Are you ready for mobile-friendly search?
Over the last few years, more people than ever have started accessing the internet on their phones – so much so that an estimated 50% of Google’s traffic comes from mobile devices, and responsive design is now the industry standard for new websites. And as Google’s first commandment is “focus on the user and all else will follow”, they’re bringing mobile search into the foreground. To promote the ease and speed of connecting users with what they’re looking for, they’ve overhauled the way the search function is going to work.
In the announcement on the Webmaster Central blog, they said that the algorithm updates “will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.” In other words, if you’re not mobile-friendly, you won’t show up in mobile search results – which currently account for half of all searches made on Google. That’s a lot of traffic you could be losing.
The change is so important to Google that they’ve even updated their company philosophy, saying “The world is increasingly mobile: people want access to information wherever they are, whenever they need it.” Users are more sensitive to unhelpful search results on mobile, which is why Google are changing the way search works.
What do I need to know?
This isn’t the first time Google have updated their algorithms to improve the experience for mobile browsers, but it is the most far-reaching change. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the full roll-out of the algorithm changes might take as long as a week. Keep an eye on your traffic levels starting from April 21st and see how quickly things change.
Whether your site is mobile-friendly is a yes/no question. Google won’t be ranking your site on a scale: it has to jump through all the hoops before achieving mobile friendliness.
How can I tell if my site is mobile-friendly?
For a little while now, Google have labelled “mobile-friendly” sites in searches made on tablets and smartphones and have considered mobile friendliness as a ranking factor, so the quickest way to check is to Google yourself on a phone. If you see a little grey “mobile-friendly” label next to your site, you’re in the clear.
If you want more details, Google have created a testing tool for mobile friendliness which allows you to check in greater detail. And if you have a Webmaster Tools account, you can generate a usability report that will offer a detailed breakdown of all mobile usability issues on your site.
For more information on how to make the most of your site on mobile, look up the resources that Google offer for developers. It includes a guide on what they want to see when they look at mobile sites.
What can I do to fix it?
Google have published a list of common mistakes made on mobile sites that will affect their success in search results. It’s worth a look, as it goes into detail about the things you might need to fix, including the presence of unplayable content, error pages that only show to mobile users, slow mobile page-loads, and that really annoying moment when a website tries to link you to a desktop-sized page from a mobile site and you suddenly can’t read anything. That should give you a map of what you need to fix before April 21st.