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94pc of companies not getting mobile SEO right: report

While a few companies such as Disney, GE and JPMorgan are doing a good job of optimizing content for mobile searches, 94 percent of the Fortune 100 risk having their rankings downgraded once Google implements new mobile SEO guidelines, according to a report from Pure Oxygen Labs.

Google said recently that it will begin demoting sites in mobile search results if they are not mobile-friendly or are misconfigured. Pure Oxygen Labs evaluated the top 100 Fortune 500 companies in light of Google's new requirements and found that many are not prepared.

?The biggest news here is that most of the Fortune 100, 94 percent according to our research, are not prepared for Google to make these changes to their algorithm,? said Brian Klais, founder and CEO of Pure Oxygen Labs, Madison, WI.

?Either their home page will start showing up lower in the rankings for brand queries,? he said. ?Or in some cases, their deeper pages that currently might drive long-tail search traffic will start being ranked lower.

?This is a way for Google to put brands on notice that they you really do need to take mobile search seriously.?

Preparing for the holidays
One of the recommendations from Google is that companies implement responsive design techniques to adapt how Web pages are rendered in iPhone, Android and BlackBerry devices. However, only 11 percent of companies currently target smartphone users via responsive design, according to the report.

It is not clear yet how strict Google will be in terms of compliance or when it will implement changes to how sites are ranked in mobile searches.

Mr. Klais expects the changes will be implemented this fall.

?What is driving the change for Google is that they want to make sure that given that we are expecting a record level of mobile search activity this holiday season - the mobile searcher experience is a good one,? Mr. Klais said.

Meta signals
While one-third of companies serve some mobile content, only 6 percent are currently fully compliant with Google's requirements.

For example, when a mobile searches for GM, the car company?s mobile site currently ranks at the top, according to Pure Oxygen. However, at the time that the report was written, when the Chevrolet Division link is clicked on from a smartphone, the user is sees a 404 error page.

Not only does this result in a negative experience for the user, but Google?s new rules will put GM at risk for a downgrade in mobile rankings.

Any demotion in mobile search results could have a significant impact on retailers as the holiday season approaches and the volume of searches being conducted on mobile devices continues to grow. Even dropping a few positions on the first page of results could result in significant traffic loss since so few organic listings are visible on a smartphone screen before the user has to scroll down the page.

Google released its guidelines in recognition of the significant growth in mobile search and with the goal of improving the mobile search experience for users.

The problems with mobile search identified by Google extend beyond simply not having a mobile optimized site. Google will be rewarding Web masters who provide a strong smartphone search experience and do not deliver error pages, long load times or irrelevant redirects.

?Just because you might have a mobile site or some responsive design style sheets, doesn?t mean that you are actually safe - you may still have some level of ranking risk,? Mr. Klais said.

?Even the brands that are doing the best job at having deep desktop pages that are indexed in Google connecting to deep mobile pages, even they have a need to add the appropriate meta tags for Google to understand that those are mobile pages that are properly connected,? he said.

?What retailers need to be doing is making sure that their deep desktop pages are connected to their deep mobile pages using the appropriate mobile meta signals.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York