Googlebot-Mobile Now Crawls Sites With Smartphone User-Agent
On December the 15th, Google announced the new smartphone user-agent for Googlebot Mobile. Google state that this addition will help to increase “coverage of smartphone content” and will “provide a better search experience for smartphone users.”
Basically, Google can now crawl and identify mobile sites more easily than before, and can use the additional data they find to serve up different content or search results if they feel it is appropriate. For example, Google says that the new crawler can identify smartphone-specific content and redirects, enabling them to serve up the mobile-optimised site in the search results instead of the desktop site. This eliminates the redirect, giving the searcher a much faster experience:
“When we discover a URL in our search results that redirects smartphone users to another URL serving smartphone-optimized content, we change the link target shown in the search results to point directly to the final destination URL. This removes the extra latency the redirect introduces leading to a saving of 0.5-1 seconds on average when visiting landing page for such search results.”
What Does This Mean for Mobile Web Design?
The issue of duplicate content has long been debated by designers and SEOs, as it is often thought that mobile-specific sites that contain similar content to their equivalent desktop sites will been viewed as duplicate content by search engines. However, this user-agent update now makes it clear that Google can identify mobile content and index it separately from desktop content. If you are still dubious, then adding canonical tags to your mobile site won’t hurt, but it’s certainly not a necessity.
Since Google now often chooses to show mobile sites in mobile search results and desktop sites in desktop search results, it is more important than ever to make sure your site is optimised for as many devices as possible. This can be done building separate sites for mobile and desktop or one site using responsive web design techniques, but, whichever you choose, make sure the experience is great for all visitors.