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‘Think mobile’ warning as search study uncovers lack of proper mobile SEO

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Retail and brand marketers need to focus more on servicing mobile SEO through adaptive web-design rather than bespoke m-web pages, warns a study, which has found that 36% of mobile web search results vary from desktop, with 23% showing pages from completely different sites.

The findings are based on an analysis of search results for 10,000 relevant informational and transactional keywords, focusing on the first 30 results, carried out by Searchmatics, as part of the SEO company’s wider US Google Rank Correlation and Ranking Factors 2014 study, which aims to identify the key factors that high-ranking web pages have in common.

Mobile web searches are increasing exponentially, with Google estimating that queries from mobiles grew five-fold in the last two years. Search is normally the quickest and easiest route to finding information on a mobile phone, rather than typing a complex URL on a small, on-screen keyboard.

Additionally, new functionality, such as conversational (voice-based) search and advances such as Google Voice Search/Google Now, Siri and Google Glass are also increasing the volume of mobile searches.

“Google is increasingly focused on the intent and context of search queries,” said Marcus Tober, Searchmetrics’ founder and CTO. “It understands that these vary between devices, and consequently delivers results differently on mobile phones and traditional computers. For mobile searches it has additional information about the searcher, such as their location, which impacts the results it delivers. Our research demonstrates that marketers need to focus on different areas than they do for desktop, if they are to increase visibility on smartphones.”

The Searchmetrics study indicates that mobile search results on tend to include pages with fewer backlinks from other sites than the results for the same searches on desktop and laptop. This makes sense because mobile content generates fewer adhoc links, as mobile users are much less likely to link to dedicated mobile pages, preferring to share/like through social media.

“The difference in number of links occurs because many companies still use dedicated mobile pages. If more companies start using responsive design – which automatically optimises the same page to suit different devices – you would see fewer or even no overall differences in backlinks or social links because it’s the same URLs,” explained Tober.

Mobile results also tend to display pages with a smaller file size on average than those delivered on desktop or laptop. Smaller pages will be quicker to download on a mobile device, and use less data.

“With the volume of mobile searches increasing rapidly, marketers and SEO teams need to be aware of how their pages rank in mobile results, and understand the factors that correlate with higher positions, since they are not necessarily the same as for desktop SEO,” concludes Tober.

A detailed report and infographic outlining the full results from the wider Searchmetrics US Ranking Factors 2014 study can be downloaded here.

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