Guide To Technical Mobile & Tablet SEO

Google’s recent announcement that the mobile user experience is a factor in how Google ranks results for smartphone searchers.

Google’s Maile Ohye spoke about SEO best practices for technical implementation of mobile sites based on how Google crawls, indexed, and ranks mobile content and presents it to searchers on mobile devices.

Responsive Design, Dynamic Content, or Mobile URLs?

If you’re designing the mobile experience from scratch, this question is the first place to start. If you already have a mobile experience set up, then you can just jump to the section that applies to your site.

Building Smartphone-Optimized Websites Details of recommendations

Responsive web design

Responsive web design is a setup where the server always sends the same HTML code to all devices and CSS is used to alter the rendering of the page on the device using media queries. Our algorithms should automatically detect this setup if all Googlebot user agents (both Googlebot and Googlebot-Mobile) are allowed to crawl the page assets (CSS, javascript, and images).

Dynamically serving different HTML on the same URL

Dynamic serving is a setup where the server responds with different HTML (and CSS) on the same URL depending on the user agent requesting the page. As it is not immediately apparent in this setup that the site alters the HTML for mobile user agents (the mobile content is “hidden”), we recommend that the server send a hint to request that Googlebot-Mobile should crawl the page, too, and thus discover the mobile content. This hint is implemented using the Vary HTTP header.

Separate mobile URLs

In this configuration, each desktop URL has an equivalent different URL serving mobile-optimized content. A common setup would be pages on serving desktop users having corresponding pages serving mobile users. Google does not favor any particular URL format as long as they are all accessible to both Googlebot and Googlebot-Mobile.

Overview of Google’s recommendations

  1. Google recommends webmasters follow the industry best practice of using responsive web design, namely serving the same HTML for all devices and using only CSS media queries to decide the rendering on each device.
  2. If responsive design is not the best option to serve your users, Google supports having your content being served using different HTML. The different HTML can be on the same URL or on different URLs, and Googlebot can handle both setups appropriately if you follow our recommendations.

Guildelines for tablets

When thinking about how to configure your website for mobile users, it’s common to think about visitors using tablet devices to access your site. Although we do not have specific recommendations for building search engine friendly tablet-optimized websites, there are some tips for building websites that serve desktop, smartphone and tablet users.

Responsive web design

As for smartphone-optimized sites, our recommendation is to use responsive web design. This means that your website serves the same HTML code to all devices along with different CSS style rules to optimize the site’s interface on desktops, smartphones, and tablets.

If your website uses responsive web design, test it on a variety of tablets to make sure it renders correctly as, just like for smartphones, there are a variety of tablet sizes and screen resolutions.

Device-specific content

A website can return different pages (different HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc) for different devices. These pages can be served on the same URL (a configuration called dynamic serving) or on separate dedicated URLs. Learn more about correctly detecting devices and user-agents.

If your website has different pages to serve desktop and smartphone users and does not have tablet-specific pages, in our experience tablet users usually expect to see your desktop site rather than the site’s smartphone pages.


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