The gauntlet has been thrown. On February 26, 2015, Google affirmed their position on the importance of mobile-friendliness and it’s affect on your mobile search rankings.
Google originally warned us of this change back in November in the post Helping users find mobile-friendly pages, on their Webmaster Central Blog.
In the post, they point out how terrible the experience is when visiting a non-mobile site on a mobile device and you have to pinch and zoom and scroll sideways to see the all of the content, or you can’t click any of the tiny links or menu items with your gigantic fingers.
We began to see hints of this coming back in November 2014, when mobile search results began displaying a “mobile-friendly” label in their search results — and we saw it displayed on our own listed in mobile search results.
Google shared that they view the mobile-friendly labels as a first step in helping mobile users to have a better mobile web experience. They also hinted at the future by informing readers that they were experimenting with using the mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal.
Search Engine Land also wrote a post about it — Google Officially Launches Mobile Friendly Labels In Mobile Search Results — warning site owners that the focus on helping “mobile searchers” discover mobile websites is becoming more important than ever.
Google Confirms Algorithm Change To Reward Mobile Sites And App Content In Mobile Search Rankings
On February 26, 2015, Google made the official announcement in the post Finding more mobile-friendly search results on their Webmaster Central Blog and took it a step further.
In the post, Google confirms their desire to ensure users will get the most relevant and timely results, whether the information is coming from a mobile-friendly website or an app. In the post, they focused on two important changes:
1. More mobile-friendly websites in search results
Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. 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.
2. More relevant app content in search results
Starting today, we 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 may now surface content from indexed apps more prominently in search.
What This Means For Your Site
In an article for The Silicon Valley Business Journal, Google prepares algorithm change; website owners must migrate to mobile, contributor Tyler Suchman pointed out that Google envisions a mobile future where every website on the planet works equally well on a cellphone, tablet or desktop.
This aligns with data showing that mobile now accounts for 25 percent of all web usage, up from 14 percent a year ago, and that website owners have seen mobile usage surge to as much as 50 percent of all traffic in 2015.
This basically means:
- If your site is not mobile-friendly, you are probably going to experience lower levels of traffic from mobile search, because people are being warned before clicking your site link that your site isn’t mobile-friendly.
- If your site is mobile-friendly, you are probably going to experience higher levels of traffic from mobile search, because your site will be rewarded with higher mobile-search rankings.
Basically, Google is telling searchers that if you click a mobile-friendly link you’re going to have a good experience, and if you click a non mobile-friendly link, you may have a crappy experience.
They are also now going to index app content for logged in users higher rankings in mobile search, meaning you now have even more competition in mobile search to get organic traffic to your site.
So, what do you do and where do you start?
First, Google shares that 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
Have an app? Check out their App Indexing for Google Search information.
Why You Must Care About Mobile-Friendly, Responsive Design
A mobile-friendly website is a website that provides a great experience on all devices. It simply means that the content can be read without requiring the visitor to pinch and zoom or scroll sideways, that all of the buttons and links can be easily clicked, and that forms can be easily filled in, etc.
Mobile-friendly most often is used to describe responsive web design where site is designed to respond to, resize, or adjust itself based on user behavior and the viewing environment (type of device, screen size, resolution, orientation).
So instead of creating a separate mobile site to work at one size, a responsive website is designed and built using flexible, fluid layouts that adjust and resize at specific “break points” or sizes. Think iMac, MacBookPro, iPad, iPad Mini, iPhone and all the hundreds of other devices in between.
The ideas behind responsive design have been talked about since 2004, gaining more traction in 2008 with references to flexible and fluid web design, with Ethan Marcotte coining the term officially in a May 2010 article for A List Apart, but it was really still in its infancy.
Responsive web design didn’t really start gaining traction until 2011/2012.
A responsive website does cost more to design and develop than a static website, and at the time responsive design was viewed by many as an optional upgrade or a luxury.
But by 2013, mobile devices has proven they were here to stay, and their share of the market and website traffic was only getting bigger. Mashable even called 2013 the Year of Responsive Web Design. It was then that we decided to no longer offer responsive design as an option.
At the beginning of 2013, we drew our own line in the sand and stopped offering responsive design as an option. We embraced the future and decided that every site we built from that point on would be responsive, and we made it a part of our core web design packages.
By 2014, responsive design was no longer an option. It was a mandate.
In Matt Mullenweg’s 2014 State of The Word, he pointed out how important mobile design and the mobile experience is going to be to the future of web design and WordPress. He also shared a statistic that there are now more mobile devices than there are people on the planet.
If your site isn’t responsive, you are going to get left behind, as mobile-friendliness, and creating a positive experience on your site on every size device, is only going to become more critical to the success of your business.
Google shares two pretty eye-opening stats in their Guide to Mobile-Friendly Sites:
- In the USA, 94% of people with smartphones search for local information on their phones
- 77% of mobile searches occur at home or at work, places where desktop computers are likely to be present
Need Help Making Your Site Mobile-Friendly?
We design and develop responsive, mobile-friendly WordPress websites
In the market to design a new brand or new website, or redesign an existing brand or website? Maybe you’re ready to uplevel your design so your visual brand matches reflects your expertise and the reputation your are building in the market? Or maybe, you need a mobile-friendly, responsive website that is easy to use on devices and screens of every size.
If that’s you, we would love to speak with you!