September 14, 2010

Mobile Search Engine Transcoding - How it impacts your mobile presence

Sometimes, the search engines want to rank a particular page in mobile results, but because these pages may cause bad mobile user experience, they prefer not to. (Usually because the file size is too big, or the page has lots of mobile-unfriendly code like Flash or loads of JavaScript). When this happens, the search engine will show the full search engine listing for the mobile-unfriendly page (like normal), but when you click on it, they will automatically take you to a temporary url that represents a ‘transcoded’ version of the page you requested, (rather than delivering you to the actual page listed in the search results). This temporary transcoded page actually lives on a subdomain hosted by the search engine, and shows a scraped version of the page you requested. The scrape usually just shows the text and small images of the page, but omits anything that might cause problems for a mobile browser; sometimes this can include background images, big images, animations, videos, iFrames, and heavy/complex code.

For Example - In Google, pages that are transcoded usually closely resemble the ‘text-only’ version of the page that Google keeps in its cache. In some cases though, the transcoding can really mess up a page, missing core navigation, breaking long pages into multiple pages at odd places, or cutting out important sections.

Points to remember

  • Search engine use of transcoded pages differs from phone to phone.
  • To see what a page looks like when Google transcodes it, there are two options:
    • You can perform a search on a mobile phone, then click the ‘options’ button to the right of one of your results in the SERP, and then select ‘Mobile formatted.’ (Illustrated below)
    • You can also put your url into Google’s tool, here: from your computer or your mobile phone.

 Google Mobile Formatted Page from SERP

Bad Search Engine Transcoding

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