Posted to Ben Finklea's blog on January 20th, 2010

Mobile Search Optimization - Two Approaches, One Outcome

Most experts are predicting a mobile search tsunami to hit the Internet this year. There are already close to 23 million people actively searching the Web from their smart phones, and that number is only expected to rise. Yesterday, I gave an overview on Mobile Search Optimization, and some general tips for making your website mobile-compliant and mobile-friendly. Today, I will go into further detail with the two approaches. If done correctly, either approach should render one optimized outcome.

There are two main approaches for Mobile Search Optimization: optimizing your current website for mobile, or creating an entirely new site for mobile users. Both approaches have their pros and cons, and what you decide to do for your situation is up to you. Read on to find out more about each approach.

Optimization for an Existing Site

You may not feel it necessary to build an entirely new site for mobile search, so optimizing your existing site is the way you want to go. Search results on mobile devices use a different data set than web browsers do, so you need to make sure that in mobile search your pages are independent of device.

It is best to use external CSS style sheets because they will limit how much code has been downloaded. They will also be helpful to scale up or down for different screen sizes. Create a separate style sheet for mobile phones. Also, use text links rather than images. Images will increase page loading times, if they download at all. Here are more tips for mobile search optimization for existing sites:

• Put navigation buttons below content. Mobile users don’t like scrolling down every time a page loads.

• Don’t use Flash or frames. They will either be unsupported or slow everything down to a snail crawl.

• Don’t use pop-ups. Enough said.

• Advertise your site’s mobile compatibility and link with directories and other mobile sites.

• List yourself with Google Local so your business will automatically become listed in Google’s Voice Local Search.

• Submit a separate XML sitemap for your mobile site. Google allows this and it will only help your ranking.

• Optimize your website for mobile immediately. Getting in the top ten for mobile search results is arguably more important than regular search, as mobile users don’t like scrolling or looking at Page 2.

Creating a Mobile-Specific Site

Mobile users appear to be more goal-oriented than the browsing-happy, computer Web users (as demonstrated above by James McFadden from Scotland recently did against the French in Paris). The argument here then is that a mobile website should adhere to the habits of its users. Some sites have created a subdomain rather than a separate domain like .mobi, giving your site a name like This method allows you to retain the branding of your website rather than having to rebuild branding for a new domain. Here are some general tips for optimizing a mobile-specific site.

• Site architecture should allow all information to be accessed within three clicks of the homepage.

• Organize navigation to suite mobile users: popular buttons should be first, with text links, and placed under the content.

• Create word links that are short so not to take up too much valuable screen space.

• Optimize heading tags, just like for your regular website.

• Initiate a link-building campaign specifically for the mobile site.

• Have social bookmarking and tagging functions available.

• Test and validate your mobile site with the W3C Code Validator

Either approach will ideally create a mobile-friendly, search engine-optimized website for your brand and business. The sooner you mobilely optimize your web presence, the greater your chances are for mobile-search dominance. There are still a scary amount of legitimate brands and businesses how aren’t doing this yet. You may not be outranking them in regular search, but mobile search can have a different ending.