Google Is Focusing on Mobile Usability. So Should You.

By Meghann Porter

Have you ever tapped on a search result on your mobile phone, only to find yourself scrolling sideways to see all the content – or pinching in to see tiny text and links? It’s a frustrating experience – and Google has been experimenting with ways to improve it. So if you’ve been putting off mobile updates, you’ll want to listen up! Here’s what you need to know now.

Are your websites mobile-friendly?

As far back as June 2013, the search giant introduced a penalty for sites offering a bad experience to mobile users. Today, the signs are clear that a new mobile ranking algorithm is about to launch, one that could give a boost to sites that have earned Google’s mobile-friendly seal of approval.

For Google, a mobile-friendly site is one that avoids software that is not supported on mobile devices, like Flash. In addition, any text should be easy to read – in other words, you shouldn’t need to zoom in to make it legible or scroll across the screen to read a sentence. Google also says buttons or navigational links should have an appropriate amount of space between them so that the correct one can be easily tapped. Sites that meet Google’s criteria receive a “mobile-friendly” label in the mobile search results in an effort to guide users toward a better experience.

google mobile-friendly label

If you want to see if your pages meet Google’s mobile-friendly criteria, check them with the Mobile Friendly Test. Even better, you can find mobile usability issues across your entire site with the recently launched mobile usability reports in Google Webmaster Tools.

Optimize for mobile now – or lose rankings

In recent weeks, Google has been sending mass notifications to webmasters whose websites are not mobile-friendly. These emails, sent via Google Webmaster Tools, warn “These pages will not be seen as mobile-friendly by Google Search, and will therefore be displayed and ranked appropriately for smartphone users.” Webmasters are then advised to fix these 6 key mobile usability issues to remain visible and relevant to users. Here’s a copy of the email sent to webmasters:

Google: Fix mobile usability issues

Time to take action!

  • If your sites aren’t mobile-friendly, you risk turning a majority of users away.
  • A bad mobile experience will soon impact your rankings in mobile search.

If that’s not enough to get you moving on mobile usability, consider this. Mobile usage has now eclipsed desktop usage worldwide. It’s not a question of whether mobile search is important – it is, and search engines are the most common starting point for mobile research on purchases.

A deeper look at users’ expectations found that 61% of people said they would quickly move on to another site if they didn’t find what they were looking for on a mobile site. And 67% of people indicated that they’d be more likely to buy from a mobile-friendly site. This isn’t surprising news to anyone with a smartphone. Making your site mobile-friendly turns users into customers, and that’s really the bottom line here. 

Meghann Porter

Digital Marketing Director

Meghann manages a wide range of digital initiatives at Signal – including SEM, social, display, retargeting, SEO, mobile, user testing, email and marketing automation. She’s an integral part of our team, working across industries and clients to contribute to the design and build of all web projects.

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