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4 Ways Mobile Should Change Your SEO Strategy

Tiny keyboards, cramped screens, voice-activated search -- it's all going to change how people find your business online. Start preparing now.

If projections are accurate, in less than three years there are likely to be more mobile Internet users than desktop users. A number of people responding to my post on my big, fat social media experiment feel the same way.

The shift will dramatically impact how people search—and how potential customers find you:

Mobile search behaviors are different. No matter how nimble their thumbs, most people type faster on a traditional keyboard. Most people also automatically adopt a form of shorthand when using mobile devices and are more likely to rely on autocomplete suggestions. As a result your current keyword strategy could steadily become less effective. Say my kitchen sink is clogged; on a desktop I may search “how to unclog a kitchen sink,” but mobile search is more likely to be “clogged sink” or “unclog drain.” Shorter keywords and different phrasings will become more prevalent, long-tail keyword strings less effective.

Voice search will be different, too. Granted, currently Siri is a less than effective search assistant. But Siri and similar applications to follow will get better. Voice-generated searches are likely to be performed conversationally rather than with “search” language; instead of channeling my inner Yoda and typing “’drive shaft ‘57 Chevy refurbished,” I’m much likely to say, “Where can I find a refurbished drive shaft for a ’57 Chevy?” Voice search, like mobile search in general, will change how businesses identify and target keywords.

Mobile users mostly want it now... Mobile search skews heavily towards immediate needs: Finding a store, booking travel, finding products, and placing orders... the average mobile user is unlikely to engage in heavy research. If your current strategy is to provide rich, in-depth content that gradually leads a visitor towards a purchase, that approach won’t work for an increasing number of searchers. Mobile visitors tend to have more immediate needs than desktop users, so you’ll need to address those needs.

...and they want it short and sweet. Many businesses provide comprehensive how-to information designed to help customers but also to drive SEO results. (A friend converts a significant percentage of visitors who initially arrive to his website seeking information but soon decide they prefer to pay for a solution.) Mobile users won’t scan a page with multiple resources, tons of links, several videos... what feels “rich” on a desktop feels overwhelming on a mobile device. Providing how-to information will still be important, but the way you deliver that information will need to change.

So what should you do in the short-term?

Start experimenting now. Create a few new pages that feature different keywords than you currently target. Create a few “bite size” pages designed for mobile users. Try different combinations of photos and videos on select pages. Analyze your results and determine what works well for a small but growing slice of your Web audience.

Most of all, assume what works today will not work tomorrow—so start testing and adapting today.

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Last updated: Dec 5, 2011

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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