After a long stint of testing mobile factors and adding the mobile-friendly label to search results, Google has finally announced that as of April 21, 2015 it will be expanding its usage of mobile-friendly factors in its search algorithm.
Google will also be factoring in information from mobile apps that have implemented App Indexing (read more here). The move will have worldwide repercussions for sites that aren't yet mobile ready and give an edge to apps that are already indexed by Google.
These latest updates are a testament to the importance of mobile media consumption in today's device-driven world. How people use the Internet has long been a determining factor in how Google determines search ranking. Numerous studies from Google have already shown that long before the algorithm update having a mobile website gave businesses an edge. According to Google, 75 percent of mobile device users prefer a mobile-friendly site, and 67 percent of users are more likely to purchase items from a mobile site. Even more telling is that 48 percent of mobile users stated if a company's website didn't work well on their smartphone they felt the company didn't care about their business.
Google is making moves to improve the mobile user's experience, and companies that haven't already taken the steps to make their site mobile-friendly are going to have to follow suit if they want to remain competitive.
Site Mobile-Friendly Ranking Factors
What mobile factors will Google be looking for? It all goes back to user experience and what the user finds once they click on a search result. According to Google Webmaster, the factors that help make sites more mobile-friendly include:
- Text that is easily accessible and readable without having to zoom in on the page.
- Sites that avoid using software that isn't compatible on mobile devices, e.g. Flash.
- Content that is appropriately fitted to a screen so there's no need to scroll horizontally or zoom.
- Links that are placed far enough apart so that users can easily tap on the right links or buttons.
The main objective is to make Web pages suitable for the screen size. Minimizing the need to scroll, zoom and squint as well as fine-tuning the messaging that is delivered are all key factors in creating a more mobile-friendly website.
Making Your Website More Mobile-Friendly
Many companies have already invested in making their websites mobile-friendly and are reaping the benefits. But as technology and mobile usage evolves, websites will need to continue to adapt. All businesses, even those with websites that are currently optimized for mobile devices, can benefit from Google's tools and information.
1. Watch the Google Webmasters video on mobile-friendly websites hosted by Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller
2. Read Google's Guide to Mobile Friendly Sites. Collaborate with your webmaster to update your site with the latest mobile capabilities
3. Attend Google's series on best practices for small and medium sized businesses
4. Run your site through Google's Mobile-Friendly Test
5. Review your Webmaster Tools data for site-wide mobile errors using the Mobile Usability Report
Google maintains that its top priority is delivering the most relevant results to users. As more people favor using mobile over desktop for digital media consumption, it's understandable that Google would want to modify its algorithms and results to mirror that change in user behavior.
As new mobile devices such as smart watches emerge and gain traction it's unclear how Google's mobile factors will continue to be refined and expanded. The one certainty is that mobile marketing strategies are now more important than ever and are poised to become the most valuable channel for many businesses. However, retailers can't abandon their desktop optimization efforts just yet. Recent data from comScore shows that the majority of consumers are still accessing retail sites using both mobile and desktop. For now the best strategy is one that optimizes both and creates a cohesive marketing experience from one platform to the other.