As the producers of the world’s most-used mobile operating platform, Google knows a thing or two about creating a mobile experience that people can enjoy. In recent weeks, Google has translated that know-how into tool that webmasters can use to see if there site is mobile friendly. Google will now give searchers a similar benefit by identifying mobile-friendly sites on mobile search results.
The importance of mobile devices for accessing the internet has become ever clearer over the past few years. Many consumers use mobile devices as their primary or only way to access the internet. Though most website owners are aware of this trend, many have been slow to fully make their sites mobile friendly. Sites where images aren’t sized properly or where features are broken on mobile browsers are at a huge disadvantage compared to their better built rivals.
As we have discussed in the past, there are a lot of things that business owners can do to make their sites easier for mobile consumers to navigate. Google doesn’t appear to be setting too high of a bar when deciding who qualifies as “Mobile-Friendly”. For now, the criteria Google is using is pretty basic. A page is eligible for the “mobile-friendly” label if it meets the following criteria as detected by Googlebot:
Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
Uses text that is readable without zooming
Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped
Right now, these are simply cosmetic changes to mobile search results, but statements from the development team suggests that these things could become ranking factors soon enough.
“We see these labels as a first step in helping mobile users to have a better mobile web experience,” wrote Ryoichi Imaizumi and Doantam Phan in a blog post that first announced the change. “We are also experimenting with using the mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal.”
This new move from Google makes mobile compatibility more important than ever. Before, if a site wasn’t optimized for mobile (or wasn’t optimized well), the searcher wouldn’t know until they were on the site. At that point, the person may decide to work through any small issues they encounter rather than go to another site. With Google telling people which options are mobile friendly, any site that doesn’t meet the cut is going to suffer a hit to their traffic.
Google has been rolling the change out slowly over the past few weeks. Business owners can see if their site qualifies by using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. As mentioned before, this test is less robust as the mobile usability report, which webmasters should also use
In case Google mobile-incompatibility shaming isn’t enough to inspire business owners to make their sites more mobile friendly, read this article on how mobile devices help marketers reach millennials and other target demographics.