Mobile Friendly to Become Google Ranking Factor This Month
April 1st 2015 | By Steve Grant
Less than three weeks from today, Google’s most significant update yet will come into force. The ‘Google mobile algorithm’ will see websites that don’t deliver a user-friendly experience on mobile devices penalised with a fall in rankings. So, if you’ve been putting off updating your website so it’s a nice thing to look at on any type of device, it’s time to take action.
In this post we take a look at what’s behind Google’s update, explain what constitutes ‘mobile friendly’ in the search engine’s eyes, and offer up a solution to what could prove disastrous amongst businesses with non-mobile friendly websites that are currently enjoying top ranking spots.
The Reason for the Update
‘Algorithms’ are sets of factors that control the way websites are ranked by the search engines. This latest Google algorithm will kick into action from the 21st April 2015. It will start to use ‘mobile friendliness’ as a ranking factor, which basically means that if a web page doesn’t offer mobile device users a pleasant experience, it will be penalised with a fall in rankings.
Google has always pushed its core value of providing the very best possible search experience for its users as being behind every update it makes. And with such a significantly high proportion of searches now being made on mobile devices such as tablets and smart phones, and statistics like 61% of visitors saying they would be unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble with and 40% saying they’d visit a competitor’s mobile site instead, it is no surprise that they have decided to consider mobile friendliness when delivering search results back to their users.
Defining a Mobile Friendly Website
For users, a website that works just as well on a tablet or smart phone as it does on a desktop PC will be considered mobile friendly. Links will be easy to click, i.e. not too close together. Content will be easy to read with no scrolling from side to side necessary. Pages will load quickly and video content will play no problem.
Google takes a number of factors into consideration when determining whether a site is mobile friendly, although they have said that a web page will either be friendly, or it won’t with no in between.
You can check if your website is mobile friendly by opening it on a desktop browser then shrinking the width to see how it would appear on a smaller screen size. You can also search for your website using Google on a mobile device and check for the ‘Mobile Friendly’ marker, as shown below. Otherwise, try the Google Mobile Friendly Test tool which invites you to enter your web address then analyses the page, returning results and offering steps to follow should you need to rectify any non-friendly issues.
How will the Mobile Algorithm Work?
Google has said it will be working on a page by page basis with this update. This is good news as it means that just because one or two pages are not mobile friendly but the rest of them are, the entire site won’t lose out, just the offending pages. And as some additional ‘good’ news, the ranking factor will run in real time. What this means is that as soon as it finds that an offending page is rectified and made mobile friendly, it will apply the ranking factor and the page will start to benefit straight away.
What’s the Solution for Non-Mobile Friendly Websites?
One solution is to set up a mobile version of your website. However, you will then see your maintenance and hosting costs double and users will find themselves redirected to what looks like a separate website, which doesn’t tend to go down too well.
By far the wisest move to make is to upgrade to a responsive website. These adapt in appearance to any size of screen. So whether the site is viewed on a smart phone or tablet, on a Samsung, Apple or HTC device running any operating system such as iOS or Android for example, it will deliver a pleasant user experience.
Time to Take Action
If you are currently enjoying top spot rankings, no doubt you will have invested heavily either time or money wise, or both, to achieve and maintain them. What you don’t want to do is lose them. So if your website isn’t mobile friendly, take action. It is reckoned the Google update will take around a week to come into effect after 21st April, so sooner rather than later is the order of the day.