Mobile Websites (Mobisites), Mobile Web Standards and Mobile SEM

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Created specifically for mobile browsing, .mobi sites (dot mobi) are the top level domain extension which was launched in 2006. The mobile Web is seen as independent, but not isolated from the traditional Web.

In this chapter, we will be looking elements which make a good mobile website from the perspective of a user or search engine, as well as the similarities and differences between mobile SEO and PPC, and traditional Search Engine Marketing.

Key Terms and Concepts

CHTML Stands for Compact Hypertext Markup Language, and is a version of HTML for mobile devices and other limited hardware.
Click-to-call A function which allows the mobile user to click on a link to make a telephone call.

When a user clicks on a PPC ad and goes on to complete an anticipated goal.

PPC Stands for Pay per Click. Also known as Paid Search, PPC ads are the sponsored results for products or services on SERPs. These ads are only paid for when they are clicked, not when they are displayed.
SEM Stands for Search Engine Marketing, comprised of PPC and/or SEO marketing tactics.
SEO Stands for Search Engine Optimisation. Also known as Natural Search, SEO is about building or tweaking a website to increase the search engine ranking, and ultimately the amount of traffic to it from search engines.
SERP Stands for Search Engine Results Page.
Spider A piece of search engine software which reads, reviews and indexes websites periodically for PPC and SEO search results.
W3C Stands for The World Wide Web Consortium. W3C have been the leaders in Web standards and best practices for a long time and have now expanded to include the mobile Web.
WML Stands for Wireless Markup Language and was created to be used for content creation on mobile devices.
XHTML  Stands for eXtensible HyperText Markup Language. XHMTL bridges the gap between HTML and XML.

The mobile Web is expected to be the next big thing in digital marketing, but has yet to find firm footing in terms of browsing, search and device standards as mobile technologies evolve daily.

Many websites and portals already have their own mobile-friendly versions, offering only the most important information or services in comparison to the traditional sites.

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Thinking .Mobi – Finding the Balance

When it comes to doing business on the mobile Web versus the traditional Web, there are a few things to consider. Mobile sites can be viewed on traditional browsers and many traditional sites (if simple enough or accessed via smartphone) can be viewed on mobile browsers. But if you have the time, money and skills to create both versions with corresponding re-directs, this is obviously the way to go!

Despite the current lack of formalised standards, there are some factors which are increasingly becoming accepted as best practices.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) are constantly evolving their Web guidelines, guidelines which have been pivotal in improving the integrity of the Internet over the years. They have now turned their attention towards better mobile website coding and structuring with a mobile Web initiative known as Mobile Web Best Practices 1.0.

W3C compliancy aside, there is little in the way of standards in place. Creating content (including images, text and beyond) that can be correctly formatted on most phones (or at least legible on phones where formatting is flawed) is still not entirely possible.

Task driven and short of time, mobile users have a specific objective and aren’t going to browse unnecessarily or even navigate too far to find what they’re looking for.

Mobile connectivity allows for geo-targeted browsing, making serving the user relevant content to their geographical location and also cutting down on unnecessary clicks, much easier.

When it comes to practical development, mobile handset emulators allow you to see how your work-in-progress would be formatted, depending on what model of phone or PDA you are emulating.

Make sure to put the information of primary importance in plain sight on the home page. This could include contact details, subscription forms or a strong sales call-to-action.

Beyond eCommerce, mobile platforms can be very handy for other functions such as portals for communication with employees, voting or competitions.

The Challenges of the Mobile Web

As mentioned, navigation on a mobile site also poses quite a challenge. As most handsets only have a basic alphanumeric keyboard and no mouse function, excess scrolling and typing makes it difficult for the user.

Screen sizes vary between phone models and the browser used can see the same site being rendered differently on identical phone models, making mobile Web development a tricky task.

Beyond navigational and formatting concerns, there are many different types of connections to the mobile Web and service providers around the world, adding even more uncertainty to the medium. Mobile Web designers always need to bear varying bandwidth speeds and costs in mind.
Some have super-quick connections with smartphones and full QWERTY keyboards, while most are browsing on the equivalent of an obsolete dial up connection. Thus, keeping mobile sites trim and streamlined is vital.

Generally Accepted Mobile Web Standards

  • If mobile users enter your site, make sure they are directed to the mobile version.
  • Ensure your markup is valid and error free with the W3C XML validator.
  • Avoid frames and tables, and keep you site size down to a minimum.
  • Keep URLS short and memorable.
  • Ensure that any images are automatically resized according to the phone model.
  • Ensure your images are in a compressed format (gif, jpg).
  • Do not clutter with excessive navigation or menus.
  • Do not use popups, and keep scrolling to one direction.
  • Submit your sitemap to Google.
  • Avoid using Flash.
  • Ensure that the fonts and colours used are supported.

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