Every day, people use their mobile devices to search for particular stores, products, or services — with Google’s new mobile search algorithm, it’s more important than ever for your company to be as mobile-friendly as possible.
On April 21, Google released a new mobile search algorithm that boosts the rankings of mobile-friendly pages on mobile search results. Although this update only directly affects searches performed on mobile devices, its impact spans much, much wider.
Being carried out in “real time,” according to Luke Marr on Underhood, the algorithm’s effects can already be observed — there’s now a mobile-friendly indication listed next to websites on Google results. What exactly are the implications of this new algorithm, and how should companies adjust?
Large and Small Companies: All Must Adapt
Marr cites that over 54% of searches are conducted on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, which means that mobile searches are now more important than those coming from desktops or laptops — hardly a shocking revelation in this increasingly mobile-centric age.
Naturally, companies and organisations without mobile-friendly websites are going to suffer as a result. According to Supply & Demand Chain Executive, declined visibility on search engines means far fewer page visits and, subsequently, a hefty drop in conversions and sales.
Already, many companies have made the necessary adjustments. Others, however, seem to be falling behind: the BBC reports that the European Union and Wikipedia websites — as well as their own — failed to meet Google’s mobile-friendly criteria.
This information could come across as an encouragement to many smaller companies who haven’t yet tackled the mobile transition: if the bigger companies haven’t done it yet, then they might still have some time.
Lukasz Zelezny, Head of SEO at uSwitch.com, explains to Forbes how small businesses actually have the advantage in this instance because their tech teams are smaller and therefore more agile than those working for larger enterprises with more complicated infrastructures. That said, the onus is now on all companies — both large and small — to address the inevitable effects of Google’s new algorithm on their digital presence.
What Do You Mean by “Mobile-Friendly”?
In order to ride this new technological wave, companies will now have to revamp their strategies to meet Google’s standards for mobile friendliness. But what exactly does it mean to be “mobile-friendly,” and how should that definition play into development for mobile platforms?
The BBC also reports that Google’s criteria “includes text size, the amount of space between links, and whether the content fits across a mobile screen.” To that end, Underhood utilises short section titles, like “One.Min” instead of “Blogs You Can Read In One Minute.”
- Refrain from using software that doesn’t work on all mobile devices, such as Flash content.
- Ensure correct page dimensions with readable text that don’t force users to scroll or pinch and zoom.
- Make sure content is sized correctly and that images load quickly.
- Ensure buttons, links, and other calls to action have enough space for users to touch.
For even more detailed advice, Google has created its own comprehensive guide for creating mobile-friendly websites and even provides a Mobile-Friendly Test.
Sylvia Montgomery of Business2Community has several suggestions of her own, discouraging separate mobile sites (often indicated with an “m,” as in “m.bbc.co.uk”) and instead recommending “responsively-designed” websites that use simple CSS “to adapt naturally to a viewer’s device.”
Everyone has their own tips and tricks; it’s all a matter of gauging which will work best for your company or brand.
Optimising Native Mobile Apps
On Marketing Land, Josh Manion acknowledges the importance of not only optimising mobile websites, but also native mobile apps. “Customers engaging with brands on mobile apps tend to be the best customers,” claims Manion, citing the likelihood of their greater engagement, spending, and generally becoming better and louder brand advocates.
Thankfully, Google also reported its plans to index native mobile apps just like it does with websites, as according to Montgomery, its new App Indexing API allows Android apps to appear in search results. Manion further remarks that this new feature “is likely to be extended at some point to iOS.”
Although mobile apps only work if they’re already installed on a user’s device, companies should be careful not to ignore their potentially enormous value. According to Manion, “In many cases, the app delivers a much better experience than the website.”
The BBC further reports that Kevin Dallas, chief product officer at Worldpay eCommerce, warns that Google’s new algorithm “should send a message to companies whose websites are poorly configured for smartphone users that optimising for mobile is no longer a matter of choice.”
As Dallas’ comments indicate, everyone is in agreement: no one wants to jump on the mobile-friendly bandwagon too late. Those that do risk taking a serious hit to their brand and bottom line.
Longneck and Thunderfoot offer search engine optimization and analytics services to help businesses transform their websites into visible sources of knowledge online and answer the questions that matter most to your prospects. Learn more about SEO and analytics here.
(Main image credit: Siemens PLM Software/flickr)