Google’s Official Recommendation for Building SEO Friendly Mobile Sites!

Jun 7, 2012 | 3,145 views | by Navneet Kaushal
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Finally, Google has released its official recommendations on how to build mobile sites that Google likes and that are user friendly too. To sum up the recommendations in a nut shell, the best idea is to opt for a responsive design or you may turn to device-specific HTML. The search engine has also specified the need for you to communicate when you are using device-specific HTML.

How to build mobile sites, the Google Way

The search engine has outlined these three ways of designing mobile sites:

  1. "Sites that use responsive web design, i.e. sites that serve all devices on the same set of URLs, with each URL serving the same HTML to all devices and using just CSS to change how the page is rendered on the device. This is Google’s recommended configuration.
  2. Sites that dynamically serve all devices on the same set of URLs, but each URL serves different HTML (and CSS) depending on whether the user agent is a desktop or a mobile device.
  3. Sites that have a separate mobile and desktop sites."

Why the Responsive Design Approach

Google defines Responsive web design as the technique to build web pages that change how they show using CSS3 media queries. The page has a single HTML code irrespective of the mobile device accessing it, however, its look gets modified using CSS media queries to specify which CSS rules are applicable for the browser displaying the page. The search engine has outlined the advantages of the responsive design approach:

  1. With one URL, it is easier for users to interact with the page and enable Google’s “algorithms to assign the indexing properties to your content.”
  2. Since Google doesn’t have to crawl multiple pages, this leads to a better and more efficient crawling of the content.

The Alternate Method for creating mobile sites – Device-Specific HTML Approach

Google says, “We support having websites serve equivalent content using different, device-specific, HTML. The device-specific HTML can be served on the same URL (a configuration called dynamic serving) or different URLs (such as www.example.com and m.example.com).” The search engine recommends the use of the Vary HTTP header to give Google an idea that the content and CSS may alter based on the user agent. As Google says, “As for the separate mobile site configuration, since there are many ways to do this, our recommendation introduces annotations that communicate to our algorithms that your desktop and mobile pages are equivalent in purpose; that is, the new annotations describe the relationship between the desktop and mobile content as alternatives of each other and should be treated as a single entity with each alternative targeting a specific class of device.”

Google also added that these with these annotations aid their algorithms to understand the structure of the site’s content and consequently it will have a shot at getting good SERPs.

These official recommendations from Google have been a long time in coming. Last year, the company launched GoMo, the Smartphone Googlebot-Mobile user agent.

For further information and insights, Google recommends webmasters to explore its developer site. But the conclusion as of now is that for building mobile sites opt for the responsive design approach or you can choose the device-specific HTML approach too.

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Navneet Kaushal

Navneet Kaushal is the founder and CEO of PageTraffic, an SEO Agency in India with offices in Chicago, Mumbai and London. A leading search strategist, Navneet helps clients maintain an edge in search engines and the online media. Navneet's expertise has established PageTraffic as one of the most awarded and successful search marketing agencies.
4.thumbnail Google’s Official Recommendation for Building SEO Friendly Mobile Sites!
4.thumbnail Google’s Official Recommendation for Building SEO Friendly Mobile Sites!