Back in February we posted a head’s up about Google’s new mobile-friendly label, which the company has started attaching to smartphone search results to let consumers know from the get-go which sites play nicest on the platform. At the time, Google had been testing a new algorithm that would factor in a site’s mobile appeal into its actual search ranking—hence potentially affecting its position, and, presumably, its traffic.
Well now that algorithm has been officially unleashed—so if your brand or business website is still struggling with some ease-of-use issues on those smaller handheld screens, you need to get busy addressing them. “It’s surprising how common it still is to come across websites from top brands which haven’t been properly optimized for the smartphone or other smaller screens,” writes Sarah Perez in her TechCrunch piece about the rollout. “Apparently, they do need the threat of a downgrade from Google in order to make any changes.” Perez notes that in order for a site to be considered mobile-friendly, its text has to be readable without tapping and zooming and its tap targets need to be spaced out appropriately. The page should also avoid unplayable content and horizontal scrolling.
The new algorithm will only affect a site’s ranking when the search is conducted on a smartphone—not a tablet or a PC—and will apply to individual web pages, not entire websites, Perez further explains.
Google’s new way of categorizing could affect 44% of Fortune 500 sites, according to a previous TechCrunch piece by Brad Ewald, Principal and Founder of Boulder Marketing Technology. In that article, Ewald discusses results of a survey that was done to determine how the big companies had progressed in terms of making their sites more mobile-friendly, in anticipation of the coming change (“Mobilegeddon” to some). Click here to see what that survey found.
No matter how big your brand, the message is clear: to stay competitive in today’s market, your website must be optimized for mobile devices. It’s how more and more consumers these days are surfing and shopping and sharing their likes and interests. “The shift to mobile cannot be ignored,” Perez writes. According to eMarketer, the number of smartphone users worldwide has already topped 1.9 billion; by 2018, over one-third of consumers worldwide (nearly 2.6 billion people) will be using smartphones.
If a site scores poorly on the mobile-friendliness scale, Google warns that there could be a significant drop in mobile traffic from Google Search, Perez notes. But once changes are made, Google will automatically re-process the site’s pages. Site owners can expedite that by using the Submit to Index function of the Fetch as Google tool.
First lesson in mobile-friendliness: your site should automatically render a different layout depending on the size of the browser screen. This is called Responsive Design. For more information and guidance, check out SearchEnglineLand’s “Mobilegeddon Checklist”, or Google’s own Web Fundamentals instructional site. And if you’re not sure where your site stands, you can test its mobile-friendliness at MobileTest.me or by using Google’s own mobile test site and go from there. Your business and your brand will be all the better for it.
And if you haven’t checked recently, have a look at your mobile stats in your Google Analytics account, advises Krysten Merriman in a marketing post for Meyler Capital. (Don’t have Google Analytics set up? Do it now.)
And finally, as Perez points out in her TechCrunch post, Google’s decision to force website owners to make their sites work better on mobile devices isn’t just about making consumers happier; it’s also about ensuring Google’s own position as a Web service—and a deliverer of ads. But that shouldn’t surprise anyone.