User experience is greatly affected by the devices people use: phones, game consoles, TVs, ‘phablets’, tablets, desktops, and now, wearables and virtual reality.
Recognizing the importance of mobile devices, Google is making the Web friendlier for mobile users, and it announced earlier this year that:
“(Starting April 21) We will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. 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.”
Why the crackdown?
With the proliferation of mobile devices in the last decade, smart phone and tablet browsing far surpassed desktop usage in early 2014—a trend that spans all ages, but is greatest in the 18-24 year old group.
One SEO expert referred to Google’s shift as “Mobilegeddon”, because organizations whose sites or pages are not deemed “mobile-friendly”, will see their Google ranking plunge into oblivion, which will negatively impact their communications efforts.
A few key points about the update:
- The new ranking system will NOT affect desktop search, only mobile search
- Websites and pages will be deemed “mobile-friendly”, or not, when people search for them
- Google recommends ‘responsive’ designs (What is Responsive?)
According to Google Webmasters “there are over 200 different factors that determine ranking.” While a specific list from Google remains elusive, here are a few known factors:
- Font sizes are too small
- Links or buttons are too close together
- Content is difficult to read
- Forms are difficult to fill
Testing Your Site
Google sent these messages out months ago:
Regardless of whether your organization received a message like this or not, we recommend that all organizations follow these steps to check for themselves:
1) Using Google, search the site from a mobile device to determine if there is a mobile-friendly label in the search results:
2) Mobile Friendly Test: Input the URL of your site and various pages within it.
3) Mobile Usability Report: Google will test for mobile usability and provide specific feedback.
Organizations whose sites are not mobile-friendly can address the issue in a variety of ways, depending on the platform used to develop their sites. Many of Omni’s clients had their sites built in WordPress, so below are solutions specific to WordPress sites.
Solutions for WordPress Sites
Google specifically mentions three avenues for WordPress developers:
- Convert your entire site to a new, mobile-friendly theme
- Create two sites: desktop and a mobile version
- Customize your current site
Every avenue requires technical expertise and comprehensive testing, which takes time. With the implementation of the Google’s ranking algorithm long past, we cannot emphasize enough how important it is to get up-to-speed with the mobile Web.