Optimizing for mobile search

comScore Networks, Inc. estimates that 10 million Americans surf from cell phones or personal digital assistants (PDAs). The research firm has found that of the 19.1 million users owning a PDA, 5 million access the Internet with those devices, and among the 67.2 million online users that own a cell phone, 5.8 million access the Internet with those devices.

Unfortunately, as soon as you start browsing the web from your phone you will find most web sites are not very “phone friendly.” Images load slow, navigation menus get distorted, and content is hard to read causing people get frusterated and leave your site before it even loads.

Mobile handsets use WAP technology to browse the Internet. Because of limited screen size, many WAP browsers strip out CSS, and show text in a method similar to how a search engine spider renders a site. Websites must therefore be designed such that the layout without images looks professional and is easy to use. You want to ensure that your customers can view your website correctly on their wireless device.

Most wireless devices provide Internet access using the Wireless Internet Protocol, WAP 2.0 (XHTML sites), WAP 1.x (WML sites) and i-mode (CHTML sites. Popular in Japan). Even though modern devices do not require the development of a separate, mobile version of the website, the screen size is still severely limited, necessitating special attention to the layout of the site on mobile web browsers.

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