Is your website mobile friendly? On April 21st Google rolled out a new change to its search algorithms which factor in a website’s “mobile-friendliness” as a ranking signal – meaning that those sites which weren’t optimized for smartphones’ smaller screens would see their ranks downgraded as a result. Google explains that in order for a site to be considered mobile-friendly, its text has to be readable without tapping and zooming, its tap targets need to be spaced out appropriately, and the page avoids unplayable content or horizontal scrolling. In other words, the site simply needs to be easily usable from a mobile device. Google also clarifies that the changes will only affect a site’s search ranking on mobile devices – and it only applies to individual pages, not entire websites. It also only impacts searches done on smartphones, not tablets.
Use this Google tool to determine if your website is mobile friendly”.
The shift to mobile cannot be ignored any longer. According to eMarketer, the number of smartphone users worldwide will surpass 2 billion in 2016, and will come close to hitting that mark this year. In 2015, the firm said there will be over 1.91 billion smartphone users across the globe. And by 2018, over one-third of consumers worldwide will use smartphones.
That rapid shift to mobile has impacted all businesses, Google included. The company’s bottom line is affected by how many mobile users turn to its search engine to explore the web, which allows Google to display ads with the search results. Popular mobile properties like Facebook have been cutting into Google’s ad business. eMarketer noted that Google owned half of the mobile ad market in 2013, but that would decline to 46.8 percent in 2014. Meanwhile, Facebook’s share of the market grew from 5.4 percent of global ad spending in 2012 to 21.7 percent in 2014, the firm said.
Google’s decision to force website owners to make their sites work better on mobile devices is about making sure that Google can retain its position as a useful service in the age of mobile.
The advantages to making a site mobile-friendly is also good for business owners. According to a study of 100 top mobile properties by Branding Brand, search accounted for nearly half of all smartphone traffic (43 percent) in Q1 2015, up 5 percent from the prior quarter. In addition, organic search produced 25 percent of all revenue on smartphone-optimized sites. And mobile traffic continues to grow – smartphone visits grew 35 percent year-over-year as of Q1, the study noted. Apple devices accounted for 59 percent of all smartphone visits in the quarter, during which time 28 percent of all online revenue was generated by mobile devices.
Google warns that if a site is determined to not be mobile-friendly, that “there may be a significant decrease in mobile traffic from Google Search.” But once the changes are made, Google will automatically re-process the site’s pages. Google’s crawling can take anywhere from a few hours to over 72 hours – but site owners can expedite the process by using Fetch as Google with Submit to Index. Then pages can be treated as mobile-friendly in ranking, Google says.