On April 21, Google released a significant update to their search engine algorithm impacting mobile search results in a way that favors webpages deemed “mobile friendly”. When a user searches Google using a mobile device, webpages that are optimized for mobile will be ranked higher and appear higher in organic search results. This change does not replace relevant content as a major ranking factor in search results, but it does give the mobile friendly page a considerable boost in results ranking.
What does Google consider “Mobile Friendly”?
When Google’s search result robots crawl and index your pages to determine the ranking of your page and site, it will examine aspects such as loading speeds, the size of your font (is it tiny and requires zooming, or is it large for easy reading), the size of “clickable” buttons (nice and big for easy thumb clicking), the presence of horizontal scrolling sections and the presence of unplayable content (this is a huge red flag for sites using Flash Animation). If you are concerned whether or not pages on your site are optimized for the new mobile search algorithm, try running them through Google’s handy quick check tool.
Why is Google making this change?
With the rise of powerful mobile devices and a huge increase in the number of people accessing the internet via mobile devices, essentially everyone has your company or organization one quick mobile search away. Because Google is by far the top grossing and most popular search engine in the world, particularly on mobile devices, they are taking necessary steps to provide the best service for their consumers. Google spokeswoman Krisztina Radosavljevic-Szilagyi claimed in a statement to NPR that Google is giving the consumer the ability to, “find content that’s not only relevant and timely, but also easy to read and interact with on smaller mobile screens.”
What does this mean for my business?
If you do not already have a site that is optimized for mobile use, you will likely be losing page views. Inversely, for those of you who already have mobile-optimized pages and sites, you will likely receive more and more visitors from mobile devices.
Your company has the opportunity to use this news to strategically plan how to gain website traction, and ultimately grow your business through online reach.
What steps do I need to take to make my site mobile friendly?
If your site is not mobile friendly, you have a few choices:
You could redesign and redevelop your site from the ground up with a mobile strategy in mind. You should seriously consider a responsive site that will automatically rearrange and adapt content on the page based on the size of the browser. You’ll receive much better cross-browser support, cross-device support and result in higher Google mobile search rankings. Friendly Tip: If your website is older than four years, it’s probably in need of a reboot anyways.
If you cannot swing an entire site reboot, then you could choose small improvements on key pages of your site to improve mobile viewing and search engine rankings. Improvements could include aspects such as reducing page load time via image optimization or code minification, increasing button sizing, reduction of page content and/or insertion of breakpoints to auto increase font sizing upon smaller browser dimensions.
A separate mobile website?
Although having a separate mobile version of your site is becoming less and less of a viable mobile strategy, you shouldn’t be too affected by the update. As long as your site is properly setup to allow Google to crawl and index those mobile versions (and those mobile pages both pass their requirements for mobile friendliness and have relevant content) your site pages should experience no significant changes in mobile search rankings. But again, we typically recommend responsive sites versus a separate mobile website.
By: Jeff Lowe, technical director & Charity Jernigan, digital graduate fellow