According to Google, a new update scheduled for release on April 21 will provide us with more mobile-friendly websites in search results.
This should come as no surprise, as smartphones and tablet devices have become increasingly prevalent as a tool to browse the Internet. Especially with the introduction of apps, these mobile devices can perform a variety of day-to-day functions such as checking an email, browsing the Internet, and shopping online!
However, a webpage that is not optimized for mobile devices may be extremely frustrating to use. Small text means a user will constantly have to shift the screen left and right to read an entire paragraph, and links that are too close together can be cumbersome when you accidentally hit the wrong link. When a website is poorly designed for mobile users, they will likely abandon your website altogether in lieu of a better, mobile-friendly site with the same purpose.
As more people use mobile devices to access the Internet, it makes sense that Google’s algorithms will adapt to accurately reflect these usage patterns. After the update, Google will be expanding their use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and is expected to have significant impact in our search results. Users will find it easier to get relevant and high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.
If you would like to develop a mobile-friendly site, Google has provided a useful guide to mobile-friendly sites and also a Mobile-Friendly Test. Google has also included a list of common mistakes, so that you can make sure your website is up to par.
The second great news is that we will have more relevant app content in our search results. Soon, Google will begin to use information from indexed apps as a factor in ranking for signed-in users who have the app installed. As a result, we will surface content from indexed apps more prominently in search.
If Google’s new updates aren’t enough to convince you to make the change for increased mobile-friendliness, perhaps some numbers will. As of 2015, 64% of US citizens are smartphone users, according to Pew Research. Furthermore, 49% of smartphone users report experiencing difficulties in using their device to access content not optimized for display on a mobile screen. Smartphone usage is only expected to increase within the next few years, so it makes sense for a search engine giant like Google to shift with new technology.
To say non-mobile sites are being punished confuses the issue. Google isn’t penalizing like it does for black hat techniques, but rather is now heavily weighing mobile-friendliness in its mix of factors for mobile users. To decide whether you need to invest in mobile right now, look at your current website analytics, your target audience, and your marketing strategy. A successful mobile-friendly website is more than one that just fits the screen, so think it through first. Also, keep in mind that the new algorithm affects searches conducted by mobile devices only – in other words, searches done by desktop computers will not be affected.
Keep in mind 3 basic guidelines: responsive web design, dynamic serving and separate URL’s. Responsive web design refers to web design that changes in “response” to the device you are using – for example, the differences in a site’s layout for a tablet versus a desktop monitor. Dynamic serving is similar in that your website’s code changes to accommodate the device you are using. Lastly, separate URLs means that your website will have a different URL designated specifically for mobile users, as well as a URL for those on desktop computers. All three serve the purpose of making a website easier to navigate on a mobile device.
Keep in mind that this change will be rolling out globally over the next few weeks, so you will have to act soon if you want to stay ahead of your competitors. A page is eligible for the “mobile-friendly” label if it meets the following criteria as detected by Googlebot:
- Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
- Uses text that is readable without zooming
- Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
- Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped
Those are just the first steps in helping mobile users have a better mobile web experience.
The future is shifting and it’s very important that you have a mobile friendly website. Act soon, and don’t risk losing your rank on Google searches.