The search kingpin Google has offered three recommendations when it comes to creating a mobile commerce website that they can easily index for consumers searching the mobile web. First and foremost is responsive web design.
Responsive web design uses a set of content to build websites that fit well on the screen size of the device requesting the site. It shifts blocks of content up and down or left and right to create a site that looks good on a PC, tablet, smartphone, or TV, and theoretically saves the retailer the hassle of building a separate site optimized for smartphones or tablets. However, it is a resource-intensive program and requires rare coding skills.
“The web is ever expanding and for Google that means adding all of this processing power to crawl and index the web,” said IProspect search-marketing specialist Katerina Potter. “When you have all these different devices and a separate site for each, that eats up a lot of processing power on the part of the search engine, so Google is thinking ahead and making sure people think about reusing resources in a singular way.”
Responsive web design offers a retailer one set of content on one URL usable on any device. “In the long term it’s a win-win for site publishers and search engines, but it’s not something that’s within reach of a lot of companies at the moment,” Potter said. “It’s very forward-thinking of Google. But the bottom line is responsive design saves Google resources, so they are trying to prioritize it.”
Google’s second suggestion is to build a mobile site to create pages that contain all of the HTML required to build a desktop, tablet, or smartphone version of the page in the code. This would allow all HTML to be served from the same singular URL, but would add layers of complexity to the sites construction.
“The search engine and web server will detect what type of device you are using and based on that device a different HTML will be served from the same URL,” said Potter. “This is an option that gives a little more control over what kind of content is being served on devices, and it’s still easy for users to share and link because content resides on the same URL. However, this is something Google cautions against. Communication between the server and the search engine sometimes can go astray. I don’t recommend this option. It is out there for folks to explore, but it’s not ideal because of the ways web sites and servers work at this point.”
The third option is to build a whole separate mobile commerce site entirely. Most retailers in m-commerce have already done this however, and Google says if a retailer chooses this route, it would need to use annotations in site code that indicate that a page is part of a mobile site and contains content that will be delivered to a mobile device.
“There are a lot of companies that have invested in mobile sites and they don’t want them to go away, so a way to mitigate that is to make sure that Google knows what it’s crawling is a mobile site,” said Potter.
“That’s where this canonical annotation comes in, to indicate that this mobile content is the same as this desktop content. This needs to be performed on every page of the mobile site. What Google is doing is using the desktop ranking for the mobile ranking as well. But when you get the mobile search results page, the search engine will redirect you to the mobile page.”
Potter is unclear on which path retailers should take and says that each website has its own unique needs. She says it really depends on the individual site design.
“If you have a simple site it’s not that difficult to implement responsive design,” she says. “But if your site was coded 10 years ago and it hasn’t been updated in 10 years, it might be more difficult to implement responsive web design. It depends on the structure and design, there are a lot of variables, and we make this decision on a case-by-case basis.”
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