On April 21st, Google introduced mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor. For the time being, this only directly affects searches made on mobile phones. But, the April 21st algorithm update is only the beginning. And, what a beginning it is, because it affects over 35 percent of the search market in the U.S. — and this number is growing! Furthermore, the emphasis on mobile will increase over time as people continue to make the switch to smaller, more convenient devices, like smartphones and tablets. As if to drive this fact home, Bing, which also powers much of Yahoo! search, has decided to join the mobile-friendly train too.
What Makes a Site Mobile-Friendly?
→ Is your website mobile-friendly? Put it through Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test!
Fortunately, Google and Bing have provided us with some excellent advice on how to deal with their algorithm updates. For the most part, the guidelines for both search engines are pretty similar.
- Compatibility — Oftentimes, features available on desktop aren’t available to those using their smartphones. This includes certain videos and Flash elements to your website. If your website makes use of animation and it isn’t mobile-friendly, ask your developer about a switch to HTML5 standards. If you make heavy use of video, ask if all the embedding coding is accessible on all devices.
- User experience — The bottom line: mobile-friendly websites should be easy to read on smaller devices. How do you about doing this? (1) The text should be large enough to read without having to zoom in. (2) Links, buttons, and other elements should be adequately separated to make them easy to click. (3) The reader should not have to scroll horizontally to see something on your website.
- Site speed — People don’t like to wait, and if your site is slow it will be penalized for it. The good news is that Google has made it very easy to know how your site is performing in this area, and if it’s not doing as well as it could be they are nice enough to give you advice on what you can do to improve your speed score. You can test your website’s speed using Google’s PageSpeed Insights — just drop a link in and Google will do the rest for you.
- Linking errors — Sometimes a website will have two versions: one for desktop and one for mobile. If this describes your site, make sure to ask your developers if all the code and linking is set up correctly to funnel readers to the correct pages. If a mobile user is sent to the desktop version, your site will be penalized. If a mobile link leads to an error, your site will be penalized.
My Site Isn’t Mobile-Friendly, What Now?
If your website isn’t mobile friendly, don’t panic! Even if you have a responsive or mobile-first website theme, there could be other issues affecting your site. First, have your developers conduct a mobile-friendly audit, making sure that your site fulfills all the above-listed criteria. At Now Media Group, we’ll do it for free. Second, if there are any issues with the site, now is the time to fix them. Mobile-friendly — all-device-friendly, really — will become more and more important over time, and, if you don’t act soon, you’ll be left behind.