As digital marketers, we all know the importance of Google’s elusive algorithm in our SEO efforts, as well as the fact it’s constantly changing. While some of these changes are minor and don’t have a noticeable impact on digital marketing strategies, others are worth taking the time to understand and address with an appropriate and proactive game plan. Google is changing things up in a big way on April 21 when its algorithm will officially include mobile-friendly usability factors in its rankings.
Throughout the past several months, Google has been placing a greater emphasis on mobile, beginning with the “mobile-friendly” tag in search results and more recently, by testing a page speed indicator. In February, Google made the official announcement that on April 21, the use of mobile-friendliness would be expanded as a ranking signal. Regardless of the uncertain details, we know that after this implementation, mobile usability will have what Google calls a "significant impact on our search results," with a greater impact than its Panda or Penguin updates.
So what does this mean for you?
Mobile friendliness will become a ranking signal and impact your organic SEO. Sites that earn the "mobile-friendly" tag will have a leg up on the competition and appear earlier in mobile search results.
Here is Google's criteria to qualify as mobile-friendly:
- A defined viewing area that adjusts to the device's screen
- Content that flows in the screen without making users scroll across or pinch the screen to see the full page
- Fonts that scale for easier reading
- Easy-to-touch elements that are well-spaced Visual design and motion driven by mobile-friendly technology
According to a recent comScore report, mobile usage accounts for 60% of digital media consumption, while desktop-based consumption accounts for just 40%. If you’ve been putting off making mobile-friendly updates to your site, now is the time to make it a priority, not just for SEO purposes, but to provide a better overall experience for your customers.
What can you do to make sure your site is ready for these changes and ranking the best it can?
- While Google has not given specific details about the changes, it has provided a lot of guidance for sites looking to test and improve their mobile usability. My advice would be to prioritize mobile usability and follow Google’s guidelines as closely as you can. If your site is not built with mobile-responsive design, look into creating a version that is specifically optimized for mobile use or, better yet, switch to responsive design.
- Test your site to see if it qualities for the "mobile-friendly" tag. This can be done through Google's Mobile-Friendly Test. This test will identify a full list of mobile usability issues across your site and provide you with a detailed report. For more tips and tools straight from Google, view its Mobile Guide. Note that if you see a drop off in search results due to not having a mobile-friendly site, all is not lost. Once you convert to a mobile-friendly site, you should be able to see results quickly after Google next crawls your site.
- You should also test your site’s page speed with Google’s handy insights tool. You might find some small tweaks that will have a big quick-win on your site performance, among other long-term fixes.
- Finally, as part of the same February announcement, Google began boosting mobile search results from indexed apps that are already installed on a user’s device. This currently only affects Android users, but it can’t hurt to ensure your app is in the Google index.
While mobile has been an integral part of the customer experience for a while, Google's latest change will reward those who take the time to bring users the best mobile experience possible.
If you want to talk more about how to make your website more user-friendly, or what these changes may mean for your brand, contact the Rise Interactive digital strategy team.