According to Resolution Media‘s 28 page whitepaper "Google Mobile Search - Ranking Factors for Better Mobile SEO", many marketers are looking for ways to optimize for mobile search results. Here‘s a summary for your convenience.
Finding optimization information that’s evidence-based can be difficult because many search engine optimization (SEOs) companies have not addressed the impact of mobility on SEO.
Those who are thinking about the impact of mobility on SEO are:
- Mobile marketers without a background in SEO that provide usability advice that may or may not apply to SEO or
- SEOs without an understanding of mobile marketing who don’t believe that mobility will impact SEO.
Beyond just a few examples, most information you will find on Mobile SEO is based on a marketer’s opinion. As Resolution Media discovered in their research, these opinions from marketers are rarely based on empirical evidence.
For their study, however, Resolution Media collected search rankings manually for 11 popular mobile queries. Others were chosen because they denote queries representing mobile content seeking intent. Queries that represented different industries were also chosen. All queries that were chosen were ambiguous enough to not be navigational searches for a specific site or brand, so as to find results that could be optimized by anyone with a relevant listing.
The final 11 queries were „weather“, „sports“, „food“, „sandra bullock“, „pregnancy week by week“, „diabetes“, „spanish dictionary“, „global warming“, „download ringtones“, „mobile banking“ and „oil spill“.
For each of these queries the top three results were chosen. This resulted in 33 sites, which were then tested for various SEO and mobile SEO best practices, such as keywords in title tag, validation, exact match domains, etc. The results varied dramatically from what is considered best practices for mobile search.
Below are some of the findings:
- It’s not always necessary to use sitemaps and validate codes. None of the high-ranking sites in the sample had mobile sitemaps or valid code, and the code types of the indexed sites closely resembled the web as a whole.
- Google’s smartphone search results are largely unusable according to current mobile standards. Of the sample of sites tested, 66% of them scored a zero out of 100% on the W3’s mobileOK test, which is used to determine probable usability of sites on mobile devices.
- Having a mobile site is strongly correlated to visibility in Google smartphone results, even if Google is not aware of the site and the site is not presented in the search results.
- Using phrase-matched keywords in the page’s title, encouraging repeat visits, being a desktop site, having a mobile site and having more than 100k unique visitors worldwide are currently all strongly correlated to visibility in Google smartphone search results.
If code and validation are not important, as this study suggests, what can webmasters do to ensure that their content is found by the right users?
The first thing that this study demonstrates is that advice on emerging disciplines should always be taken with a grain of salt, as best practices found in Google are often not based on search results and could be from a different era that don’t apply to the current marketing landscape.
For mobile SEO it’s important to approach it thinking both about core search SEO and differences in ranking for mobile search that could impact on rankings.
Below is a summary of our Top 10 Mobile Optimization Findings:
- Link equity is a factor for mobile (smartphone) search results. Resolution Media found that all of them, in fact, have at least one link pointing to them, with the average being a little over 90,000 inbound links.
- It appears that non-authoritative pages on authority domains and authoritative pages on non-authoritative domains are able to rank in spite of Google’s tendency to send traffic to authoritative domains
- The majority of the listings do have more than 100 navigational searches per month for their brand.
- A mobile site is not necessary for smartphone ranking, as most of the results presented are desktop results. However, given that most of the sites returned do have mobile versions, having mobile content could somehow produce a lift in smartphone search results
- LDA seems to be strongly correlated with top smartphone rankings as it is with core search. However, if it is a factor, it’s one of many, as certain pages were able to enter into the top three results with LDA scores as low as 10%.
- Implementing the semantic mark-up could still have a positive impact in search results, whether desktop or mobile.
- Engagement - majority of sites in the sample used had over 100,000 visits per month, with repeat visitors, and on average between 5 and 10 minutes spent on site
- A compelling description can increase the click-through rate to your site among sites that are similar but have less compelling descriptions. Resolution Media found in the sample that no site had a description of less than 68 characters, and most of them were between 127 and 133 characters, with no description being longer than 134 characters.
- Titles of top sites in their smartphone search results sample are no longer than 70 characters, where the title cuts off in search results.
- Most advertisers use keywords somewhere in the title, and 80% of them use the phrase they’re trying to rank for somewhere in the title.
There is a lot more detailed information about the study and the results in the whitepaper, so if you are interested in further in depth information please download the full paper at http://resolutionmedia.com/white-papers/rank-higher-in-google-mobile-search/.