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  • Writer's pictureRyan Gagajena

Top 5 Mobile SEO Tips For M-commerce & Retail

Author: Bryson Meunier


Clearly I’ve broken my own resolution when it comes to not talking about responsive Web design, as I’ve done so for the past two months. This month, I’m taking a break so I can focus on resolution #1: giving more tactical advice on how to do mobile SEO well. Today’s column will focus on mobile SEO tips for m-commerce and retail — the topic of a webinar I’m doing this month for Mobile Commerce Daily.

Tip #1: Make Pages Accessible To Mobile Searchers

This tip may seem like a no-brainer in a world where at least 25% of all search traffic comes from mobile devices and 90% of consumers use multiple screens sequentially before making a conversion; but unfortunately, many have still failed to get with the program.

In Q2 2011, PureOxygen Mobile did a study of the top 75 retail brands in the 2012 IR 300 and found that only 19% of them served mobile content to smartphones. Even worse — more than 30% of them redirected all mobile traffic to the site’s home page.

You can do better. Yes, providing unique mobile content can be a key differentiator for your business (depending on your users); but, you have to crawl before you can walk.

Serving mobile users the same information and services as those using desktop computers or tablet devices (a concept known as “One Web“) is important; it creates a consistent brand message and ensures that searchers who find a page on your site will be able to find some equivalent version of that page on a mobile device.

Responsive Web design and adaptive content are popular solutions, but they are not the only ones. Platforms like Moovweb, for example, unify content across all versions of a site, while allowing for a more customized mobile experience.

Apps have seen a resurgence in popularity recently (see Flurry and Nielsen’s study on time spent in apps); but, if you don’t have an accessible mobile site first, then you’re not going to be visible in Google search for most queries. Having an app is great, but not at the cost of sacrificing valuable mobile Web traffic.

If you’re a retailer, and you still serve desktop pages to mobile users or only have a mobile app, you may not be in business for long. Remember, we live in a world where more than 25% of total search traffic comes from mobile devices, and mobile devices are one of many that consumers use before making a conversion.

Tip #2: Be Careful When Selecting Mobile Platforms

Long-time readers of my column should know that I don’t often recommend the platforms that so many large brands select to make their content mobile-friendly. These platforms are often cheap, and you get what you pay for. (See the problems Staples and Mercedes had with their mobile sites, for example.)

Many of these platforms create duplicate content and/or have major search usability issues that prevent them from being indexed in search results.

Some platforms are better than others, of course. When looking for a partner to help take your site mobile, make sure they can answer “yes” to the following questions. If they can’t, look elsewhere:

  1. Does your platform add tracking parameters to the URL or host the site in two places, which might create duplicate content issues?

  2. If dynamic serving is used, can you serve the vary HTTP header to Googlebot? And if mobile URLs are used, can you implement switchboard tags with the platform?

  3. Does the platform allow you to make content changes for each device, based on keyword research?

Tip #3: Foreground Local Information If Applicable

Not all m-commerce providers have a local presence; but, if you do, you should know that mobile searchers often want information on local stores.

Retail searchers are more likely to be looking for local information, according to Google, who said the single most important retail task for mobile users is getting directions to or operating hours for a local store.

Google retail mobile searcher study

In fact, if we look at a large retailer like Sports Authority — which I think does a good job of aligning search intent with content — you can see that the searches with a high mobile volume are largely location searches.

Searches for Sports Authority locations index high on mobile devices.

Searches for Sports Authority locations index high on mobile devices.

By making it easy for all searchers to find a location near them, Sports Authority is also making it as easy as possible for mobile searchers to find what they’re most likely to be looking for.

The first thing mobile visitors to see is the store locator.

The first thing mobile visitors to see is the store locator.

All retailers with a local presence should take note.

Tip #4: Regardless Of Mobile Configuration Strategy, Follow Google’s Guidelines

This is applicable to everyone, but especially to complex retail sites that may be using multiple platforms to provide content: follow Google’s guidelines for smartphone and/or feature phone sites. There are a few complex e-commerce sites that are responsive, like Curry’s (UK retailer), but most of them are not.

In fact, of the 11 retailers in the SEMRush top 100 sites, none of them are responsive. Eight of them actually use mobile URLs, and one uses dynamic serving. I don’t know whether responsive design makes sense for their users and their business (it may not), but if they do want to create a dedicated mobile site, they should at least implement bidirectional annotations. As of this writing, none of them have.

Naturally, these sites wouldn’t be among the top 100 if they were bad at SEO — but think about how much better they could be doing if they helped Google properly recognize and distribute their mobile content. It’s really not that difficult, as Google has detailed instructions on how to implement. Recently, Google even published a list of common mistakes in smartphone sites, complete with tips on how to avoid these errors.

Tip #5: Make Price Comparison & Buying Easy On Mobile Devices

As a new homeowner, I’ve recently found myself shopping quite a bit on my smartphone, including what’s known as “showrooming,” or using a mobile device in-store to find the best price and compare features. And, I’m not alone on this — according to a recent Harris Poll, 43% of Americans engage in showrooming. Google has said that on average 2% of mobile searchers search in-store, but that figure doubles in the Shopping category.

Some businesses, like Sears, are actually encouraging showrooming on their mobile sites by providing mobile searchers with a price scanner which allows them to compare prices of items they’re looking at to items for sale at Sears.

Sears' mobile site includes a price scanner so that shoppers can easily compare prices in-store.

Sears’ mobile site includes a price scanner so that shoppers can easily compare prices in-store.

Amazon also has an app that works similarly, but I like the fact that this functionality is available on a website so that it can be linked to and shared. All link equity eventually helps the main domain become more visible in search.

Following the above five tips will make life easier for mobile searchers and ultimately ensure your success as a marketer doing retail or mobile commerce optimization.

Next month, I’ll be resolution-friendly once again, talking case studies that demonstrate mobile SEO success. If you have a great one, reach out, and I may publish it with your permission.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

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