Say No to Bango for Mobile SEO

When I saw Advertising Age Digital’s article this morning entitled “Getting Your Content from the Web to Mobile Phones” I was momentarily excited for the few of us in this industry who focus on just that: getting digital content to mobile users. As we argued in the Mobile SEO White Paper, optimizing for mobile devices also includes creating content for mobile users specifically rather than simply pushing your web content into the digital realm, as mobile users are going to have different needs than desktop users, and will require content that is optimized for those mobile-specific searches; but whatever. This is a start. If a publication like Advertising Age wants to increase visibility to the mobile marketing space, this can only be positive for those of us who want to get our content or our client’s content in front of the rapidly expanding group of mobile users. The problem is when the method of increasing visibility of that content not only doesn’t increase visibility in the mobile search engines, but may in fact actually hurt it.

To summarize the AdAge article, the Bango button is a “way for content publishers, social networks, advertisers, bloggers and anyone else with content online to link from the web to the mobile phone”. According to the article, Bango buttons are useful because they provide an easy way for publishers to promote digital content to mobile users. However, it’s unclear to me how this process is an improvement over dotmobi or m.domain.com direct entry. In fact, from an SEO standpoint, wap.com URLs are less memorable, filled with special characters that may be difficult to crawl, and pass no link popularity. A better solution for Mobile SEO, then, would be to simply make your mobile URL memorable and your site crawlable.

When you sign up for a Bango button, you can currently either enter a photograph or a mobile web site. If you enter a web site that’s not already developed for mobile phones, red text appears telling you that your site may not appear correctly in every browser.

In this sense, it’s somewhat misleading for AdAge to position this as a less complex alternative to the status quo, as an advertiser still needs to have web content that’s accessible to mobile users, and making this content accessible is more difficult than pushing a button. When a user pushes the button, a temporary subdomain on Wap.com appears, which the user then has to enter into their mobile browser.

What? This is “is changing the way consumers get their information and media companies and advertisers present their messages”? Maybe so, but only in the sense that media companies and advertisers will be actively promoting wap.com instead of their own sites, and consumers will be getting their information after five clicks on Wap.com instead of one click to the site. Furthermore, if anyone tries to link to the Wap.com link, it will not pass link popularity, as both the Bango button link and the wap.com subdomain are both temporarily redirected to the advertiser’s site. I don’t see how this is an improvement from a usability standpoint, but from an SEO standpoint it’s clearly inferior. If you want to make mobile content available to users easily, and you don’t have the resources to build your mobile site in-house, make your web site accessible to mobile users, and make your content available to mobile users, you’re much better off using a mobilizer like Winksite or the Dev.mobi tool, as these will make your content accessible to mobile users and search engines without having to be a mobile search expert. As we explain in the Mobile SEO white paper, there are disadvantages to this method as well, but from an SEO standpoint they are imminently superior to the URL-challenged, uncrawlable, link-popularity hog that is the Bango button.

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