Do you still have a separate mobile website because your desktop site is non-responsive? Then you need to put extra effort into your SEO strategy; after all, you are optimizing two distinct URLs. Attaining traction online is harder if you don’t switch to a responsive format—but it’s not impossible.
Understanding Google’s mobile-first index
Mobile internet usage overtook desktop usage in 2016 and forever changed how businesses need to operate. But it took some time for Google to catch up with this game-changing shift. Before 2018, the search engine primarily looked at a site’s desktop version for crawling, indexing, and ranking signals. This is no longer the case.
Google recognized that they needed to help mobile users get results that did not only answer their queries but also displayed it properly in a readable small-screen format. Thus, it rolled out its ‘mobile-first’ policy last year. The search engine now indexes sites based on mobile usability first, desktop second. Because of this new protocol, Google will now use signals from your mobile website to rank both your desktop and mobile sites.
Making mobile a priority
What does this mean? If your mobile website isn’t working perfectly, a direct competitor that has all its ducks in a row will probably outrank you. Optimizing for mobile search should therefore be top priority—especially now that 60% of traffic and 40% of the sales online come from mobile, according to a 2018 study by Adobe. Customers need to find your website when they search for your products or services using their smartphones.
Responsive websites are already mobile-search ready for the most part if they pass Google’s mobile-friendly test and use the meta viewport tag. But what do you do when your website is non-responsive? Here are SEO tips to consider when your mobile URLs are different:
Implementing annotation metadata
Annotations refer to single lines of code that you can insert in both your desktop and mobile pages. The right annotations can help Google understand how two pages of the same (or similar) content are related.
Let’s say that the URL for your desktop page is:
Be sure to include a link alternate tag pointing to the same page on your mobile site version:
<link rel=”alternate” href=”https://m.mywebsite.com/product-page-88/”>
On that mobile page, you can insert a link canonical tag pointing to the same page on your desktop site:
<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.mywebsite.com/product-page-88/”>
Annotations are best used to establish the relationship of pages that have the same or very similar content. In the sample given, the mobile /product-page-88/ is paired with the desktop /product-page-88/ because they share the same content. Never use annotation metadata for /product-page-88/ and the home page on your desktop site (or any other unrelated page).
Implementing automatic redirection
This is a bit more complicated but worth doing. The goal is to enable your server to detect how the shopper is requesting the page. For example, is the shopper using a mobile Safari browser or a Chrome desktop browser? Use an “HTTP redirect” so that people who are using a mobile/smartphone browser are automatically redirected to your website’s mobile version even if they click or type your desktop URL.
You can implement a unidirectional redirect that works in just one direction (desktop to mobile), but bidirectional redirects are often better. The latter ensures that desktop users who click on or type in a mobile URL are automatically redirected to your desktop site.
Be sure to redirect to the right page. If a person shopping on a mobile phone enters your desktop page at http://www.mywebsite.com/product-page-88/, the redirect should go to the mobile version http://m. mywebsite.com/product-page-88/, not to anywhere else.
It’s also a good idea to include HTML links to the different versions of the same page in the footer. This way, you can let users choose what version (desktop or mobile) they want to see. After all, it can sometimes be useful to use the desktop page even if you’re on mobile for additional content or functionality. This is why experts recommend redirecting based on the type of device used on entry. After the first page, you should let the visitor choose a page type even if it doesn’t match his/her device.
Getting help from the pros
Need assistance on optimizing your non-responsive website? Or perhaps you want to finally upgrade to a responsive website? SEOValley is here to the rescue. Contact us today for a site audit.