In December 2011 Google announced that it now has a smartphone Googlebot-Mobile. Historically, Googlebot-Mobile has concerned itself only with mobile sites designed for feature phones, so this is a pretty significant development. Today’s column is going to discuss how to think about Googlebot, Googlebot-Mobile and your mobile web site.
As noted in this recent mobile SEO podcast with Cindy Krum one of the first decisions you need to make is what types of devices you’re targeting. If you don’t have many feature phone users who are trying to access your site, you may not need to support them, and you can focus your mobile phone site on smartphone devices.
This impacts how you set up your site. Mobile sites that don’t support feature phones should use a same URL strategy – i.e. one where the mobile content renders on the exact same URL as the desktop content, and smartphone users are served the mobile version of the site using user agent detection (we call this the “Same URL” strategy). The reason you would prefer this is that your mobile site will then inherit all the SEO benefits of your desktop site (i.e. the link profile and other measures of content value and importance).
If you do support feature phones the problem becomes more complex. The technical challenges in supporting a wide array of form factors / screen sizes might make it easier from a technology standpoint to build your mobile site using a m.yourdomain.com approach. You lose the SEO goodness of the desktop site, but you can still send users to it using user agent detection.
Once you have decided on an approach, you also need to set up your user agent detection. This is the process by which you recognize incoming user agents. When you see an incoming user agent that is mobile device specific, send them to the mobile version of your site. Make sure that your user agent detection includes Googlebot-Mobile. Google just introduced a new version specific to mobile sites designed for smartphones. The current user agent strings used by Googlebot-Mobile are: