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August 18, 2008

Mobile SEO: Death of the ‘.mobi’

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Hey kids, it’s SES San Jose time and my perfect shoes are suddenly giving me numbing blisers. Huzzah!

Rebecca Lieb is going to help start us off with speakers Dhana Pawar (Yojo Mobile), Cindy Krum (Blue Moon Works, Inc,) and Brian Wool (Localeze).

Rebecca says that every year is hailed as “the year of Mobile”, however, this year it’s even stronger thanks to the iPhone and the Android platform that’s about to emerge.

Up first is Dhana Pawar to talk about what dotMobi is and why it was conceived. Basically, is it dead or not? How can you optimize your Web site to take advantage of the .com extension instead of .mobi?

Dhana defines dotMobi as an alternate domain extension in the same style as .com, .net. or .org. dotMobi was meant to be specially allocated for content designed for mobile devices. These Web pages contained smaller images, reduced graphics, etc.

dotMobi isn’t need today thanks to devices like the iPhone and Skyfire. We don’t need a different domain name. It’s redundant. The iPhone loads an ad the same way a computer does. If the iPhone is just loading a normal Internet ad in a custom size, there’s no real need for a special modile ad network.

dotMobile never took off, she says. Today, 84.5 percent of iPhone users and 58.2 percent of total smart phone users access news and information from the hand-held device. 58.6 percent if iPhone users and 37 percent of smart phone users visited a search engine on their phone. She says that 30.9 percent of iPhone users have tuned mobile TV or a video clip from their phone.

[A person in the audience says the info that Dhana is presenting is totally inaccurate He owns 700+ dotMobi says and completely disagrees with how she's presenting the information. dotMobi isn't alive in the US, we know that, so for her to go on about I when it hasn't hit yet isn't right. But dotMobt IS big in Japan and other countries.

Rebecca cuts in on the audience member tirade and says he can address these concerns during Q&A. Things are getting a bit confrontational and I hear from Twitter that the guy just walked out of the session. Somebody didn't get their coffee this morning. ]

Dhana continues and begins talking about MizPee, a mobile bathroom finder to help users find the cleanest bathroom closest to their current location.

MizPee uses the same URL on the traditional and mobile site so that users do not have to remember another URL. This also allows them to keep the advertising on one URL so they can track the usage of both the Web and mobile sites using a single reporting page. They use tools like awstats and Google analytics.

Marketing Success with.com on Web and Mobile

They’ve gotten lots of publicity with zero PR.

How did they do it?

  • They had a good idea which met a real need: Find clean bathrooms, deals around user’s current location.
  • Sound SEO tactics: As far as the search engine optimization strategy, she advises thinking like a spider. Stick to .com, .net, and .org. Take advantage of your Title tags. They provide the search engines with a guide to your on-page content and are one of the most influential on-site search engine optimization tactics. They’re a great place to reinforce keywords.
  • Widget on the site/Contests, points system: They created easy-to-share widgets to get people excited. They ran a Flush of the Year award so people can rate the best toilets.
  • Right/strategic partnerships: Strategic Partnerships: advertising on sites like AdMobi where you can define the device, platforms, area and specific capabilities of your application/service
  • Word of mouth
  • Controversial coverage

Cindy Krum is next up.

Why should you care about mobile search engine rankings?

There’s mass mobile convergence. Cell phones can do a whole lot more than before. They can send text, take a picture or video, hold email, etc. With all of that, additional functionality is needed. The phone has become the most personal marketing medium ever. Your phone knows a lot more about you than your computer. The only thing more personal than your cell phone is your underwear. With all these things, the phone has become the most interactive marketing medium possible. You can do things with just a click and you have it on you at all times.

Mobile is different. There are different bots evaluating your Web site. There are different mobile algorithms giving preference to different sites based on how they render. You have different usability concerns. The searchers are more sophisticated. Mobile indicates an immediate intent.

Why now?

People get new cell phones every 1-2 years. They’re getting savvier phones with each upgrade. Mobile searching is becoming easier. All of the carriers have started offering flat-rate data pricing. There are faster download speeds and more processing power. US adoption has hit critical mass.

Overview: dotMobi is rarely ideal for search engine optimization.

It splits traffic, links and the index size. You risk duplicate content and it can be confusing for users. dotMobis are not necessarily preferred for mobile search. There are no unique assets or features. There’s a limited useful life for having two sites. You just don’t need two.

Best Practices

  • Do a good job following traditional search engine optimization best practices: Follow blended search and local search best practices, too.
  • Mobile Search Engine Submission.
  • Mobile Research: Understanding of predictive text, transcoding analysis, emulation & testing, and traditional & mobile analytics.
  • W3C Mobile Compliance Standards: XHTML & Accessibility Standards. Use external style sheets.
  • Browser Detection or Self Selection.

Four Mobile Site Architecture Techniques

  1. Do Nothing: Take a look at your site and decide if you think it renders well enough on a mobile phone. Decide if it’s worth your effort. Sometimes it’s really not. Test your site by finding it in Google search results and see how it looks transcoded. Test it on a true Web browsing phone and on an older phone. If it’s good enough for you, it’s probably not worth your while to put a lot of effort into it. If you have a .mobi, just redirect it to the .com

    The advantage of this is that it’s easy and cheap. You can also say that you’re forward thinking and trust that browsers are going to catch up. Heh. The disadvantages is that transcoding only works through search, page URLS and links are transocded, mobile user experience is harder to control, it’s risky for your brand and it gives your competitors an edge.

  2. Mobile Only Pages: Section off part of your site and create mobile-specific pages. They’ll be narrower, have less functionality, smaller images, redo navigation, etc.

    The advantages are that it’s just about updating the existing code. Take your site, copy it to the subdirectory and then tweak it to look better on a mobile phone. It allows you to adjust levels of content. The disadvantages are that your traditional home page still has to work on mobile. It means there’s an extra click from the traditional home page to the mobile home page. You have two different version of your site.

  3. Mobile and Traditional Hybrid Pages: You have one set of content on your site but multiple CSS’s. You have a screen CSS for traditional computers and a hand-held style sheet which gives it different instructions. They’re pulled automatically by the browser. You can rearrange the content.

    Advantages are that it’s just adding another style sheet. It’s the same content rendered differently so you don’t have a duplication content risk. You can even build this out to device-specific style sheets. Disadvantages are that it’s not 100 percent reliable. Sometimes the phone won’t display the right style sheet.

  4. Dynamic Mobile Pages: Hire a hot shot programmer and have him combine the database with user agent detection to transcode your site on the fly.

    Advantages are that it creates a good experience, it’s good for search engine optimization campaign, the database is free and it can give you insight about who’s on your site. Disadvantages are that it’s a lot of work and it’s still not perfect. She calls it a short term solution.

Last up is Brian Wool.

There are 225 million mobile subscribers. If you put that in context, there are only 191 million people using the desktop.

Ten top things people use the mobile phone for:

  • Email
  • Weather
  • IM
  • Maps and driving directions
  • News
  • Local search
  • Sports
  • Directory assistance
  • Gaming
  • Financial info

You’ll notice that several of those (weather, maps, local search, directory assistance) have local elements to them.

More than 90 percent of businesses are small businesses. The majority of advertising dollars across most channels come from this segment. About 50 percent of small businesses have a Web site OR 50 percent of small businesses don’t have a Web site.

iPhone Local Mobile Apps: It’s the app, not the Web site. 60 million iPhone Apps have been downloaded. All the content resides with the App.

The Verticalization of the Mobile Internet

The verticalization of online is taking hold in the mobile world. The value of Local Apps is the ability to deliver content. Increased fragmentation. All of this information lives inside your iPhone App.

Online and mobile offer identical results: If you do a search online for [Chicago pizza] and you get the Google 10 pack whether you searched on your phone or from your desktop.

Rebecca says we heard a lot about Google and asks what the other engines are doing. Cindy mentions that the search engine people use on their traditional computer is the engine people use on their mobile phone. MSN and Yahoo have more of a portal feel. They try harder to anticipate what you want. She thinks we’re going to start to see a move a way from that so Google is only going to get more dominant in the mobile space.





3 responses to “Mobile SEO: Death of the ‘.mobi’”

  1. Shopaholic writes:

    The guy that walked out blogged about it at seochampion.com http://www.seochampion.com/seoblog/?p=12

    Some of the advice given in this presentation would not help anyone following it, for example setting up a subdomain splits traffic and page rank every bit as much as a mobi does.

    Maybe a broader range of information and views would improve this conference next time round.

  2. seops writes:

    This was very contentious, the guy you mentioned walking out blogged about it at seochampion.com and you can read more about the risks of following that advice at mobienthusiast.mobi and 84t.mobi.

  3. One Internet writes:

    Almost a year later and clear as day that .mobi is not being utilized as it was intended. Device Detection and subdomains destroyed the very concept of .mobi. MOBI will become a marketing tool-but device detection and wurfl files will become the norm.
    One internet won



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