Mobile Subdomains & Switchboard Tags

By Amanda Sides | Jul 18, 2012
More Articles by Amanda


With the constant rise in mobile usage, everyone is scrambling these days to work up a mobile version of their website. While it seems like a wonderful idea, some companies are having a hard time getting them up and running.  There are so many options in how to go about creating your mobile site, and when you finally make a decision, you run into the issue of how to optimize it. Yes people can view a nice mobile-friendly version of your site, but can they find it through search? How is Google treating it? Is it negatively affecting your main site? What do you do?

As discussed at SMX Advanced Seattle earlier this summer, there are a few ways of approaching mobile site creation and SEO.

Responsive Web Design

For this option, you would end up with the same HTML on the same URL as your main site, while the content will be automatically formatted and displayed to better suit a mobile device. This is actually what Google recommends when developing a mobile version of your site. Check out more information on how responsive web design works and more on how to optimize it in a post from Sherwood Stranieri.

Dynamic Serving:

For this option, you would end up with entirely different HTML than your main site, using the same URL. The mobile-friendly content will dynamically be displayed if visited on a mobile phone.

M.Site.com – Separate Mobile Site

For this option, you would end up with entirely different HTML than your main site, as well as a separate URL. Many companies who use this version end up with a mobile subdomain. For instance, site.com becomes m.site.com for the mobile version.

As Pierre Far discussed at SMX Advanced in June, there is a special tag you can use to alert Google to the fact that another version of your site exists. This tagging system will help indexing and link equality concerns, allowing Google to treat the sites as one.

Switchboard Tagging

Much like canonical tagging, “switchboard tagging” is used to alert Google of another page similar to the one the tag is located on, and enable Google to index and rank them appropriately, instead of as separate sites, potentially having a negative effect on both site’s rankings. This specific tag is “bidirectional” and should be used on both the desktop version as well as the mobile version.

So what does this tagging system look like? (Examples from Google Developers)

You would place a tag similar to this one on the desktop version of your site:

<link rel=”alternate” media=”only screen and (max-width: 640px)” href=”http://m.example.com/page-1″ >

While you’d place a tag like this one on the mobile version:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.example.com/page-1″ >

In order for this to work you must implement both tags. If you already have an m. version of your site, you’ll definitely want to consider taking advantage of these switchboard tags. It is a simple solution and quick edit to help both versions of your site in terms of indexing and rankings. Has anyone tried this out and seen any success? Leave a comment below or find me on Twitter @amandadchaney.

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