You would think that every website would be usable on the mobile devices by now. However, anyone with experience browsing the web on their phone can attest that there are still plenty of websites out there that just haven’t gotten with the program. To check if your website is mobile-friendly, click here to use Google’s test. When a site doesn’t accommodate mobile browsers, it makes for a highly frustrating experience on the user’s end. Links don’t open properly, graphics don’t render right, and the website is a pain to navigate.
Out with the Old, In with the New
With nearly half of all Google search traffic coming from mobile devices, the aforementioned issue is a big problem that calls for a big change. That’s why Google is about to unleash some of its patented brand of “tough love” on archaic desktop-only websites. Indeed, having a mobile-friendly site will be even more crucial on April 21 when Google will deploy its new mobile-friendly algorithm. Under the new mobile ranking update, sites that are not deemed mobile-friendly will be demoted in search rankings displayed on mobile devices. The mobile-friendly algorithm applies to searches made from mobile devices worldwide. To be clear, according to the Mobile SEO guide published by Google, the term “mobile devices” refers to smartphones and not tablets or feature phones.
Zineb Ait Bahajji, a Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, stated that the new mobile ranking update will have a larger impact on search results than the Panda and Penguin updates. Google Panda affected about 12% of search results while Penguin affected 3-4% of results. Google has not disclosed the percentage of search queries that will be affected by the new mobile-friendly algorithm. However, many businesses can potentially be affected. A 2014 study by marketing company Hibu reveals that as much as 59% of U.S. small- and medium-sized businesses’ websites are not mobile-friendly.
What Is “Mobile-Friendly” Exactly?
What makes a website mobile-friendly in Google’s eyes? First of all, the site should be readable on mobile devices. Text should be large enough to read on small screens, and users should not have to pinch and zoom to view content. Links must not appear too close to each other. Images should fit on a smartphone screen and not overflow the viewport. Multimedia content should use players that are supported on mobile devices. Flash video should not be used as it is unplayable on smartphones and tablets by default. Using multiple video file formats will increase the number of devices that can view the content.
Mobile users typically search the Internet using slower 3G and 4G networks. Furthermore, smartphone hardware is less powerful than today’s desktop components. Therefore, a fast-loading time is necessary to ensure that a site is mobile-friendly.
Site owners can dedicate a separate mobile site for smartphone browsers. However, a mobile-only site will need to establish its own SEO reputation because the corresponding desktop site does not share ranking signals with its mobile counterpart. It can be more efficient to instead build a website using responsive design. A site using responsive design scales with different screen resolutions and is viewable on desktops, tablets and smartphones. In a responsively-designed site, the same URL and HTML is used to deliver content while CSS is used to control how the page is rendered on different devices. Google recommends responsively-designed websites for mobile optimization.
Google’s new mobile-friendly algorithm is around the corner (April 21, 2015) so it is important that sites are optimized for smartphones by the time the mobile ranking update is launched. Do or die!
If you have any questions about responsive design, mobile websites, or are worried that your site may be at risk, feel free to leave a comment below or contact us.