User experience is greatly affected by the devices people use: phones, game consoles, TVs, ‘phablets’, tablets, desktops, and now, wearables.
Recognizing the importance of mobile devices, Google seeks to make the Web friendlier for mobile users, and it recently announced 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.”
WHY IS GOOGLE CRACKING DOWN ON SITES THAT AREN’T MOBILE-FRIENDLY?
With the proliferation of mobile devices in the last decade, smart phone and tablet browsing far surpassed desktop usage in early 2014—a trend that spans all ages, but is greatest in the 18-24 year old group.
One SEO expert referred to Google’s shift as “Mobilegeddon”, because organizations whose sites or pages are not deemed “mobile-friendly”, will see their Google ranking plunge, which will negatively impact their communications efforts.
In order to answer the flurry of questions and associated anxiety emerging from the online community, Google’s Webmaster Relations Team held an info session via Google+ Hangout on March 24. The most salient points from the meeting included:
- The new ranking system will NOT affect desktop search, only mobile search
- It will launch April 21 and take several days to complete—it is very important organizations implement changes as close to this date as possible
- Websites and pages will be deemed “mobile-friendly”, or not, when searched
- Google recommends ‘responsive’ designs (What is Responsive?)
As Google pointed out during the Hangout Q&A, “there are over 200 different factors that determine ranking.” While a specific list from Google remains elusive, it is certain that negative factors include things such as:
- Font sizes are too small
- Links or buttons are too close together
- Content is difficult to read
Google has already sent this message to webmasters whose sites are not mobile-friendly:
Regardless of whether you received that message or not, we recommend that organizations follow these steps to check for themselves:
1) Using Google, search the site from a mobile device to determine if there is a mobile-friendly label in the search results:
2) Mobile Friendly Test: Input the URL of your site and various pages within it.
3) Mobile Usability Report: Google will test for mobile usability and provide specific feedback.
Organizations whose sites are not mobile-friendly can address the issue in a variety of ways, depending on the platform they used to develop their sites. Many of Omni’s clients had their sites built in WordPress, so below are solutions specific to WordPress sites.
SOLUTIONS FOR WORDPRESS
Google specifically mentions three avenues for WordPress developers:
- Convert your entire site to a new, mobile-friendly theme
- Create two sites: desktop and a mobile version
- Customize your current site
Every avenue requires technical expertise and comprehensive testing, which takes time. The April 21 date is fast approaching, and the importance of this revolutionary change in mobile search cannot be overemphasized.
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