Mobile SEO from the horse's mouth
Google has revealed what it considers best practice for optimising mobile websites.
Pierre Farr, Google's Webmaster Trends Analyst, published an official Webmaster Central Blog post yesterday entitled 'Recommendations for building smartphone-optimised websites'. He then took to the stage at the annual Search Marketing Expo (SMX) Advanced event in Seattle to discuss his advice in more detail.
Farr stated that Google has been "working hard on improving Google's support for smartphone-optimised content"; this included the launch of a Googlebot that identifies and crawls mobile content in December 2011. However, this is the first direct advice from Google since early 2011. Some of yesterday's mobile SEO recommendations include:
- Responsive web design is Google's preferred configuration. This means the same URL, code and content appears within a fluid grid using CSS3, dynamically altering its size and layout depending on the user's device or browser.
- This single URL and site content makes it easier for Google's algorithms to index and rank a site, as the Googlebot won't have to rate two separate sites. This is also good news for SEO campaigns as the same link and content optimisation can affect both versions.
- In situations where responsive web design is not appropriate, Google also supports websites that serve different HTML to different user agents, whether with one or more URLs. However, it transpires that it is essential to use the Vary HTTP header to tell the Googlebot that this is the case.
More hints from Google
Also speaking at SMX Advanced was Matt Cutts, Distinguished Engineer at Google, who appeared on stage surrounded by penguin cuddly toys. He stated categorically that the Penguin algorithm update is a collection of signals and not a manual penalty, designed to tackle low-quality content. In reference to Panda and Penguin, Cutts also said:
"It's a war on spam. If you go on the black hat forums, there's a lot of people asking: How do I fake sincerity? How do I fake being awesome? Why not just be sincere and be awesome? We're trying to stop spam so people can compete on a level playing field."
Adrian Mursec, senior developer at theEword, said: "The value of these briefings from Google should not be underestimated, especially for businesses looking for ways to improve their search rankings. When you're managing search marketing campaigns, either in-house or through an agency, advice straight from the horse's mouth can be hugely beneficial. Responsive web design is increasingly viewed as a good, SEO-friendly way to produce mobile websites, but it is reassuring for businesses who do serve a separate, mobile-optimised site to smartphone users to hear that they won't be penalised."