Mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal
Google regularly experiments with improving the user experience within its search engine for users of mobile devices, citing the increase in mobile browsing as a trend they must adapt to. Most notably, in November 2014, Google introduced the ‘mobile-friendly’ label, which appears in the results snippet underneath the URL and enables users to easily identify which sites offer a mobile optimised experience. At the same time they reiterated the search penalties applied to sites that provide a bad experience to mobile searchers.
John Mueller, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst says “Mobile users much prefer sites that are mobile-friendly, and will not return to the site if the experience is poor. Google believes that users should get the most relevant and recent results, regardless of their device”.
In late February 2015 Google confirmed 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.
This announcement has caused quite a stir and resulted in many parties believing that if they don’t implement a mobile or responsive website quickly, then their search performance is going to take a quick dive form 21st April. This interpretation however isn’t strictly true, as search’s completed from desktop, laptop and tablet devices will not be affected by the new ranking signals, it is only searches carried out from mobile devices, where a non-mobile-friendly site may be penalised and drop down the rankings.
So for now, we think it’s fair to assume that if you don’t already have a responsive or mobile-friendly website, then mobile search probably doesn’t form part of your search strategy and therefore there is no need to panic, as the imminent changes are not going to affect you. If however mobile search is important to you, and you don’t have a mobile/responsive website, then you should act swiftly.
If you’re unsure if your website is mobile-friendly, use this simple tool provided by Google: http://tiny.cc/4htdwx
Elevation not elimination
Whilst most are predicting the change from Google today will penalise non-mobile friendly websites, we think it’s more likely that sites seen to be offering a great mobile user experience would be given a ranking boost; however non-mobile friendly sites would not be removed from the search results or penalised in any way. It’s simply the case that websites that do accommodate for mobile users would be getting an additional rankings boost.
Providing that websites continue to offer highly relevant content, they still have a chance of appearing in mobile search results, regardless of how mobile friendly they are.
Mobile sites have been around for over a decade and responsive sites have been commonplace for over two years, and despite the fact Google will not necessarily be penalising non-mobile friendly websites, it is still recommended that webmasters invest in responsive web designs so they can boost their rankings, gain a competitive edge and meet the needs of their growing mobile audience.
We’d be happy to discuss your concerns and questions, also to provide a quick estimate to make your website mobile-friendly.