Mobile SEO Takes Center Stage

Cat’s out of the bag.  The world knows your secret.  The secret that you haven’t invested in creating a mobile-friendly site. 

Google has made some noise this past week with the feature in Tech Times and all the SEO blogs and forums with the announcement that Google is placing labels next to a website’s listing in Google mobile search results denoting if a site is “mobile-friendly” or “not mobile-friendly”.  Google stated that the labels are a “first step in helping mobile users to have a better mobile web experience.” And love it or hate it, the labels are likely here to stay.

In today’s digital world, companies are being challenged with creating optimized experiences for  mobile and tablet users more often than not. Whether the choice is via a mobile-friendly website, or through responsive web design and/or a mobile app – the mobile experience can no longer be ignored and Google is apparently reinforcing mobile’s importance with this label.

Whether Google’s label on mobile results is more of a stick than a carrot, Google has been testing giving websites a mobile distinction since September, which has provided information about mobile optimization via Page Speed Insights since before 2014. Just now, in November, Google has officially launched the “mobile-friendly” label in mobile search results.  

The text “mobile-friendly” will display as small gray font just before the meta description of a website in the SERPs, as seen in this example below 

What can you do to make your site mobile-friendly?

First of all, if you haven’t already, upgrade your website to responsive web design, or make sure you have a designated mobile site.  In the past, Google has sent mixed signals about their preference for responsive web design or mobile sites, but now they clearly state, “Google does not favor any particular URL format as long as the page(s) and all page assets are accessible to all Googlebot user-agents.”  This is another aspect of SEO where there isn’t a magic key to getting better rankings in Google search results, it has to make sense for your website visitors and work well with the technical foundation and support you have.  There are three recognized options for creating a mobile-friendly website and this chart by Google helps break them down:

https://developers.google.com/webmasters/mobile-sites/mobile-seo/overview/select-config

There are some best-practices to follow in developing a mobile-optimized website and this handy mobile guide from Google has a pretty comprehensive listing of things you need to know about mobile-friendly websites.  

Some Basics Principles for Mobile Optimization

  • Avoid software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash

  • Use text that is readable without zooming

  • Size content display to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom

  • Place links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped

Are there any tests to tell me if my site is mobile-friendly?

There are a few tests, all available from Google, to check if your site will be considered mobile-friendly:

  1. The new mobile-friendly tester by Google.  This one was announced recently, though appears to still be in Beta.  

  2. Page Speed Insights.  This gives information for both the desktop and mobile version of your site.

  3. If you have Google Webmaster Tools setup on your domain, login and select the Mobile Usability Tool, which will also provide “mobile-friendly” information

Bugs

Note that this new “Google Mobile-Friendly Test” appears to be in Beta, as it sometimes yields results that accurately show the mobile site and sometimes it doesn’t. Below is a side-by-side example of one website, run twice, that is actually shown as “Mobile-Friendly” in the search results. Confusing? Definitely.

However, the long established tool known as Google PageSpeed Insights has a mobile friendly test component and appears to always show the correct mobile site and the results do not vary.

Review

Google hasn’t decided if it’s going to be using mobile friendliness as a ranking factor just yet, but with the reality that mobile Internet usage has surpassed desktop usage this year, now is the time to ensure your digital assets are mobile optimized.

 

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