We don’t normally talk about mobile on this blog (we usually save such comments for our sister site at http://mobilemarketing.ac.nz). Today, however, we’re making an exception because of a very important Google update.
Google has been warning the business community for months that websites now need to be mobile-friendly. TODAY, it’s crunch time.
If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, expect it to be demoted in search results on smartphones from today, April 21, as Google rolls out its latest algorithm update.
The new algorithm will give priority to mobile-friendly websites, rewarding those who’ve made the change and punishing those still stuck in a desktop-bound world.
Here’s how Google announced the update, back in February:
More mobile-friendly websites in search results
Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. 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.
It’s an update that makes complete sense to anyone who has ever visited a website through a mobile device and then found the site virtually unusable.
Common Website Problems
These are the most common problems on websites that aren’t optimised for mobile devices:
- The text is too small to read
- Website visitors need to pinch, swipe or zoom to see important content (New Rule: If you have to zoom in, it’s not mobile-friendly)
- Links and any elements that you need to touch are not thumb-friendly and are too close together (i.e. too easy for humans with fat fingers to accidentally click on the wrong thing)
- Your website uses flash or other technologies that don’t play well on some mobile devices
- The site doesn’t load within 3 seconds (mobile users are time-sensitive, and will quickly move on)
- The content is wider than the mobile screen
- The site is full of long, dense copy rather than designed for snacking with short paragraphs and lots of images
- To make any transactions through the site, visitors need to fill in long, complicated forms (always difficult on those tiny keyboards)
- There is a mobile version but it’s not correctly configured
So why is Google making this change? Why now?
Andrew Gazdecki, writing in Business2Community, highlights the inevitable fact that mobile search will hit the tipping point any moment now:
According to predictions by Google, mobile searches (at 85.9 billion) will surpass desktop searches (84 billion) in 2015
Google isn’t just guessing that consumers prefer mobile-friendly websites. Nekhia Christian comments on recent Google research:
For the last year or so, Google has been developing and testing software that can look at the code of a website and determine whether or not the website has been optimized for mobile devices. If you’ve used Google search on a mobile device lately, you may have noticed that they’ve started adding “Mobile-friendly” labels to the results.
Tracking this “Mobile-Friendly” label experiment has proven to Google that helping searchers find “mobile-friendly” results is a winning strategy: mobile searchers prefer “mobile-friendly” search results.
Therefore, the next logical step is to show them only “mobile-friendly” search results. And that is exactly what this new “mobile-friendly” algorithm is going to do.
A few key points to keep in mind about this mobile-friendly, algorithm update:
- It affects searches done on mobile devices only — not searches done on a laptop or desktop computer.
- It is applied on a page by page basis, not site-wide, so it may be that some of your pages will be affected while others won’t.
- This evaluation of “mobile-friendliness” is done not by humans, but by Google’s computers, so it’s possible (though unlikely) for a website to look fine on mobile devices, but still be dinged by Google.
How to test if your site is Mobile-Friendly
Here’s what Google advises:
Check out Google’s guide to mobile-friendly sites. If you’re a webmaster, you can get ready for this change by using the following tools to see how Googlebot views your pages:
- If you want to test a few pages, you can use the Mobile-Friendly Test.
- If you have a site, you can use your Webmaster Tools account to get a full list of mobile usability issues across your site using the Mobile Usability Report.
Oh, and we would be remiss if we didn’t recommend that you also check out our own ten-part Principles & Practice of Mobile Marketing online training course.
Through the course, you’ll learn:
- How to understand the mobile consumer and the new mobile environment
- How to optimise your website, your emails, your video and other content for viewing on mobile
- How to understand and master mobile search
- How mobile messaging has changed consumer behaviour (and what that means for marketers)
- The rich opportunities provided by location-based marketing
- The implications for marketers now that Social Media is primarily accessed via mobile devices
- Mobile Advertising and what you should know about mobile ad networks, ad exchanges and “the natives” (companies that are trying to find a native approach to mobile advertising)
- What mobile apps can do for marketers – and what you need to consider before you even start
- How mobile commerce has transformed the way that consumers shop
- What mobile analytics you can and must track
- The steps you should take to reinvent your business processes for mobile
- The future of mobile: what to look for and pitfalls to avoid
It’s Way Past Time To Go Mobile
Worldwide, half of Google’s searches have gone mobile. Locally, the proportion of mobile users is far higher, especially if your target audience is under fifty.
Don’t waste another moment – get your website mobile NOW!