What’s the Difference Between Mobile and Non-Mobile SEO?

m commerce seo

If you’ve looked up anything to do with m-commerce and SEO, you’ll probably have found conflicting information. Some people are considering it a separate entity from standard SEO while some say ‘mobile SEO doesn’t exist,’ at all.

Let me tell you where I’m at:

Mobile SEO does exist, insofar as search engine optimisation remains one of the most effective ways to drive traffic to a site (whether mobile or otherwise). But the same factors will influence the rankings: social signals, links, on page. Whether you’re searching from your mobile, your tablet or your laptop, Google’s mobile index is the same as its main index.

But there are some additional things to consider with mobile SEO and we’ll cover those here.


Separate Mobile Website or all on the Same URL?

You have a key choice when it comes to mobile websites: You could have your mobile site as a separate website (e.g. at or or you could use responsive or adaptive design so your site responds to the user’s device and displays accordingly on the same URL. A good example of this is our own website!

The search engines are keen on the latter idea.

Bing’s Duane Forrester took to the company blog to say:


And at last week’s SMX London event, Google’s Pierre Far advised webmasters, in a session on mobile:

“If you can use responsive web design, please, please do.”


The SEO Benefits of Using Responsive Design

That makes perfect sense for the search engines, when you think about it. One URL for each item of content simplifies things. The other benefits of the one URL approach are:

  • No concerns about duplicate content by cross posting content on both a mobile subdomain and your main website
  • Links to content on your main domain and social interactions with such content would still benefit you in terms of mobile visibility. If you have some inbound links and mentions referring to a mobile subdomain and some to a main domain, the effect is potentially diluted.

One of our developers, Mark Bebbington, blogged last week on the one URL or a separate mobile website topic. Although the search engines prefer this method, it’s not always the best approach for your business.


Whatever Your Approach, Give Search Engines the Information They Need

Google has a separate crawler for mobile and the search engine’s advice is that all versions of your site (mobile and otherwise) should be accessible to both Googlebot and Googlebot-Mobile.

Google’s Pierre far has also blogged about mobile sitemaps and structuring mobile content.


Varied Search Results Based on Device

At present, we’re seeing the same sets of results irrespective of the device from which we’re searching. However, Google has the capability of varying results based on device.

Given Google’s focus on delivering results that will be relevant for the user and deliver a good experience, it would be a fair assumption that Google will ultimately consider the user’s device and how various sites display on those devices into account when ranking results.

As such, we consider the ‘on page’ element of mobile SEO to be everything standard SEO would be plus optimising the on page experience for mobile users.


User Search Habits and Expectations

There’s something of a misconception that all mobile users are on the go. According to Comscore, over 60% of mobile usage takes place in the home or the office. And mobile users are still searching on Google actively. They make up over 20% of the 3 billion daily searches that take place on Google.

So let’s do away, immediately, with the idea that mobile users are all just looking for a phone number or direction to your nearest store. Some of them are. But not all.

It is critical, though, that your landing pages are tailored to your user’s expectations. When your traffic is coming from search, you have a great level of insight into the user’s intentions in the form of the keyword that drove them to you. If there’s lots of search traffic for ‘Business Name + Address,’ or ‘Sports shops in Manchester City Centre,’ then you could fairly assume that maybe these users are the ones who don’t want to buy online, but who want to visit you in store. Tailor your landing pages accordingly.

Google advises webmasters that they should show a telephone number on landing pages.

Good SEO Practice for M-Commerce Sites

Many of the same principles you should apply to e-commerce sites apply to m-commerce websites.

  • Don’t overlook the long tail! Over 40% of search queries in Google are 4 words or longer! This means content is critical.
  • Keep your site well structured. Avoid duplicate content issues common to filters or ‘sort by’ functions by using the canonical.
  • Keep your content unique and original. Running content directly ripped from the manufacturer’s website will win you no brownie points with Google.
  • Leverage user generated content for populating large quantities of product pages (reviews, FAQs)

On the whole, the way you carry out SEO for mobile sites will be the same as for a non-mobile websites – you just need to take into account how your website is presented to users and how to ensure you are catering to differing expectations of some mobile users.


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