How to Optimize Websites for Mobile Devices

Transitioning a website from an m-dot subdomain to a responsive design is a must. Here is what you need to be aware of.

Video Transcription

Dave: So, we have a site we’re redoing the website for, and they currently have a desktop version and a mobile version. So, the mobile version is on a subdomain m something, right? So, I don’t have access yet to their analytics or their Search Console, none of that stuff. I know they’ve got analytics. I don’t even know if they have a Search Console set up. I know that somebody has done ads in the past, but we’re trying to get them to do SEO with us. We will at some level, but I’m not sure yet. But what are the main considerations that I’ve got to make sure that I do? Is it simply just taking the m-dot and then forwarding everything? Should I do it in Search Console?

David: Yeah. So, m-dot is such an ancient, at this point, strategy. Yeah, we’ve run into this before. The first thing I would do is make sure you have domain registrar-level access to Search Console, which will account for all the subdomains, including m-dot. I would look in Search Console for mobile friendliness. I would also take a check just to make sure that… Put the desktop site in the mobile responsiveness of your main browser of choice, Chrome, or I use Firefox, but just see what it looks like because that’ll give you an indication of when the m-dot redirect, however that is set up, fails. That is exactly the problem with m-dot: some sort of technology has to detect the user interface. And in this case, since Google Index is on a mobile-first perspective, it’s got to send a mobile bot to the mobile site. And I hate screwing with sending the bot to the proper site. Google should be able to detect that. So, you just have to be really careful because that could be perceived as cloaking if it’s done wrong. So whatever technology is used to determine that, and again, it’s an old technology, so it might not be catching the latest browsers, might not be catching all the browsers, but the Search Console data is going to show you what’s up as long as you’ve done it by the domain level. So, it accounts for all the subdomains in one account. If you, for instance, use the Yoast plugin to verify Search Console, it’s only going to give you the canonical version of the desktop for data for Search Console. So, it might look like things are going fine, but they’re not. You have an advantage as a developer in making a strong case to say you really just need to convert this into responsive.

Dave: We are doing that already. They want to do that.

David: Okay, well then, depending on how long that takes, rather than doing a lot of work to make sure Google is indexing the m-dot equally, what you could be doing is the prep work.

Dave: Yeah. Any SEO that we do is going to be on the new site.

David: Okay. Yeah, right. But there’s probably going to be some prep work you’re going to want to do. For instance, you’re going to want to make a plan to redirect m-dot domains to the equivalent page on the main site eventually because you want to make sure that, in some weird instance, no one built a link to the m-dot version of a page, which can happen. And so that redirect will help preserve the link value.

Tricia: 301 redirect is what we’re talking about permanent, right?

David: Yes. Thank you for that clarity. Always 301. And you should be able to do some sort of wildcard in the .htaccess. If you have .htaccess or if you’re original nginx, it worked a little differently, but especially if you’re already going to be pivoting to a responsive website, I would just do what you’re doing and focus on the main site, creating your sitemap on that, your site blueprint.

Dave: Right.

David: Your keyword research and your site blueprint, and just double down on that. And then knowing that what the data says in Search Console is going to help you inform the client. Boy, we’re really glad we did this, or look at how this works. Look at how Google is interpreting your site. You’re getting all these mobile usability errors because whatever system is using to send this isn’t sending the mobile bot or is not handling our browsers or whatever. Now, if they had to keep the mobile m-dot, then I’d actually have to look it up. It’s been such a long time since I’ve done it. But there’s something you have to do with canonical tags on the m-dot site to say, only index this if it’s a mobile version. So, thankfully, if they’re already going to a responsive site, then you don’t have to mess with digging that out of the archives kind of thing.

Dave: Okay.

David: But wow. Yeah, I’m really glad to hear that they’re ready to consider a responsive design.

Dave: Yeah.

David: Welcome to the 21st century.

Dave: Yeah. And we’ve got the design. I’m still working on getting them to sign up for the SEO because I’m telling them now is the time. They will do something whether or not it’s our “done with you” or “done for you.” That kind of a thing.

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