even YouTube still did not appear to be effected by the ‘honoring of mobile redirects’ that the new smartphone bot claims.
When you switch from the iPhone to the other two more WAP-like phones, which appear to be pulling from the WAP index, only one of the results on the BlackBerry or the DROID Incredible was on mobile subdomains or subdirectories, though most do include a little green phone that indicates that the page is somehow mobile friendly (ie: Google’s mobile bot could successfully crawl it.)
It is important to know that search results can change from phone to phone, but also that the inclusions and page templates can change too. Different searches trigger different kinds of results, but having content on an ‘m.’ or having user-agent detection and redirection is not the only way to rank in a mobile search.
It appears that the new smartphone bot only has limited deployment so far, so be watching for it in your log files, in the coming months. It still has lots of big sites and social networks to crawl, but it makes sense that eventually we will see a wider deployment of the bot, so you can hopefully expect it to be by, indexing your mobile redirects – hopefully in the next couple months, after it is done with Twitter and Facebook.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.