Should You Offer a Mobile Version of your Website?

As iPhone’s, Blackberries, Palm Pre’s and other smart phones become more widespread should site owners and publishers start to offer mobile versions, and from an SEO perspective what should you be concerned about?

Now that smart phones are common, displays are getting larger, and mobile browsers are able to handle more complex displays, are mobile bare bones text version even needed … for many sites the answer remains yes. First let’s look at the two extremes, if you have a rich media site such as in most cases mobile browsers aren’t going to have the technical ability to display that complex or that much information. If that’s the case then you absolutely need a mobile version. This is a strategy that Disney has embraced as you can see from the web based and mobile screen shots below.



At the other end of the spectrum are sites which are have no rich media, or complex displays, sites such as which are primarily text based. For sites like this there’s no need to offer a separate mobile version, as the sites render nearly identical on on both platforms

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However as is usually the case most sites, aren’t at either extremes, they lie somewhere in the middle, and the answer as to whether they should offer a separate mobile version is, it depends. Many business owners will make this decision based on whether they do business on;line or offline. However if you are a doctor, dentist, or hairdresser your customers may still look for you on their mobile phone, to get an address or phone number in case they need directions, to cancel, an appointment, let you know they are running late, or schedule a new appointment.

Once you’ve established if you need a mobile website the challenge becomes how you do it, many websites offer a mobile version under a subdomain such as, however a more sophisticated implementation uses user agents, and serves out the content conditionally. This approach is not without risks, if you serve content conditionally based on user agent you don’t want to cross the line into black hat territory and cloaking. You want to offer the same content to users as you do to search engine spiders. This is a topic Matt Cutts recently discussed in a Webmaster Central Video:

The one bit of good news is more and more CMS website systems are starting to offer mobile modules and plugins, for example wordpress users can take advantage of this plugin, Joomla offers several choices, as does Drupal .

Written by
Michael Gray
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