A recent panel discussion at SMX Advanced gave search engine optimization (SEO) firm BrightEdge something of an idea, an idea that recently bore fruit in the form of a new report. Essentially, the idea that was advanced at SMX Advanced says many companies are losing out on mobile traffic due to issues in configuration of mobile websites, and the BrightEdge report put some numbers to the theory. Essentially, based on the BrightEdge report, the idea that mobile sites are losing traffic due to configuration issues is not only correct, but it might be more widespread than anyone may have thought.
The BrightEdge report suggests that better than 25 percent—that's one in every four—mobile sites in existence today is somehow misconfigured, leading to said sites receiving less traffic than should be seen. What's more, the BrightEdge report goes on to note that 27 percent of mobile sites aren't ranked as high as should be on search engines, even Google (News - Alert), because the search engines in question don't recognize the mobile site the way said search engines would recognize the desktop version. Just to top it all off, the BrightEdge report notes that 62 percent of organic searches will actually show different results depending on the device used to generate the search: a mobile device or a desktop.
As bad as all that was, it really only got worse. The BrightEdge report noted that mobile sites were ranked, on average, “half a position lower” than was seen on the PC, thanks to a little extra competition from local results. What's more, the type of mobile configuration—a responsive design, a dedicated mobile site, or dynamic serving—didn't seem to have much impact on the level of search ranking lost, so it's not particularly an issue of configuration style. However, for sites improperly configured, based on the kind of style used, there could be a major traffic loss afoot. Interestingly, responsive designs didn't have much problem aside from the general half-position loss. But dynamic serving actually had a 30 percent error rate, and dedicated mobile sites had a 72 percent configuration error rate, resulting in such issues as a wrong or completely missing canonical, a lack of HTTP vary, a wrong or missing alternate, the disallowing of robots on the mobile subdomain's robots.txt file, or outright redirecting all pages to the mobile home page.
Essentially, what needs to be considered here is the full design of mobile pages as established. We've seen the value, several times over that mobile pages can bring, especially when the issue of mobile commerce is raised. But a site must be well-designed in order to really get anywhere, and that lack of quality design is hurting a great many companies out there. With more and more users turning to mobile devices for not only news, but also for entertainment and shopping, having a mobile site is an increasingly useful part of any website's repertoire. But unless the site in question is as easy to use as its desktop equivalent, it's going to lose out on significant opportunity, and that doesn't spare SEO practices here either.
There are a lot of issues that go into a quality mobile design, and unless these are all fully considered and acted upon, a site might well be leaving viewers—and money—on the table, a development no firm can take lightly, especially these days.
Edited by Maurice Nagle
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