Answers to the 3 Biggest Questions About Google’s Mobile SEO Update

By Russ Jeffery

Starting April 21, Google will begin taking mobile-friendliness into account as a factor in search rankings. At this point, you may recall that Google already has been adding labels to sites that are mobile-friendly and warning people about the dangers of adding content to a site that won’t work on a mobile device (think Flash), but this is different. Very different. In Google’s own words:

 

“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.”

 

How do I know if my site is mobile-friendly? 

Google is now directing webmasters to use their Mobile-Friendly Test to ensure a site is mobile-optimized to their new standards. This test actually renders pages and looks at their layout, not just the content. Don’t get me wrong, content is still king when it comes to SEO, but Google is now also looking at the design of the site to ensure users can easily access a page’s content, no matter what kind of device they’re using.

Google has been giving hints this was coming in a number of ways to help webmasters prepare the big change. This includes pushing out material on best practices, such as making sure Google bots are not blocked from accessing resources, as well as providing access to fetch and render tools, and robots.txt testing.

But the new Mobile-Friendly Test goes a step further. In addition to letting you know whether or not you’re good to go in mobile searches, Google will actually give you design/usability recommendations about the site. For example, the test will let you know if links are too close together (and thus can’t be easily clicked by thumbs) or a site’s text is too small to read on mobile. It will even tell you if there are technical usability errors, such as a separate mobile website redirecting to incorrect pages.

 

But why, Google? Why?

All of what Google is recommending here is common sense to those working in the web world, where mobile has been the starting point for a few years now.  But one question that is not clearly answered is: Why is Google pushing everyone so hard to become mobile-friendly?  Google answers this, in part, by saying: 

“..users should get the most relevant and timely results, no matter if the information lives on mobile-friendly web pages or apps.”

This topic has become very important to the search engine giant for two reasons.

  1. Some estimates attribute up to 60 percent of all online traffic to mobile, and smart money says that number is only going to get higher.
  2. Google makes money by organizing and delivering the most relevant information to its users. For websites, relevance doesn’t just refer to content; it also refers to user experience.

This kind of action tells us this probably isn’t the end, and most likely just the beginning, of Google’s long trip down the mobile rabbit hole. As this new algorithm rolls out, you can be sure Google will begin to make adjustments and more hard-and-fast rules about what will and won’t fly in mobile search are on their way.

 

What comes next?

In anticipation of this, it’s a good idea to go beyond just meeting the base requirements of the current Mobile-Friendly Test, and take the overall user experience into account. This means avoiding things like full-screen pop-up ads and videos that play automatically below the fold.

More than just preparing yourself for Google’s next move, this really is what you should be doing anyway. After all, the better the user experience, the more likely you are to turn website visitors into valued customers. And the best part is you don’t have to go it alone. There are lots of very useful tools across the internet that can help you with everything from creating a mobile website to optimizing your keywords. Just do a little research (on Google, of course) and figure out what works best for you.

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About Russ Jeffery

Russ Jeffery is a Technical Product Manager for at Duda. He is well known around the office for his 'Russ Effect,' where issues magically disappear once he shows up. His favorite Big Lebowski character is Jesus.
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