On April 21, Google will begin to use mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.
This move, dubbed ‘mobilegeddon‘, is part of the trend for Google to focus on User Experience (UX) factors when ranking sites. In Google’s own words:
“This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”
Here are some of the sites that may need to take action…
• The official website of the British Monarchy
• David Beckham’s official site
• The Official Website for the European Union
• The Scottish National Party
• Windows Phone
• American Apparel
• Channel 4
• P&O Cruises
• Cotton Traders
• Legal and General
• The Daily Mail
Many of these companies have apps but no mobile sites, such as Next, but while this may be OK for customers, it won’t wash with Google.
How do I know if my site is mobile-friendly?
Google is now directing webmasters to use their Mobile-Friendly Test to ensure a site is mobile-optimized to their new standards. This test actually renders pages and looks at their layout, not just the content. Don’t get me wrong, content is still king when it comes to SEO, but Google is now also looking at the design of the site to ensure users can easily access a page’s content, no matter what kind of device they’re using.
But the new Mobile-Friendly Test goes a step further. In addition to letting you know whether or not you’re good to go in mobile searches, Google will actually give you design/usability recommendations about the site. For example, the test will let you know if links are too close together (and thus can’t be easily clicked by thumbs) or a site’s text is too small to read on mobile. It will even tell you if there are technical usability errors, such as a separate mobile website redirecting to incorrect pages.
But why, Google? Why?
All of what Google is recommending here is common sense to those working in the web world, where mobile has been the starting point for a few years now. But one question that is not clearly answered is: Why is Google pushing everyone so hard to become mobile-friendly? Google answers this, in part, by saying:
“..users should get the most relevant and timely results, no matter if the information lives on mobile-friendly web pages or apps.”
This topic has become very important to the search engine giant for two reasons.
1. Some estimates attribute up to 60 percent of all online traffic to mobile, and smart money says that number is only going to get higher.
2. Google makes money by organizing and delivering the most relevant information to its users. For websites, relevance doesn’t just refer to content; it also refers to user experience.
This kind of action tells us this probably isn’t the end, and most likely just the beginning, of Google’s long trip down the mobile rabbit hole. As this new algorithm rolls out, you can be sure Google will begin to make adjustments and more hard-and-fast rules about what will and won’t fly in mobile search are on their way.
What comes next?
In anticipation of this, it’s a good idea to go beyond just meeting the base requirements of the current Mobile-Friendly Test, and take the overall user experience into account. This means avoiding things like full-screen pop-up ads and videos that play automatically below the fold.
More than just preparing yourself for Google’s next move, this really is what you should be doing anyway. After all, the better the user experience, the more likely you are to turn website visitors into valued customers. And the best part is you don’t have to go it alone.