Google Expands ‘Mobile-Friendly’ in Its Ranking Algorithm: Are You Prepared?

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Google Expands ‘Mobile-Friendly’ in Its Ranking Algorithm: Are You Prepared?

Today, Google will launch changes to its algorithm to help people discover more mobile-friendly content. The company announced in February that it would be expanding the use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal, a change that will affect mobile searches worldwide. In fact, according to Google, this algorithm will likely have a more significant impact on search results than Panda or Penguin did.

This update should help mitigate the often frustrating experience of landing on a site not optimised for mobile browsing: The text and in-site links are too small, forcing users to zoom in and scroll sideways to simply read the content. The new ‘mobile-friendly’ label will allow searchers to find optimised sites at a glance.

What You Need to Know

Here are a few details to note:

  1. Responsive Design Doesn’t Have a Ranking Benefit

While in the past, Google has recommended that webmasters use responsive design as a way to optimise for mobile, this method won’t be prioritised in the ranking algorithm over dedicated mobile websites. If you’re not already using either approach, consider the pros and cons of each and decide which method will work best for your business.

  1. Ranking Factor Runs in Real Time

If your site isn’t ready today, the good news is that you can transition at any time. Once you’ve optimised a page and Google crawls it, it will automatically be labelled as ‘mobile-friendly’, and you’ll immediately start reaping the benefits.

  1. Label Is Determined on a Page-by-Page Basis

Mobile-friendliness is determined on a page-by-page basis, not at a site-wide level. This means that if, for instance, your homepage is optimised but your product pages aren’t, only your homepage will be given the ‘mobile-friendly’ label.

What You Need to Do

To prepare for the change, you’ll first want to test a few pages on your site using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.

According to Google, a page is eligible for the ‘mobile-friendly’ label if it meets the following criteria as detected by Googlebot:

  • Avoids software that isn’t common on mobile devices, e.g., Flash
  • Uses text that’s readable without zooming
  • Sizes content to the screen
  • Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped
  • Allows Googlebot to crawl both CSS and Javascript

Why It’s Important

With mobile now accounting for 40% of online sales in the UK, this is an important update for retailers to be aware of. If you’re not delivering a seamless experience to these consumers, not only will they likely abandon your site without buying, but Google’s new algorithm may discourage them from visiting you at all.

While adapting to updates can be stressful, ensuring your site is mobile optimised helps both you and your customers. Quite simply, it’s a no-brainer.

By Shani Flynn

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