Ruud Questions: Cindy Krum

by Ruud Hein June 12th, 2009 

The way I got to know Cindy Krum is different from most of my other interview targets. That is, I didn't really know about her before I did my interview with her.

No, the way we "met" is that I privately asked some people who would make a great interview target regarding mobile SEO. One name came back several times and that name was, unsurprising to you reading this interview now, Cindy Krum.

Needless to say Cindy and I follow each other on Twitter now.

To do mobile SEO, do you need a mobile site or can we just rely on whatever we already have out there on the web?

It really depends on your goals. If you plan on having a very interactive mobile experience on a variety of different phones, then it might be a good idea to put some money into a separate mobile website. If you just want to show up when people do searches for your brand or your product line, then it might not be as important to have a separate mobile website.
You
don't
need a
separate domain for mobile

In terms of SEO, the most important thing is that generally you don't need a separate domain. Creating a mobile site on a different domain, for instance a '.mobi' or an abbreviated domain name really duplicates your efforts, and splits your value. If you would like to have a separate mobile experience, I think the best thing you can do is to set it up on your existing domain. That way, you don't make your customers have to remember two different domains, and it is much more of a seamless experience.

You have two basic options if you would like to add a mobile element to your existing website. If your website is built in clean XHTML, it might be enough to create a separate mobile style sheet. This allows you to give all of your existing pages separate rendering instruction when they are displayed on a mobile phone, but they still display the way that they always have when they are displayed on a traditional computer.

The other option is to create separate mobile pages and put them in a mobile sub-domain or sub-directory. When you do that you can eliminate things that you think will not be useful or not render well on a mobile phone. When you do this, it is a good idea to maintain the look and feel of the traditional website, and keep the navigation options the same, so that people don't get lost.

If you take this option, it is important to use your robots.txt files to block the mobile bots from indexing the traditional web content, and block the traditional bot from indexing the mobile content. If you are putting the content in a sub-directory you can do this all with one robots.txt file, but if it is a sub-domain, it is easier to create two robots.txt files.

With any of these options, it is possible to use browser detection to determine when a visitor is viewing your website on a mobile phone, then redirect them to the mobile version of the page. You should also include buttons at the top of the page to allow people to switch between the mobile version of the site and the traditional version of the site. It is important to keep these buttons at the top of the page because if people are looking for those buttons, it usually means that the page isn't rendering correctly for them, so the last thing you want to make them do is scroll around and search the entire page for those buttons.

I get lots of questions about how to handle iPhones and other 'true web browsing' phones " should they be redirected to the mobile version, or treated as a traditional web browser. To make that decision, you should test to compare how the traditional and the mobile versions of your site look and work on the more capable, 'true web browsing' phones. In general, the mobile version of the site will still look better and work better on 'true web browsing' phones because they will eliminate the need to scroll left-to-right, which really is a pain!

Mobile browsers are all over the place at the moment; we have browser that make a mess of things, browsers that try to follow standards and show well coded sites as nice looking mobile ones, and we have great mobile browsers that basically take and display any site — simple small screen display, so to say.

What are your 3 to 5 rules of thumbs for doing a mobile site?

  • Code in XHTML: XHTML has ridged accessibility standards that make it ideal for mobile rendering.

    As you mentioned, there are a lot of different browsers that all render HTML slightly differently. When you add onto that the fact that the various phones could have different screen sizes, the ability to display pages in 'landscape' or 'portrait' mode, that makes it near impossible to anticipate what type of rendering conditions your site will have to work with.

    Adhering to the highest XHTML standards is the best way to ensure that your website will be able to adapt to the broadest spectrum of rendering conditions.

  • Use Separate External Style Sheets: As mentioned, you can use multiple style sheets to make your existing pages render well on mobile devices, or you can create separate mobile-only pages. In either case, it is important to use style sheets, because they streamline the code, ensuring that your page will load quickly, which is very important on a mobile phone.

    When you are writing your style sheets, it is important to use percents and relative positioning as much as possible. This will allow your site to stretch and shrink to fit whatever size screen it is being displayed on, and adjust between 'landscape' and ;portrait' mode on its own.

    Using external style sheets instead of embedded style sheets is important, because the external style sheet will only have to be downloaded once, the first time it is requested. After that, subsequent pages that use that same style sheet will simply refer to the one that has already been downloaded, rather than having to request it again. If you embed the style sheet it will have to be downloaded each time a new page is requested.

  • Test, Test, Test then Test Again: When you are developing you mobile strategy, take time to think about what types of phones you will be targeting. People on 'true web browsing' phones behave than people who are on less sophisticated phones. In some cases it will make sense to target all phones, but in other cases, it might be a good idea to just focus on the 'true web browsing' phones.

    Hopefully this is already well ingrained in everyone's psyches, but if you are really interested creating a good mobile experience, you will need to know what that experience is like on a variety of different phones. You can start by testing the site on device simulators and mobile browsers like Opera, that you can download directly to your computer. When you get to the fine-tuning stage, it is important to actually test the site on real mobile phones, with all of the default settings in place. It is no fair to tinker with your own device settings to improve how your site looks on your own phones, because your visitors won't be doing that.

Let's play devil's advocate… I'm funning around with my mobile browser, basically killing time. I'm not going to get serious work done here, no serious research to perform. Except for when I would do a location aware search for pizzeria or movie times, what's the benefit for any company to target mobile? As Cuba Gooding Jr. says; Show me the money!

The funny thing is that traditional internet marketing totally missed lots of local pizzerias and other types of restaurants, because the potential website ROI was low (or at least it was perceived to be low). The local restaurants and pizzerias didn't have much content to warrant the website other than menus and possibly coupons. Most people dont search for those types of establishments on their traditional computer.

Location aware mobile marketing changes that. It is ideal because it reaches people when they have a specific and immediate need. If you are searching for pizza on a location aware mobile phone, it is probably because you are hungry. If you are searching for movie times, it is because you would like to see a movie soon, and would like to find one close by you. Location based mobile results are more appropriate for filling immediate needs, and can turn a much higher ROI than traditional web results – People search exactly when they are ready to buy.

A third of US mobile subscribers recall having seen ads while browsing with their phones. Screen estate this small is *precious*. How does effective, non-backlash inducing mobile advertising look like, how does it work?

There is a delectate balance to creating mobile marketing ads that will be effective, and not intrusive. The most important way to avoid backlash is to a good job targeting your campaign. When you are only showing ads to people who are very likely to be interested in what you are selling there will be less backlash.

The other thing that is very important is to make sure that the website that the ad links to is very easy to use on a mobile phone. The backlash will be much more stringent from people who tried to make a purchase from your mobile site, and couldnt because they were inconvenienced and disappointed. Test your conversion process on a variety of different phones, and make sure that everything works, and is simple to use on the mobile phone. Otherwise, you are just wasting money sending traffic to a site that doesnt work.

Budget best spent: mobile app or mobile web site? Why?

It really depends on what you do and what your goals are. Most applications are being developed for the iPhone, and while that is the most active mobile demographic out there, it is certainly not the largest. Mobile applications are great if you would like to leverage the interactivity of the phone, and a variety of different functions, but mobile websites are nice if you only need simple interaction with your customers.

The Nationwide Auto Insurance application is great, because it uses so much of the iPhone functionality, saves their customers time, and makes their whole claims process more efficient: When someone gets in an accident, they pull up the application, and it immediately takes their location (via the GPS), and shows them numbers for local emergency and police stations, and the user can click directly through. Then it gives them forms to fill out, to ensure they get all the pertinent information from the other people in the accident; It even lets you use the camera in the phone to take pictures of the damage, and save them within the accident report documentation. After you submit the accident documentation, the application then uses the GPS to show you a list of approved local repair shops and tow trucks. In this instance, the application is probably much more valuable than a mobile website would have been.

We're loaded, overloaded even, with SEO tools, free and paid. What's out there that we should be aware of, should be using, for mobile SEO?

The simplest tool I have found in mobile is the device itself. So many companies really havent even tested their mobile website on a mobile phone yet. In terms of SEO, it is important to remember that a mobile search engine spider will be evaluating your website as if it was being displayed on a mobile phone; The first step is always to take a look, and see how your site looks on a variety of different mobile phones. Other than that, there are mobile browsers and user agent switchers that I use on my traditional computer when I am working on mobile projects.

We see tremendous growth in mobile web usage. From countries where it's the main way to access the net to countries where it's another way to access the net. Will non-computer access of the web overtake computer-based access? Why?

It is estimated that world-wide, by the end of 2011 there will be more full mobile HTML browsers (like the iPhone) than there are full traditional HTML browsers. I think that there will always be a place for traditional computers, but that they will continue to get smaller and smaller. I also believe strongly, that we will rely much less on traditional computers for small tasks and simple communication, and only rely on them for more complex and time-consuming activities.

Finally, what are your 3 favorite mobile applications?

I am a pretty simple girl! :) I use the Facebook application, TwitterFon and Pandora the most.

3 favorite mobile destinations?

Again, pretty simple here. I go to Google, YouTube and Hotels.com (I have been booking a lot of travel recently, and they have a great iPhone ready site that works much like an app.)

…and what are the 3 things you use your mobile web access the most for?

I think I am a pretty normal person for my demographic in terms of mobile web access. Other than doing research for my book, presentation and clients I use my phone(s) most for email, social networking and web search.

Ruud Hein

My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.

Ruud Hein

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2 Responses to “Ruud Questions: Cindy Krum”

  1. Jeff Quipp says:

    Great interview Cindy! You're always such a wealth of information about mobile!

  2. Cindy, great interview! Always a pleasure to see mobile SEO get attention outside of our niche community, and you know I've enjoyed hearing you speak on the subject for years. Of course, we don't always agree on the best ways to bring visibility to a brand from mobile users, and this is no exception. Totally disagree about the robots.txt exclusion for mobile content and not needing a mobile site to be optimized, as I explained in a recent post: http://www.brysonmeunier.com/less-is-not-more-in-mobile-seo-two-worst-practices-to-avoid/ . It's a common misconception, but it can actually make your brand unnecessarily less visible to mobile users, which is not really optimization. I would have also mentioned the Google Mobile Keyword Tool (http://www.brysonmeunier.com/finding-the-google-mobile-keyword-tool/) as a valuable tool to help with optimization. Otherwise, I appreciate your focus on goals, as there's not really a one-size-fits-all approach to mobile SEO, and enjoyed the interview.