SMX Liveblog: Getting Mobile Friendly to Survive the Next Mobilegeddon

Mobile. Mobile. Mobile! The SMX East session “Getting Mobile Friendly to Survive the Next Mobilegeddon” features heavy hitters in the mobile-optimization game. Google’s Gary Illyes joins Marcus Tober and Stoney deGeyter to give up-to-the-minute accurate advice for webmasters on how to do mobile right and be truly effective at mobile SEO.

Speakers Gary Illyes, Stoney deGeyter and Marcus Tober
Speakers Gary Illyes, Stoney deGeyter and Marcus Tober

Moderator: Barry Schwartz, News Editor, Search Engine Land (@rustybrick)


  • Gary Illyes, Webmaster Trends Analyst, Google (@methode)
  • Stoney deGeyter, CEO, Pole Position Marketing (@StoneyD)
  • Marcus Tober, Founder/CTO, Searchmetrics Inc. (@marcustober)

Gary Illyes: Google’s Mobile Focus

When Gary was a kid, he never did what his parents and teachers told him to do. Roughly when Justin Bieber was knee-high to a snow blower, Gary’s parents got him a computer and thought that might give him something to spend time on in a good way. It didn’t work. But around 2000 he got a cell phone. This made him very cool. That worked!

In 2005 he gave his first girlfriend a mobile phone. He expected she’d be excited about it. Her response: Is there Internet on it?

Gary appreciated the power of the Internet for getting him Super Mario cheat codes. But he also saw there was more than 10 blue links. He’s flashing photos of cats playing keyboards on the screen.

Search Has Changed

Search timeline slide SMX East

People’s expectations of search have changed and continue to change — radically.

Autocomplete was a change, for example. Today, Google focuses exclusively on mobile. 2015 is the year when mobile search exceeded desktop searches.

People aren’t just searching. They’re shopping, reading email, seeking advice, and comparing products and reviews.

  • Mobile-friendly update: On April 21, 2015, Google made the mobile-friendly update. They look at “5 or so” properties of a page and whether they appear correctly on a mobile screen.
  • App indexing: Apps show up in Google search results, and when users click the result and have the app installed, Google brings the user to that result in the app. If they don’t have the app, there’s an install button in the result. This takes away friction.
  • Google Now: It effectively pushes relevant information to you. Traffic alerts, photospots. See this slide presentation by Cindy Krum from Day 1 of SMX East (
  • Now on Tap: At Google I/O, Google talked about it. If you’re chatting with a friend and want to organize dinner, you shouldn’t have to copy and paste text into a search box. Instead, a long tap on the chat text will give you more information and context.
  • Voice search: This is the future, in which you talk to gadgets and they answer you. Search strings like this will work:

Voice search queries SMX East

Gary suggests these links as resources for mobile-minded webmasters to read:

  • – Google help for Google Search, Now on Tap, Now cards, Voice Actions, and Search auto-completions
  • – Google’s reference material on app indexing
  • – Shortcut to the Mobile-Friendly Test
  • [google office hours] – Google Webmaster hangouts you can watch or join

Stoney deGeyter: Configuring Your Mobile Friendly Site

Choosing Your Mobile Configuration

DeGeyter starts by reviewing the three possible ways you can configure a mobile site:

  • Mobile Redirects: Serves different code to each device on separate URLs for mobile versus desktop. The server attempts to detect the user’s device, then redirects to the appropriate page.
  • Dynamic Serving: Uses the same URL regardless of device, but generates a different version of HTML for different device types.
  • Responsive Design: Serves the same HTML code on the same URL regardless of the user’s device, but renders the display differently based on screen size.

Common Mistakes

  • Blocking JavaScript, CSS and images. Search engines need this information to see how your site renders on different screens.
  • Unplayable content. There are issues with mobile devices playing Flash videos. Use video-embedding that’s playable on all devices. Optional: Make a transcript of the video available.
  • Mobile-only 404s. Allow visitors on mobile devices to pass through to your mobile URLs without error.
  • Redirecting to the wrong pages. Redirect each URL to its appropriate mobile counterpart — NOT the home page. Make sure redirects work on all devices.
  • Use banners instead of interstitials. Let people get to the content without forcing them to view an overlay.
  • Irrelevant cross-links. For example, when you provide a link to view the mobile site from the desktop site or vice versa, make sure you go to the same page and not the home page.
  • Slow-loading pages. Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool to find out if your pages are fast enough.
  • Non-responsive images. Use the HTML picture element to serve different size images to different devices based on their screen size. Cheat: Use automated “adaptive images” tools and plug-ins.
  • Small touch size. Design for fat fingers.
  • Unreadable text. Use EM or REM units on your fonts, and then adjust the base font size for different screen resolutions using media queries.

Responsive Website Configurations

DeGeyter suggests adding a viewport tag to a responsive site, as follows:

<meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0″>


Marcus Tober: The Data of Going Mobile-Friendly

Google is focusing on mobile, so forget about desktop. We use our phones everywhere. That’s why Google focuses on how users interact with content and how to serve it. On mobile, we want things as fast as possible.

back to relevance

Concepts like keyword density and the number of links on a page are irrelevant in the mobile world. It’s about how we use it, how we share it. Focusing on the content makes us much more successful.

Mobilegeddon (i.e., Google’s Mobile-Friendly Update launched on April 21, 2015) was an update Google announced many weeks in advance. There are always winners and losers with every change.


  • Boxofficemojo

In the case of Reddit, they have since implemented a separate mobile site and recovered all their traffic and rankings.

Mobile Ranking Factors Study

Be aware of the correlation and causation paradigm. Don’t believe that high correlation is a high factor and vice versa. These factors compare mobile and desktop.

They measured the correlation of these factors:

  • Presence of unordered lists
  • Number of interactive elements
  • Number of backlinks
  • Number of internal links
  • File size
  • Site speed
  • Keyword in title
  • Word count
  • Keywords in body
  • Proof terms
  • Relevant terms
  • Redirects

To see what the correlation study found, view the results here.

Semantic content optimization is about consumer intent and not keywords. Don’t optimize a site with “seattle attractions” but rather “pikes place market” and “space needle”.

Virginia Nussey is the director of content marketing at MobileMonkey. Prior to joining this startup in 2018, Virginia was the operations and content manager at Bruce Clay Inc., having joined the company in 2008 as a writer and blogger.

See Virginia's author page for links to connect on social media.

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