Google is constantly updating its algorithms to try and improve its efficiency in locating relevant, accurate and entertaining information.
The role of any search engine is of course to help people discover the content they’re looking for and that will be high quality.
In order to continue to thrive as the top search engine then, Google needs to keep updating to ensure that this is the kind of content it finds.
These days, finding the right results for users is not just a matter of finding the right content but also the right site design that’s easy to navigate and that won’t frustrate users.
With an increasing number of us surfing the web on mobile for instance, it is now more important than ever that Google be able to find mobile compatible content.
Users need to find content on their mobile phones that will open up quickly and that will be easy to navigate without a keyboard and mouse – and as such, this is the focus of Google’s new update.
As a webmaster, business owner or blogger then, how will this affect you?
The latest update is being referred to as a ‘mobile-friendly compliance’ update and doesn’t yet have an animal/bird name beginning with ‘P’.
It will be going live on April 21st 2015, as Google anticipates this year will be the biggest yet for mobile searching.
In general, it will mean that sites less well-suited to being viewed on mobile will be penalized in the search results with those better suited benefiting.
The change will only affect results that are shown on mobile but as mobile traffic accounts for such a large proportion of total web traffic (about 30% of searches are through mobile), this is still important news.
This is particularly important for local businesses as local search is estimated to be about 80% mobile.
Specifically, Google has stated that the following traits will help a site to classify as ‘mobile friendly’:
- Content must not be wider than the screen – users shouldn’t have to scroll left or right
- Links must not be overly close together (so that they’re easy to click)
- Text must be large for reading on smaller devices
- Sites should not use Flash or other software that’s incompatible with mobile browsers
We can also assume that Google will be looking at other ‘obvious’ points that have always been recommended for mobile compatibility. For instance:
- Sites should not use drop-down menus as the primary means of navigation
- Sites should load quickly
- Sites should avoid small text links
You may also want to consider avoiding pop-up windows that obscure the page on mobile devices and are difficult to close.
What You Should be Doing
So what does all this mean for you? How do you know if you need to make any changes?
The good news is that Google has removed the guesswork from this process by supplying a ‘test’ tool that can be used to ensure sites are mobile friendly. Click here to find out if your site needs to make changes. If you fail the test, it will give you advice and suggestion to help you fix the problem.
But what if you don’t have time to make these changes or you don’t know how? How badly can you expect the changes to impact your site?
Specifically, Google says that the changes are likely to impact only a relatively small portion of search results. Google can’t read all the factors impacting on mobile-friendliness so some ‘awkward’ sites will still slip through the net. What’s more, it’s important to remember that CTR is lower for mobile. In other words, traffic that comes from mobile is generally less valuable to businesses and so these changes probably won’t be crippling any businesses.
Nevertheless though, this is still something you need to take seriously. Consider this update as a sign of things to come – more and more web users are going to be using mobile in the years to come and all the big search engines are investing a lot of resources into this sector. Even if you survive this next change without making changes to your site, it’s only a matter of time until incompatible sites start to struggle so it’s important to stay one step ahead. That and of course mobile compatibility website is something that users also benefit from.
How to Make Your Site Compatible
If your site isn’t compatible, what can you do?
You have two options: build a separate mobile-friendly site, or redesign your current website with our responsive website development. Responsive website development means that your site will change appearance depending on the type of device and browser viewing it. Google has stated its preference for this option and it has a lot of advantages when it comes to usability.