I was extremely surprised whilst speaking alongside Luke Regan on “The Role Of Indexing In Mobile SEO” at IIR thought leadership event. Why was I surprised, well because a lot of the other speakers at the event were concentrating on websites designed specifically for mobile phones. You may now be thinking why is this surprising? Well the majority of mobile web use is via smart phones or phones with fairly large screens and people using these phones surely want to see the full on website and not some cut down version designed for phones of the past. Not only this but smart phones such as the I-phone and Blackberry Storm are setting the trend for phones of the future. Why on earth would you not want the full on web version of a website on your mobile device? Well there are some exceptions I can think of i.e the Amazon mobile site, but this is in the minority.
When you search Google from your mobile device (an off deck search), Google will serve nearly the exact same results at it would on the web (as long as all the sites are x-HTML compliant and state they use x-HTML). So Luke and I went in with the opinion of why shoot yourself in the foot and create a separate mobile version of your site when you can just ensure that your current website ranks highly in Google or any other search engine for a normal web query, this idea was surprisingly new to the attendees and was taken on board with great enthusiasm. It later became clear why this idea is relatively new – mobile providers create a mobile homepage for their users and on this page use either Google or Yahoo for their on-deck search, however they vastly modify the search so it gives preference to mobile websites, and as a result the websites returned in the results are by far less relevant to the query, than if a normal web search was used. This is most likely why mobile providers see a huge tail off of their on-deck search towards off-deck search. This tail off is however balanced as users who are new to mobile internet tend to begin by using on-deck search, until they themselves become wise to the more relevant results returned by off-deck search.
It seems that SEO for mobile websites is still very much in its early stages – one comment I heard was “Its hard to get links as there aren’t many mobile sites out their”. Now if you are using an off-deck search via Google then if you want your mobile site to rank well, you have to treat it like any other website and as such links from normal website sites are what you need. This leads to beg the question do you want a mobile version of you site to rank highly in Google. Surely the answer to this is no! The future of mobile is moving very quickly towards smart phones which are more than capable of rendering websites designed for the web and lets face it does an I-phone user want to view a mobile website? Highly unlikely, they want the full on website with graphics and images.
I think the mobile website community needs to wake up and realise that the future of mobile internet will in most cases demand a full on website, i.e. the same website that is shown via the main web search. This to means means that mobile SEO is dead, it is a thing of the past. The only thing that is keeping mobile SEO alive is the mobile service providers by tailoring their on-deck search engine to favor mobile websites. Is the fact the Google only partners with Vodafone, a sign that they think the tailoring of on-deck search is damaging to their reputation for providing relevant content? My opinion is yes, but I have no facts to back this up.
So should we still continue to develop mobile websites?
Yes – but only if its of real benefit, such as the Amazon mobile site.
What it the future of mobile internet?
The future of mobile internet is going to see an increase in the use of mobile applications and in my opinion will see the end to most mobile websites – with the furture of mobile search firmly in the hands of the smart phones, we no longer need to develop websites for the old generation of mobile, which could not cope with the full web version of a site.