I was surprised in June when Mashable ran a piece by Usablenet VP Jason Taylor on Mobile SEO. For one because Mashable doesn’t really talk about mobile SEO, so it was good to see a mainstream digital publication talk about something that is more of a niche within the niche of search marketing. But it was also surprising because in my experience sites that run on Usablenet’s platform are some of the worst optimized sites out there.

Take Amtrak.mobi, for example, which is a Usablenet site and one that a Usablenet representative mentioned to me in a call a few years ago as being a satisfied client. When I looked at the number of pages indexed in Google, the total is three; and two of those are error pages. For non-SEO people this means there aren’t many pages available to compete for relevant queries. What’s more, the title tags are branded, so Amtrak isn’t even attempting to let the engines know that their site is relevant for anything other than their brand. This is likely to result in primarily branded traffic, if they get any at all.

amtrak google


Sure enough, when I used SEMRush to check the overall health of Amtrak.mobi, I found that all of the organic traffic that they get is branded, and they’re not even ranking first for the navigational term [amtrak mobile].

Likewise, Staples’ mobile site, which Taylor highlighted as a Usablenet client that follows two of his three tips for better mobile SEO, is only ranking for four keywords that aren’t navigational in nature, and those are long-tail queries with a combined total of 27 searches per month.

usablenet mobile seo

By any definition these sites are not optimized for search traffic, let alone optimized for search traffic from mobile devices. It’s not that Taylor gives bad advice in the Mashable article (though it’s really too vague to be useful). It’s that there are some inherent flaws in the Usablenet platform that prevent content from being properly indexed and ranked.

There are some brands that use Usablenet’s platform in spite of its shortcomings. If you find yourself in this predicament, don’t assume that your content is search-friendly just because a Usablenet VP wrote an article on the subject on Mashable. Follow these three tips from a recent article I wrote for Search Marketing Standard to make your Usablenet content a little more search-friendly, though still not completely optimized for mobile search, I’m afraid.