TopRank Marketing Editor

Is Your Website Ready for the Mobile Web?

TopRank Marketing Editor     Mobile Marketing, Online Marketing, SEO

As the use of cell phones and smart phones expands, so do the number of options for consumers to discover and interact with brands. From web browsing to email to social networking and even shopping, more people are using their cell phones as portable computers. However, most sites are not optimized for hand-held devices such as cell phones.

There are really two things to consider;  web site design and how customers are going to find the web site through mobile search.

How do you design for the mobile platform? The good news is that in most cases, you don’t need a separate site, you just need a cascading style sheet (CSS) attached to your website that feeds up specific instructions to a mobile browser. For the most part, mobile browsers are a lot like the web used to be; mainly text and links. Granted, as the iPhone, Google/Android Phones and other more advanced devices come along, the browsing features also advance. Most smart phones like the iPhone view the web as it should be without anything stripped out. But, since everyone doesn’t own a smart phone just yet, it’s worth focusing on the what the mass mobile market has, basic handheld web browsers.

When designing your CSS for handheld web browsers, here are a few things to consider:

  1. You have very limited screen real estate. About 2×3 inches or so.
  2. All fonts should be in their most basic format. Forget about color and typography.
  3. All images should be striped out, unless they are absolutely necessary.
  4. Remove all advertising as you already have limited screen space.
  5. If you don’t need it, hide it. Remove any Google Friend Connect, Facebook Fan Box or other third party services. Focus on your content.
  6. Remove all background colors. Basic black text on a white background is good.
  7. Create basic forms, if you choose to keep them. My advice would be to remove them and just showcase the phone number. They are on their cell phone after all.
  8. Remove Flash, Java and any plug-in content unless absolutely necessary.
  9. All in all, simplify.

If you run a WordPress blog, you can use a WPtouch iPhone Theme plug-in to automatically create a small-screen friendly version of your blog.

If you want to view your site as if you were on a mobile browser, here are a few choices:

  • Web Developer extension for Firefox. It allows you to overwrite the web style sheet with the handheld one if a site has one. If not, it’ll just show the site without any CSS styles.
  • iPhone simulator called iPhoney. It looks cool, but since the iPhone really doesn’t render a striped down version of a site, it’s more of a toy.
  • Opera Mini browser. There is an online version and it’s free. Simply put in a URL and it’ll render a website as if it was on a mobile phone.

From my testing, the Opera Mini browser was a great experience. It has a small screen, shows handheld versions of style sheets and all in all, it does a great job at giving you what a real phone will show. Here is my before having a handheld CSS and after experiences on the Opera Mini browser.

mobile-seo.jpg

So where does SEO fall into all of this? Is there a separate ranking algorithm for mobile devices? No, not from what I can see.  While smart phone users can type or speak their search queries, the sort order rankings are fairly consistent between a search on a phone and a search on a computer.

Here’s an example with Google search on an iPhone and at Google.com.

The best way to ensure you are found on mobile devices is to make sure your site is in all the local search directories with full and accurate profiles. Places like Google Local and Yahoo local probably receive more traffic from users who want to find business in a certain area. When I’ve used my phone to search the web, I was searching for specific businesses to visit.  Social networking through mobile is also popular and through links, can drive web site traffic. A combination of search and social is the direction where I see the bulk of mobile traffic going.

Mobile search is an area of the Internet that is finally heating up which is supported by predictions made by eMarketer. Some marketers are putting a lot of stock into mobile marketing as cell phones and smart phones become more widespread and offer more capabilities. However, site owners are not always taking those platforms into account. To ensure your site is mobile ready, get listed in local directories and add a handheld CSS file to your site. These two easy items are a great start for optimizing your site for handheld web browsers.

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Comments

  1. Question: since smartphones are displaying websites better and better and since carriers' networks are getting faster and faster (i.e., 3G->4G), will styles for mobile phones eventually go away? I host my site on Squarespace, which degrades rather well on mobile phones and seems to load rather quickly. It seems like this might be enough for me. Am I being practical or naive?

    • Mobile phones are getting better, however the screen size is still much smaller than a computer and US cellphone networks are not yet reliable enough to say that 3G speed is consistent. It in large cities, where there are a large number of people on a 3G network, it can sometimes feel more like 28k.

      The best thing to do is test your site on a mobile device and test it different locations. If it loads quickly and the layout is good, then you may not need a mobile version.

    • I would echo Thomas on what I call “they myth of 3G”. It depends on the network too. My experience with ATT is crap in New York and Minneapolis in many areas. If you're in Austin Texas during SXSW, forget it! However, I do agree that mobile connectivity is getting better. However, it's still important to test sites on popular mobile devices.

  2. Great post on the mobile world's buzzworthy advertising platform, I think Brands have to remove everything which is not mobile and also not indicating something useful to the user.
    No clutter at all in the website would make it great for mobile user interface, Your blog appears great also Check out Jeremiah Oywang's Blog's Mobile version.

  3. Edmund Lee says:

    That is certainly an interesting outlook on mobile phones as the latest internet marketing platform. The gadgets will get only get even more sophisticated and smaller.

    Who knows? A couple more years and we’ll probably have spectacles projecting the computor’s screen.

    Ed

  4. affordableseo says:

    excellent post you have indicate plenty of useful information for the seekers, brand should provide all the essential accessories in every mobile to facilitate the users.

  5. Good post on mobile considerations for websites, thank you for the helpful tips and links. I agree with your suggestion to remove forms and simply provide a phone number – the simpler the process is for a prospect to contact you, the higher the conversion is likely to be. You mentioned Google Local & Yahoo Local, I would recommend readers also visit the Google Local Business Center and make sure their listing is up-to-date and does a good job describing your key benefits.

  6. I would imagine that optimizing for local searches is vital for mobile search. I foresee that rather than needing to type in zip codes, Google, Bing, and other search engines will trace the location of phones. Of course, I am sure there will be presets in case a person in Los Angeles does want to search for something in New York.

  7. websitetraffic says:

    Well, it seems that the future of mobile web surfing will be mostly attractive to those who are looking for textual content, meaning more in-depth oriented audience rather than those who are looking for the beauty of the sites full of images.

    On the other hand with the improvement on the speed of the internet, and the use of cellphones for surfing the web, we may be better take video marketing and podcasts more seriously!

  8. mobiliciouz says:

    Agree.. but considering iPhone Now Accounts for 55% of US Mobile Web Traffic and Android and the Motorola Droid, HTC Magic, and HTC are quickly catching up (generated 22%, 21% and 9% of Android requests) as admob nov/09, focusing on developing on the browsing features of iPhone/Android I think should be key, in the long-run the market should become a two-horse race.

    • That's a good point. We can anticipate market growth for usage and adjust optimization accordingly. Web analytics will show the increase in site traffic.

      Francisco mentioned a handy WordPress tool that addresses issues with any type of handset:
      http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wordpress-m

      • Is it just optimizing for the iPhone's? I guess No. I get most of the hits from Various Nokia Devices and then followed by the iPhone. After all, Symbian OS constitutes 60% of the mobile traffic worldwide. So in case of WordPress, it'd be better to use a generic plugin like Alex's WordPress mobile edition instead of simply an iPhone plugin.

  9. rohnsmith says:

    thanks for sharing this information.now we are launching our application in mobile based .I remember your tips to optimiza that site after launching.

  10. redsignalwebsitedesign says:

    Excellent info.You have explain each & every thing very clearly.Thanks for sharing.

  11. Great hints! You have clearly shows how to design website in order to visible on mobile. Now Google search engine showing paid result on mobile, it will be necessary to analyze site according mobile visible.

  12. Troy Gibson says:

    From a technical perspective I agree with you, but from a consumer stand point I totally disagree with you. You need to take into account what tasks and activities the consumer is trying to complete. Take a look at weather.com and espn.com. They do a great job of reconstructing the IA of the mobile site to be more inline with what the user is trying to accomplish.

    • Either way, the site has to be optimized for mobile in some fashion. That may be stripping everything down, or it may be just creating a site that renders better on a smaller screen without taking away features. Keeping the same image heavy/java/flash/ad site is just not going to cut it on the mobile networks.

  13. Regarding WordPress, using a more generic mobile plugin like the WordPress Mobile Pack (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wordpress-m…) will allow you to easily address all mobile users, regardless of the type of handset they use.
    In general, I can also recommend http://ready.mobi, a free testing tool that helps building better mobile sites and make sure they are fully compliant with W3C standards.
    (p.s. for full disclosure, I work for the dotMobi Registry which developed both tools)

  14. LG phones make sure your communication is perfect and fulfill your requirements.

  15. LG phones make sure your communication is perfect and fulfill your requirements.
    http://www.lgphones.ws/

  16. marcpickren says:

    Thanks for sharing, as the owner of a smart phone, i anticipate when we no longer need desktop or laptop computer and can do all of our work from our smart phone. I'm in the process of writing an article relating to this topic, it's called Mobile Marketing Explained. I should have it finished by tonight and posted tomorrow morning, visit marc2market.com to read about it or other marketing/social media related articles.

  17. Thanks for sharing! I would like to build my blog so that it is ready for the mobile web too.

  18. Awesome article. I've been looking for more info on how to make websites mobile friendly – thanks for responding!

  19. RedHotFranchises says:

    Great tips and advice on making your blog more ready for the web. It’s interesting to learn the differentiation of SEO Techniques for the Mobile as compared to the Web.
    Thanks for sharing!

  20. Thanks for this informative points.

    I agree with with your suggestion to remove forms and phone number, but i would guess that search engines will indentify ones location via their IP address.

    Regards
    Yoray Narainpersad

  21. Did You Know says:

    yay..lucky me..my blogs read for my smart phone :), thanks for sharing

  22. This is the most detailed post I've read regarding making your site mobile web friendly. These are truly great tips!! Thanks very much for sharing!

  23. Thanks for sharing these great tips. I will keep them in mind when I build a website for the mobile web.

  24. Service providers are providing cheaper unlimited data plans too. Seems like this is the future of marketing.

  25. seansupplee says:

    Great bit of information here. I am right now in the processes of creating my blog to be more friendly with hand held devices. I have been testing it out on my phone and my friends for the last few days. These tips will continue the progress thanks.

  26. Great ideas for making sites more simple and readable on cell phones. Thank you!

  27. Tom,

    How did you know this is exactly the info I was looking for. 😉

    Seriously, this kicks butt. Nice job.

  28. great idea for newbie like me

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