Anyone with a smartphone knows that search is one of the most popular functions on mobile, yet mobile SEO is still a poor relation compared to desktop.

A quick look at the stats shows that we should be paying more attention to mobile SEO, with data from Marin showing that mobile devices accounted for 13% of search spend in June 2012 yet took a 20% share of clicks.

However creating a mobile site isn’t a simple process and there are several criteria that need to be taken into account to effectively optimise a site for a mobile audience.

SEO consultant Aleyda Solis addressed the topic of mobile search at BrightonSEO last week, listing seven things that marketers need to ask themselves when optimising a site for mobile SEO.

Here’s a run through of Solis’s points…

1. How does your mobile audience behave on your site?

Before building a mobile site it is important to know if your site really has mobile visitors and whether there is enough of them to make it worth your while.

You can use Google Analytics to create a segment for organic mobile traffic and then look at the volume of visits, devices used, the landing pages they tend to hit and the most popular keywords.

Then look at what type of content is most popular with mobile users and prioritise it when building the mobile site.

2. Where does your site appear in mobile search results?

Investigate where, if at all, your site appears in mobile search results and which keywords and pages are already obtaining visibility.

Use Google Webmaster Tools to find out the top queries and pages showing in mobile SERPs, which will again help to identify which content you need to optimise for mobile.

3. How does your audience use mobile search?

If you know that your potential customers are using mobile search you need to find out how to make yourself more visible to them to help increase your mobile traffic.

Solis recommends using Google’s Keyword Tool mobile filter to find the keywords your audience search with, then look at Our Mobile Planet to check how consumers are using their mobile devices.

4. How does your site render on mobile devices?

It’s important to test how your content looks on mobile devices when designing the site, as if it doesn’t render correctly consumers will be more likely to go elsewhere.

Use Google’s Getmometer, PageSpeed Insights and the ‘Fetch as Google mobile bot’ feature in Webmaster Tools to test how mobile users and bots reach and see your site.

5. What content and products are you offering to your mobile audience?

Mobile users don’t necessarily want all the same content as your desktop audience. For example, mobile search often has more of a local focus then desktop.

You need to identify what your mobile customers are looking for, and whether or not you are catering for it. Are you offering them localised content, and if not do you have the capacity to develop it?

6. Do you have the technical capacity to develop a mobile site?

If your site doesn’t render correctly on mobile devices then you need to consider whether you have the required budget to make it responsive, dynamically serve content or build a parallel mobile version.

This table shows the pros and cons of each format.

Ideally you need to use responsive design although this may not be possible depending on your technical capacity and content needs.

Google also offers advice on how to build mobile websites here.

7. Based on these criteria, decide on the type of mobile site you need

The behaviour of your mobile audience and your technical capabilities will determine the type of mobile site that suits you best.

Loris created this flowchart to help you decide which of the three design options is best for your site.

To view the slides from Solis’ BrightonSEO presentation go here