Google: Mobile-Friendliness a Significant Ranking Factor
We’ve known for some time now of Google’s increased emphasis on mobile-friendliness in the search results. We’ve seen them testing out mobile-friendly icons and non-mobile friendly icons. We’ve seen them add mobile usability reports in Google Webmaster tools, and send mobile-usability warnings to webmasters with non-mobile friendly sites.
These signs have all been pointing to one thing: an impending shift toward mobile-friendliness as a significant ranking factor. It appears this time as come.
In a recent blog post, Google stated that as of April 21, there will be increased weight given to the mobile-friendliness of sites: “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.”
For webmasters who have been putting off improving the mobile usability of their site, now’s the time. Google has clearly stated this change will be significant; some are speculating that it could be as – or even more – impactful than the original Penguin and Panda updates. While this remains to be seen, it’s clear that now is the time to make changes to increase the mobile-usability of your site.
Where are we at in terms of mobile-friendliness?
According to ExactTarget’s 2014 State of Marketing report, mobile has become a priority for business owners – at least in theory. Some findings from the report that underscore this include:
- 80% of marketers who use mobile believe it does (or will) increase ROI
- 30% of marketers use location-based technology as part of their marketing strategy
- 47% have a mobile app
This is a good indication that our stated priorities may not be in line with our actions.
If the Content Marketing Institute’s 2015 B2B Content Marketing Report (pdf) is any indication, it appears we still have a way to go. When asked which initiatives they were working on and planning to pursue in the coming year, only just over half (58%) of B2B marketers said “creating a better mobile strategy”. A greater percentage of B2C marketers reported it as a priority (74%).
Social Media Examiner’s 2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report paints a similar picture. When asked whether their blog was currently optimized for mobile, 43% reported that it was. B2B marketers were actually more likely to have mobile-optimized sites (50%), while B2C marketers were less likely (38%). The report did show, however, that marketers were taking mobile more seriously than they did the previous year, when only 28% reported having a mobile-optimized blog.
What are the basic elements of a mobile-friendly site?
If you’ve been putting off optimizing your site, I’d strongly encourage you to make the move now. Once April 21 rolls around, you may be left dealing with a significant drop in your rankings and traffic. And recovery is far more difficult than taking preventative steps now! Here are three tips to give you the best chance of maintaining your rankings come April.
Tip 1: Run your site through Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. While Google will be evaluating mobile-friendliness on a page-by-page basis – not sitewide – running your most important pages through the tool can give you a good indication of which elements you need to work on.
Tip 2: If it’s not already, make sure your site displays properly on mobile using a responsive design, mobile app or separate mobile site. Any of these options can work, although having a separate mobile site should be done with care – duplicate content can be an issue, and link-building to two separate sites can be tedious.
Tip 3: Avoid the most common mobile mistakes. According to Google, the most common mistakes to check for include:
- Videos or content not accessible by mobile (no flash please!).
- Faulty redirects: Don’t redirect mobile users to your homepage or another general interest page by default.
- Using mobile-only 404′s: Showing a page to desktop users, but a 404 page to mobile users
- Interstitials blocking users from completing tasks. For more on this, see Google’s help page.
- Cross-linking inappropriately: Mobile pages should link to mobile pages; desktop URL’s should link to desktop-optmized URL’s.
- Slow mobile pages: Use the PageSpeed Insights tool to ensure your site loads quickly on mobile
Is your site fully optimized for mobile? If not, what’s holding you back?