We’ve been hearing it for years: if you don’t have a mobile-friendly website, you’re going to suffer across the board. Searchers will bounce right off your site if it doesn’t load quickly or format well on their device, you’ll lose sales if your site layout doesn’t make for easy browsing, and shopping carts will be abandoned left and right if the buying process isn’t designed for mobile screens. And that’s just for ecommerce. Even I have to admit that when I’m searching, I question any business that isn’t up to date on this front. It makes me worry about their other business practices!
But even if you’ve been able to overlook all the warnings about the necessity of mobile-friendliness so far, you can’t afford to any longer. Google is introducing a new algorithm that will slam sites that don’t work well on mobile devices – making it very hard, if not impossible, to be found on SERPs viewed on a device, unless you’ve optimized your site for easy mobile browsing.
Google is essentially throwing down the gauntlet, and sites that don’t rise to the challenge will be lost to the dregs of search engine results. And this isn’t just a problem for small business that haven’t been able to get going on mobile; recent studies, like this one by TechCrunch, indicate that nearly 45% of Fortune 500 companies are in trouble too.
How it Works
As you’re probably aware, Google looks at a ton of different factors when ranking sites for SERPs. Over the years, digital marketers, business owners and web designers have tried to roll with each new update to stay on top. Google’s major updates can really shake things up, but the general trend has always been to reward quality original content, user experience, and authority. Generally speaking, every update makes it trickier to fool the algorithms with black hat techniques, keyword stuffing, and other practices that prioritize search bots over real life users.
Google’s latest update – called Mobilegeddon if you have a flare for the dramatic – is rolling out now, with some sites already feeling the impact. In a Google+ hangout Friday morning, Google’s John Mueller said that the update is “already rolled out completely” in some data centers. If you haven’t been affected yet, it’s only a matter of time (and not much time). Search engine results for desktop and tablet browsing won’t be affected – just smartphones, which constitutes a huge amount of traffic these days.
What Google is Looking For
What does it mean to have a mobile-friendly site? You essentially have two options, and according to Google, one will not offer a ranking advantage over the other. The first is a separate mobile version of your site or page, and the second option is a website built with responsive design that responds to the device it’s viewed on. Both options will help you sail through this Google update, as long as you have some key elements.
- Readable text (no zoom needed)
- Links/buttons that are spaced out enough to be clickable without difficulty
- Vertical scrolling as opposed to horizontal scrolling
- Content or add-ons that won’t play or function on a mobile device (think Flash)
- A design that scales to the screen to reduce zooming and scrolling
What You Can Do
For general update FAQ, as well as answers to some of your more technical questions, check out Google’s Webmaster Central blog on the topic. The best way to get started is to test your site for mobile friendliness. You can do this using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test here, or use your Webmaster Tools to access the Mobile Usability report. If you think your site is mobile friendly and it’s still getting a low score, you may have code or functionality that is blocking Google’s smartphone search bots from crawling your pages.
To learn more about adjusting your site to perform well in Google search results, check out this great class on optimizing your website from search expert Kent Lewis.