Links Matter More on the Mobile Web
It’s true that there’s currently very little cross-linking on the mobile Web. This is often cited by those who argue that linking is relatively unimportant in mobile SEO. However, it
seems to me just the opposite conclusion should be reached from the understanding of this fact: that a user would defy convention and link to a mobile site from a mobile site is a stronger signal of
quality than a link from a desktop web site. It’s clear from the mobile search engine results pages (SERPs) that desktop link popularity is a crucial ranking factor in mobile search as well.
For long-term success in mobile search, a webmaster should pay attention to the overall link popularity of the site, including links from mobile sites.
Following the full explanation below are the top twenty general links I think mobile webmasters should be including in their link building strategy, and (for my friends in the Mobile SEO forum at Mobility.mobi) a link to more than 125 mobile directories to help increase a site’s general mobile link popularity.
Why Links Matter in Mobile
A short primer on the value of links for those who are just joining us: in desktop SEO, a link serves to both index and rank a web site. Google changed the SEO game by counting links from webmasters
as votes for the content of the site that’s being linked to. Prior to that the only signals that most search engines paid attention to were on-page factors, such as keywords and meta data
located on the html page. When entrepreneurial webmasters discovered the new power of the hyperlink, directories, free for all link farms, and paid links grew as popular methods of manipulating
Google’s link-based PageRank algorithm. These methods were ultimately only successful in producing link popularity in the short-term, as Google downgraded link popularity or manually removed
offending sites per their webmaster guidelines on link schemes. Link popularity remains an important signal in determining relevance, but the focus should be on quality rather than quantity.
Mobile, in some sense, is a different world than desktop SEO, and linking is no exception. Not only are links less prevalent on the mobile Web, but there are a number of off-page signals in mobile
that don’t have a desktop equivalent, such as QR codes or mobile barcodes, Blackberry/iPhone bookmarks and mobile visual images. A mobile search engine that can take all of these into account,
along with mobile social media signals, will probably produce the most relevant results.
As marketers, however, it’s important that we distinguish between the signals of the hypothetical future and those of the clear present. A quick survey of SERPs for the top five AT&T
non-navigational mobile queries (sports, weather, images, ringtones, and horoscope) in Google Mobile and Yahoo! Mobile shows several sites that have the lowest possible score on the ready.mobi mobile
validator, but have massive link popularity to their desktop domain. There are no pages that appear for any of these listings that don’t have authoritative links either from mobile or desktop
sites. Links from desktop or mobile sites are going to be beneficial for indexing mobile sites as they would desktop sites, but the SERPS suggest overall link popularity is also a factor in ranking
these mobile sites.
Why Mobile Links Will Matter More
Saying links don’t matter for the mobile Web ignores the ranking factor of desktop link popularity, which is clearly a factor in competitive mobile SERPs, but it doesn’t explain why I
think links will matter more for the mobile Web than the desktop Web. As I see it, links from mobile sites differ from desktop links in two major ways: 1) Mobile web sites are by nature designed for
a smaller screen, so mobile webmasters have less space to link and less anchor text to link with, and 2) Mobile web sites are designed for an optimal mobile user experience and tend to link out to
sites that also provide this experience. A mobile search engine looking for strong off-page signals that indicate quality content optimized for mobile users need not look any further than links from
mobile sites. This isn’t the only factor for Google and Yahoo! right now, as desktop link popularity often trumps what we might consider an optimal mobile user experience. Nonetheless, as the
mobile Web grows, and search engines continue to improve their results so as to provide the best mobile user experience, I would expect mobile-specific links to play a larger part in making that
happen. Webmasters and SEOs looking to optimize for mobile would do well to consider not just overall link popularity, but mobile-specific link popularity as well.
With that in mind, here are twenty human-edited global authoritative links mobile webmasters should be paying attention to today (in no particular order):
6. Apple – Web apps – All Categories Mobile widget home page at Apple.
7. Sprint OpenWeb Submit mobile-friendly sites for inclusion in Sprint.
8. The ZON – Verizon – Alliance Registration Verizon’s form for initiating partnership. Can be used to submit content to Verizon for their mobile directory.
9. Product Development Contact Information Form for submitting partnership request to T-mobile, for inclusion in t-zones directory.
11. Register your site for search – Bango.com Bango whitelists site with operators and adds it to WAP.com for discovery.
12. Small Sites
14. HP iPAQ Mobile
15. Tappity: Mobile Homepage Submit mobile links.
18. Open Directory – Computers: Mobile Computing: Wireless Data: WAP DMOZ doesn’t really have a mobile mirror, but mobile portals, search engines and services can be submitted here.
19. Wapreview mobile Not a directory in the traditional sense of the word, but a good link to get. Mobile site reviews
20. BOTW Directory – Computers > Mobile Computing > Wireless Data > WAP Best of the Web directory’s category for mobile.
And, as promised, here is a list of more than 125 mobile directories and portals for my friends at Mobility.mobi. Remember to follow the rules, stress quality over quantity, and happy mobile link building!