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No need to optimize mobile website anymore?

     
10:46 pm on Sep 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

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If I have a mobile website on a separate URL, Google recommends to implement a canonical tag on the mobile page and a alternate media tag on the desktop version. Right?

It also requires that the mobile URL is accessible for all Googlebots. It doesn´t state it should be able to actually crawl it.

The site will rank on the merit of the desktop site with Google offering the mobile URL in the SERPS. Title and description are clearly from the desktop site.

No need to optimize the mobile site anymore? What about title, description, even bother to provide crawlable content (as long as the URL is accessible)? Specific mobile/local keywords will be lost if they only occur on the mobile version of the page?

Curious to hear your opinions & experiences!
9:13 pm on Sept 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

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It also requires that the mobile URL is accessible for all Googlebots. It doesn´t state it should be able to actually crawl it.

I must not understand this. It seems to me that googlebot would need to crawl the mobile page. Otherwise how would it know what's on it. Or does it just assume that it has the same content as the desktop page? I'm confused.
11:27 pm on Sept 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Well aristotle, that's precicely what I would like to establish: does Google need to be able to crawl the content, or not? We're currently involved in a mobile website being built that's probably too complicated for Googlebot and it's definitely not optimized for ranking. So I'm trying to predict how it will rank: reasonably well, purely based on the desktop contnet (via the canonical)? Or lower, based on the actual mobile site content? This is not a trivial question at all.
3:11 am on Sept 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

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The site will rank on the merit of the desktop site with Google offering the mobile URL in the SERPS. Title and description are clearly from the desktop site.


No, the mobile page is crawled, indexed, and ranked on its own merits for mobile searches. (The canonical and alternative tags tell Google which page is desktop and which is mobile, and they prevent any confusion about duplicate content.)
9:12 am on Sept 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

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That's what I thought as well EditorialGuy, but so far I can't find any proof that it must be crawlable. Mobile sites with canonical/alternate tags seem to rank for both their mobile and desktop content and rank just as fine as the desktop versions for searches only associated with their desktop content (in searches for mobile phones).

Not that I think they should, but they do.
12:38 pm on Sept 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

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EditorialGuy wrote:
the mobile page is crawled, indexed, and ranked on its own merits for mobile searches

That can't be right, as can be easily realized after deeper reflection on the matter. For example:

If the desktop site has some good backlinks, and gets a rankings boost from them, then the mobile site should also get the same rankings boost, or at least most of it, even though it doesn't have those backlinks itself. Similarly, if the desktop site gets a Google penalty, then that penalty should also be applied to the mobile site.

So the rankings of the mobile site are determined by more than just its "own merits".
1:28 pm on Sept 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

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No, the mobile page is crawled, indexed, and ranked on its own merits for mobile searches


Incorrect.

My mobile sites contain next to no content. My built-for-desktop sites are full multimedia. They occupy the same positions in the SERPs whether accessed by desktop, laptop, tablet or phone.
1:31 pm on Sept 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I'm merely referring to what Google and Matt Cutts have said. (Don't believe me? Do a Google search.)
2:49 pm on Sept 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Thanks superclowm2. Can Googlebot 'read' the mobile site?

I'm not looking for who said what, but for evidence of what actually happens.

So far I've found for a site with 2 completely different desktop/mobile sites, using canonical/alternate tags:

search for 'desktop text' in desktop search:
1 result, desktop site indexed with desktop URL

search for 'mobile text' in desktop search:
2 results: mobile site with mobile URL, then desktop site with desktop URL

search for 'mobile text' in mobile search:
1 result: mobile site with mobile URL

search for 'desktop text' in mobile search:
1 result, desktop site with mobile URL

I also found a site where the mobile site mentioned in the alternate tag didn't exist: no mobile results.

I'm still trying to find what happens if the mobile version actually exists, but is 'uncrawlable' (too complicated, image content or something like that).
11:38 pm on Sept 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Am I missing something here?

Build a site in html5 responsive and all your questions will disappear ... well, in my experience that is:-))

However if you have gazillions of generic pages that may need another solution to your problem, then I don't even want to know about it.

I'll repeat...am I missing something here?
12:51 am on Oct 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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It also requires that the mobile URL is accessible for all Googlebots. It doesn´t state it should be able to actually crawl it.


I am assuming that you are referring to the following from the Google developer site where they discuss "Building Smartphone-Optimized Websites"... specifically, in the "Separate Mobile URLs" section:

In this configuration, each desktop URL has an equivalent different URL serving mobile-optimized content. A common setup would be pages on www.example.com serving desktop users having corresponding m.example.com pages serving mobile users. Google does not favor any particular URL format as long as they are all accessible for all Googlebots.

Annotations for desktop and mobile URLs

To help our algorithms understand this configuration on your site, we recommend using the following annotations:
1.On the desktop page, add a special link rel="alternate" tag pointing to the corresponding mobile URL. This helps Googlebot discover the location of your site's mobile pages.
2.On the mobile page, add a link rel="canonical" tag pointing to the corresponding desktop URL.


In this context, when Google says "accessible for all Googlebots" they actually mean that you should NOT prevent them from crawling the URLs by using robots.txt. In other words, they are saying the URLs need to be crawlable by ALL Googlebots.

I'm guessing they are trying to make this clear because some people might mistakenly "think" that they should block Googlebot-mobile, for instance, from crawling the desktop site using robots.txt... and that they should block Googlebot from crawling the mobile site using robots.txt.

However, because each page at a mobile URL should have a canonical link element pointing to the corresponding desktop site URL, Googlebot-mobile will need to be able to access the corresponding desktop URL referenced in the canonical link element of the mobile page. It would make no sense to Googlebot-mobile for your mobile page to have reference a desktop URL in the mobile page's canonical link element if Googlebot-mobile cannot crawl that desktop URL.

The reverse is true as well. Because each desktop pages should have an alternate link element pointing to the corresponding mobile URL, the desktop crawler (Googlebot) needs to be able to crawl the mobile site in order to resolve the alternate link element.
1:15 am on Oct 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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What RedBar said.
2:06 am on Oct 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Build a site in html5 responsive and all your questions will disappear ... well, in my experience that is:-))


That isn't always the best solution, though.

Simple example: A long-text article.

On a smartphone, it will be most readable when the text is broken into short paragraphs.

On a desktop or laptop display, that broken-up text will start to look like verses from the King James Bible (or like this post).
7:55 am on Oct 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@hitprof: yes, they are all crawlable. When I do a search with a mobile phone the description of the desktop page is displayed but the link is to the mobile page.

@Redbar: yes I've done this for some sites. It's horses for courses though. Mobile visitors to other sites are just looking to buy a product, period. For these sites I present them with a short bulletpoint list, a buy button and a link to a 'more information' page. Virtually no-one visits these 'more information' pages though. They have already found what they were looking for.

@Editorial Guy: yes, if Google say so it must be true, mustn't it. Seriously though I think the landscape is still evolving for them. What they say - and believe - now may be different tomorrow.
11:24 pm on Oct 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@RedBar: what you're missing is a client and their web developer :)
I'm not a great fan of responsive sites by the way but I don't think that's the main problem here. The problem is a mobile site that behaves more like an app. I'm trying to predict how it's going to behave in Google.

@ZydoSEO: Yep, that's the guideline. Googlebot will not be blocked so in that respect we follow the guidelines. The pages will eventually have the required alternate/canonical tags. But the million dollar question is: do they need to be optimised? Does the content even need to be crawlable/readable (apart from the head section)?

It's perfectly clear to me that the mobile content can rank for its own content beside the desktop content, but I'm trying to figure out if it will also rank based on the desktop content alone. It might, according to superclown2's claim (mobile site barely containing content).

@superclown2: Thanks! I've seen that in the SERPS many times. I'm wondering how long this will last. As you say: the landscape is still evolving!
12:03 am on Oct 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Personally I try not to make Google have to think.