Oct 2, 2014 113 reads by Navneet Kaushal

Google may prefer responsive design as far as mobile is concerned, but the question remains whether to optimize the site or not. Speakers at this session discussed whether one needs to opt for responsive design, dynamic serving or content, or separate sites with specific and unique mobile URLs or some blend of these. In this session, there were many answers for those who want to design their own mobile sites. Maximizing the mobile search opportunity is a big plus for any business and the speakers at this session showed how to go about it.


  • Barry Schwartz – News Editor, Search Engine Land, RustyBrick (@rustybrick)

Q&A Coordinator:


  • Michael Martin – SEO Manager, Covario (@mobile__martin)
  • Jim Yu – CEO BrightEdge (@jimyu)
  • Cindy Krum – CEO, MobileMoxie (@suzzicks)
  • Gary Illyes – Webmaster Trends Analyst, Google (@methode)

Michael spoke about the benefits of dynamic serving for mobile sites and discussed how it is the future as far as search marketers in this field are concerned. Jim focused on comparing risk, response and approach in the context of mobile search opportunities and site design. Cindy went into depth about page speed and mobile SEO. Gary provided some useful tips about how to optimize the site for attracting mobile users and what Google's standards for mobile site designs are.

What Advanced SEOs Should be Doing about Mobile

Martin commenced his presentation by talking about the expansion of mobile search and how it now accounts for 40% of the total searches made in 2014. He showed figures pertaining to percentage of internet users worldwide plus the searches made in this context. Martin also highlighted the mobile search difference, showing that this type of search differs markedly from desktop search. Martin specifically displayed the following numbers with respect to the differences and similarities between desktop and mobile search:

  • Generic Search (for laptops, servers, Apple, Windows etc.): 41.7% of the results were similar and 58.3% of the results were not
  • Localized Search (pizza, police, hospital, zoo etc.): 26.5% of the results matched while 73.5% did not

Evolution of Mobile Strategy for Search

Martin also traced how the mobile strategy for search has evolved from .mobi to dynamic serving. He traced the stages of this evolution in the phases shown here:

  • .mobi
  • m.
  • responsive design
  • dynamic serving

Speed and Usability

Page speed plays an important role in usability, Martin feels. He has also emphasized that addressing speed and usability is the successful aspect of any mobile site. Martin also talked about mobile keyword identification and its value.

Mobile Keyword Intent From Data

Martin also mentioned the importance of inclusion of the following for mobile sites where applicable:

  • Stock of product available nearby
  • Reviews (with special emphasis on local ones)
  • Top (number:X) of products/services
  • Videos and other interactions with specific products
  • Click To Call and Locations

In discussing video and interactions with products, Martin talked about Kelley Blue Book where mobile users can even turn a car to a different direction and look at it from angles through mobile device/ touch.

Responsive Web Design Results

Martin also showed the following Responsive Web Design SEO results have been obtained each year:

  • Mobile Traffic SEO: +81%
  • Mobile Rankings: +1
  • Conversions: +23%

As compared to this, Dynamic Serving for SEOs scored the following numbers, according to him:

  • Mobile Traffic SEO: +167%
  • Mobile Rankings: +3
  • Conversions: +82%

Actionable Insights

Some of the top actionable insights proposed by Martin included:

  • Dynamic Serving is best for hub pages
  • Responsive Web Design is perfect for scale
  • Where mobile intent differs from desktop, Dynamic Serving is better
  • Mobile SEO can only find applications in Dynamic Serving
  • Websites should adapt, not respond

Martin concluded the presentation with the firm indication that dynamic serving is the future of the mobile search market.

Comparing Approach, Response and Risk With Data

Jim started the session by declaring straightaway that mobile search is faster than desktop search by as much as 10 times and showed the conclusions of an in-depth study with this conclusion conducted by BrightEdge Research. He also indicated that organic search through smartphones has grown at the rate of 50% each consecutive year. Smartphone searches constitute at least 23% of all organic searches, according to Jim's company. The CEO of BrightEdge Research also discussed the following research results:

  • Ranking variables are increasing in complexity: 85% of search marketers indicated measuring rank across mobile search devices such as smartphones will only continue to grow in popularity and importance in the years to come.
  • Massive difference occurs between Smartphone and desktop keyword ranking: a difference of 62% was found

Different Smartphone Approaches

Jim also shared the following different Smartphone approaches:

  • Advanced Mobile SEO Matrix-Same HTML-Same URL: Responsive Web Design works best
  • Advanced Mobile SEO Matrix-Different HTML-Same URL: Dynamic serving is ideal
  • Advanced Mobile SEO Matrix-Same HTML-Different URL: Duplicate content is considered
  • Advanced Mobile SEO Matrix-Different HTML-Different URL: Separate is best 

Differing Error Rates by Approaches

BrightEdge Research found different Error Rates by Approaches in the specific format:

  • Dynamic Serving: 30% of the sites possess errors
  • Separate sites: 72% have errors
  • Responsive Web Design: Negligible errors

Most Common Errors

Mobile sites fall by as much as 2 points on an average if they have errors and Jim found 68% had lost opportunities as a result of this.

The common errors BrightEdge Research found were:

  • Wrong Canonical
  • No HTTP Vary
  • Wrong Alternate
  • No Canonical
  • No Alternate
  • Disallow Robots on Mobile subdomain Robot.txt
  • Redirecting pages to mobile home page

Real Impacts on Mobile Smartphone Approaches

Risks which need to be evaluated effectively for mobile sites and enterprises are:

  • Misimplementation
  • Lack of ongoing maintenance

Advantages and Drawbacks of Each Mobile Approach

Jim also highlighted the following advantages and disadvantages of mobile approaches:

  • The Responsive approach scores on content maintenance, compliance and link dilution, but it loses out on speed on account of large assets which are not needed
  • The Dynamic approach is good for speed and link dilutions, but scores poorly on content maintenance and compliance
  • Separate approach scores poorly on nearly all four dimensions


Jim also discussed some important points for mobile design sites which are as follows:

  • For Responsive approach, you must implement conditional loading correctly for fast page load times via reduction in file size of images and number of asset files
  • For the Dynamic approach, site should not be perceived as cloaking nor should optimization of mobile content for page factors be neglected
  • For the Separate approach, the site should have compliance with HTTP vary and search engines should know how to be in accordance with link equity

Jim ended by reiterating many of the key facts and figures of the presentation.

Mobile SEO and Page Speed

Cindy spoke of the rapid change in mobile results as product schema is more oriented towards organic rather than paid search. She also stressed that “Load Time is super important for Mobile SEO and usability.” Committing completely to one mobile type is not as important as having a site which enhances user experience.

Mobile Ranking Signals

Cindy discussed Google stipulated mobile ranking signals in terms of what it states and indicates. She then spoke of how understanding varies as there is a difference between user-agent. She also spoke of the difference in comprehension in terms of:

  • One URL: Responsive Design and Selective Serving
  • Multiple URL: Redirecting to m, bidirectional annotation

Both affect the HTTP header varies user-agent

Broken Content

She also spoke of what constitutes Broken Content namely:

  • Hover Effects
  • Flash
  • Pop-ups
  • Minute font sizes
  • Scrolling sideways
  • Minute buttons
  • Slow pages
  • Device specific or related content

Importance of Page Speed

She then discussed how page speed is vital and mentioned the following ways errors here can harm the site:

Slows Crawler

This is through the following ways:

  • Indexing of fewer pages
  • Damages crawler efficiency

Hurts UX

Cindy explained this to be through:

  • Bad quality on mobile 3G
  • Poor content on mobile Wi-Fi

Improving Responsive Design

Normal tips for improving Responsive Design by Cindy were:

  • Design for mobile first
  • Removal of unimportant code
  • Compression of file sizes

Advanced tips for the same provided by her were:

  • Consolidation of DNS requests
  • Optimization of Load Order

She also discussed how UX Beta may be part of the Google algorithm. She advises to fetch and render as Google would.

Closing Strategy

Cindy shared the closing strategies at the conclusion of her presentation. This included:

  • Importance of Load Time: Good Load Time is needed and tools for the same are important
  • Try Mixed or Staged Approach based on page content or directive

Insights from Google

Gary provided the concluding presentation for this session. As a Webmaster Trend Analyst, he looked for errors and solutions in this context.

Making the Site Mobile Friendly

Gary emphasized the importance of getting the site mobile ready as:

  • 77% of users find out more about a product/service through phones
  • 61% are unlikely to return to sites they had trouble loading information from

Mobile Friendly Sites

Gary said that mobile friendly sites had three main features which are:

  • Usable
  • Legible
  • Available

He also said Google does not give any penalty or reward in rankings based on the type of site created through it does prefer Responsive Web Design.

He also indicated audiences should not disallow resources as this “helps us understand your pages and understand that your pages are mobile-ready.”

Gary ended the session by urging site designers to focus on making the user happy and enhancing his or her total experience. He also asked people to get family and friends to check out the sites, stressing the importance of user experience.

What SEOs Should Be Doing With Mobile?: #SMX New York 2014, Day 2!, 4.2 out of 5 based on 5 ratings
Navneet Kaushal
Navneet Kaushal is the Editor-in-Chief of PageTraffic Buzz. A leading search strategist, Navneet helps clients maintain an edge in search engines and the online media. Navneet's expertise has established PageTraffic Buzz as one of the well know digital marketing blog.
Navneet Kaushal
Navneet Kaushal
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