Thanks to Nadir for pointing out the new Google Mobile Web Index. As I commented on Nadir’s
blog, this is a welcome change for those of us who prefer simple mobile web sites to scrolling through pages of navigation with Google’s transcoding software. However, since the most visible
results in the Google mobile search engine are still Web results mixed with mobile web results when Google thinks it’s appropriate, it’s still very possible for Google to frustrate your users, even
if you have a mobile site indexed and ranked in the mobile web index.
Let me use a real-life example to illustrate. Last week while taking my fiancee to the airport we wanted to check the status of her flight. Since I know that JetBlue has a mobile web site with
that capability, I tried to bring it up in my mobile browser. First I tried direct navigation, entering jetblue.mobi, and when that didn’t work, m.jetblue.com into my mobile browser. When that
didn’t work, I went to Google mobile and entered the query “jet blue”:
The mobile-specific site is actually on page two, but being a mobile searcher, I didn’t have the time or patience to try to find it. With this new mobile web index it will bring increased
visibility to those mobile web pages in theory. In reality, the mobile web index is still below the fold, and won’t be an obvious option for searchers who aren’t already aware of it.
In my case, since this was before the mobile UI change, I clicked on the first listing, hoping the site would at least be usable. Unfortunately, what I got was the transcoded version of the web
page, which included the flight status content, but wasn’t functional.
Being a mobile web guy, I know that JetBlue has a mobile web site, and I eventually found it by putting in
“jet blue mobile” into the search box. However, if I were JetBlue or any other company who had spent the time and resources to build a mobile web site, why would I leave it up to Google to decide
which one is shown?
Mobile developers, do yourselves a favor and help Google find your mobile web site by putting this tag in your computer-based page:
As we’ve seen with JetBlue, Google mobile is not infallible, and will sometimes return unusable results when mobile-specific,
functional results are available. Putting this tag in the head of your computer-based page will let the search engines know that there’s a more appropriate page for users of mobile search engines,
and will return your mobile site regardless of which site is ranked first in the engine. This provides for a better user experience, and ensures that your mobile web site will always see traffic
from mobile search engines, regardless of which site the mobile search algorithms choose to show.
Not to pick on JetBlue, as there are many companies with mobile web sites that don’t see traffic from mobile search engines
because of this issue. Nonetheless, I would hope that a company like JetBlue, who I think provides an exceptional user experience to their passengers in the air, would want to extend that service
to their passengers who are mobile searchers on the ground. If I were a consultant to JetBlue, I would recommend they take the following three steps soon to avoid frustrating other mobile
1) Permanently redirect m.jetblue.com and jetblue.mobi to the mobile.jetblue.com mobile web site.
2) Add this tag to the head section of JetBlue.com: http://mobile.jetblue.com/>
3) Read the Mobile SEO White Paper to increase the visibility of the brand in mobile search
Consider it free advice for letting me watch TV in the air.