Google’s latest algorithm update is a little different from their previous changes. This time they aren’t focusing on web spam or low quality content but instead are targeting sites that fail to load properly on mobile. With around 30% of search traffic these days coming from mobile, it’s increasingly important that websites be well catered for this specific type of user. If your site doesn’t look good on Android or iOS devices, then you need to shape up.
This new “mobile-friendly compliance’ update (which doesn’t yet have an animal name beginning with P. is going to be coming into full effect on April 21st but will be rolling out for a while around that time. The objective is to show mobile users more mobile-friendly content, which means this update is only going to affect search through mobile devices. In other words, this update won’t affect your ranking when someone searches for your business via a desktop – only when they use their phone or tablet.
That doesn’t mean it’s not ‘important’ however, not at all in fact. As 30% of searches come through mobile devices, being penalized by this update could eat into almost a third of your traffic. More worrying though is that this figure is higher for some specific industries. Local business for instance owes around 80% of search to mobile – which is no small figure. You can of course find out just how much of your traffic is mobile by looking at Google Analytics. Note though that this figure can be a little misleading in terms of conversions as generally mobile traffic has a lower CTR than desktop traffic.
Interestingly, this update is also going to affect search in one other big way. Specifically, apps are going to be used more closely with search and this is something that has already taken effect. To quote Google on the matter:
“Starting today, we will begin to use information from indexed apps as a factor in ranking for signed-in users who have the app installed. As a result, we may now surface content from indexed apps more prominently in search.”
This could be interesting to any app developers out there as well as marketers working for those developers.
To get the details from Google itself, visit the official blog here.
Are You Mobile-Friendly?
The question now is whether or not your website or business can be accurately classified as ‘mobile friendly’. What does it take to be mobile friendly?
Some points that we know Google is going to be looking for include the following:
• Sites should not require horizontal scrolling to read
• Links must not be too close together/too small for clicking with a finger
• Text must be large enough for easy legibility on smaller screens
• Sites should avoid using Flash and other mobile-incompatible software
The good news is that Google has removed any guesswork from this equation by providing a tool that you can use to find out simply whether your site is mobile friendly or not and what you can do about it if it isn’t. You can try it here.
The bulleted factors of course are only part of what makes a site truly mobile friendly. Other important factors include avoiding any reliance on dropdown menus, as well as things like pop-over windows that are difficult to close without a mouse and keyboard. Whether or not Google is looking at things like this is hard to say but the only important matter is that you should be either way. Being mobile friendly is not just about ‘passing’ Google’s test but rather is about making your site a pleasure to use for the large proportion of mobile traffic you’ll be receiving. This number is only likely to grow and Google is only likely to get better at identifying which sites are working well for mobiles. If anything then, you should consider this to be a ‘wakeup call’ reminding you of the importance of mobile compatibility and you should do everything you can to keep catering to this large and growing audience.