Despite the different behaviors associated with mobile phone usage and the additional search opportunities that are apparent, the act of searching is fundamentally similar regardless of the device that a user is engaging with.
In the early years of the mobile web, when people were using their mobile devices as a secondary means of connecting to the web, there were significant differences in the way that they searched. On average, query length was much shorter and the aim of searches was to find information, rather than being part of a transaction. However, as mobile behavior has matured, we’ve seen a shift towards homogenous search terms.
With mobile devices replacing desktop devices as the primary connection to the web, the types of keywords that people use to search are pretty much the same as the ones that they’d use when searching on their desktops.
Google’s recent changes in paid search reflects this trend. Rather than having a specific need to develop a stand-alone keyword list and bidding strategy for mobile, search marketers should now be targeting a broadly similar group of terms irrespective of device.
Development of a keyword strategy for mobile should include the same processes as developing the keyword strategy for SEO campaigns in general, although consideration should be given to the few mobile specific terms that could be used based on impulse or geographic location and this behavior should also be tied into the construction of landing pages.
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Historically, the best source of information for building any keyword strategy was the Google Adwords keyword tool, and this allowed users to differentiate between devices to get a view on demand for mobile / tablet / desktop. This tool has now been replaced with the Keyword Planner interface which has been designed to complement Google’s enhanced campaigns, and no longer differentiates between device types.
There are two main sources of information that can provide valuable insight for a mobile SEO campaign keyword strategy.
Although very little keyword level information is provided for organic search in Google Analytics due to encrypted search, you can analyze the performance of different keywords on mobile devices based on paid search traffic. By combining the performance data in analytics with the search volume data available in Google Adwords, you can measure the relative value of investing in different terms.
Without an active paid search campaign, the best alternative is to use Google Webmaster Tools for keyword research. The “Search Traffic > Search Queries Report can be filtered to show mobile traffic and this gives you information about approximate impressions, click through rates, clicks and ranking positions.
It is possible to combine the click data and landing page information from Google Webmaster Tools with the landing page and conversion data from Google Analytics to provide a good estimate of conversion performance by device type. This will provide an illustration of keyword performance, but it is not 100% accurate, as the click data is estimated.
Understanding the mobile SEO algorithm
Although there are nuances in the behavior around search, it’s largely a similar set of keywords that we’d need to target for a given campaign for mobile as it is for desktop.
It follows then that the actual approach to SEO we need to take for great mobile rankings is pretty much the same as it is for regular desktop organic. Over the past couple of years, the headline-grabbing algorithm changes – Panda and Penguin – have been focused on improving the visibility of high quality websites in the Google results. On numerous occasions, Google has stated that websites should be designed for users, not for search engines, and that webmasters should consider user experience as a ranking factor.
Google uses a slightly modified algorithm to promote websites that provide a good experience for mobile users when searching on a mobile device, but on the whole, the core principles of good SEO are the same:
– Write high-quality content that includes your primary keywords.
– Use categorisation to group related pages into a logical hierarchy.
– Use descriptive and accessible links between pages.
There’s an old joke about how, if you ask two SEO consultants about the specifics of what you need to do to rank well in Google, you’ll get three opinions. But when it comes to mobile specific SEO, there is one thing that we all pretty much agree on:
–You need to have a mobile-friendly site!