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Mobile Usability Will Be a Ranking Factor by April 21

Mobile Usability Will Be a Ranking Factor by April 21

Over the last couple of months, Google has been dropping hints left and right about the overwhelming need and importance for sites to be mobile-friendly.

From noting which sites are “mobile-friendly” on mobile searches to sending messages to Webmasters to fix mobile usability issues, Google has not been very subtle when it comes to warning site owners to improve their mobile user experience.  

Therefore, it really should come as no surprise that just last Thursday, Google (finally) confirmed that mobile usability will officially become a ranking factor in their mobile search algorithm.

Said to have a “significant impact” on mobile site rankings in all languages worldwide, this algorithmic update is scheduled to take into effect on April 21, 2015.

So what does this mean?

Long story short, if your website doesn’t look good on mobile, kiss your high rankings goodbye and say hello to page 10.

Google will begin evaluating your site’s mobile usability, and if it doesn’t offer an excellent user experience on all devices, Google will demote you.

This mobile algorithm update is not something you want to take lightly.

When Google makes search algorithm updates, sites that don’t pass their new guidelines get hit – hard – and typically, it takes a lot of extra time and money for those sites to recover.

We’re talking thousands of extra dollars and months banished to the dark depths of search results. Even after you fix your site and begin complying with Google’s standards, there’s no 100% guarantee that your site will ever truly recover.

Therefore, it’s best to head Google off and fix your website before they make the update.

Why is Google doing this?

“Users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.” – Google Webmaster Central

Google wants to create the best online experience for all their users, and now that mobile search is exceeding Internet usage on desktop, Google’s goal is to create a consistently amazing user experience on all devices, regardless of whether the user is on smartphone, tablet, or desktop.

What mobile factors will Google consider?

In order to determine a site’s mobile usability, Google will look at the following factors:

  • Text size: Is the text too small to read on a mobile device? Do users have to zoom in to read anything?
  • Mobile viewport not set: How does your site look on mobile? Does it display well? Can you easily read the text?
  • Links too close together: Is it difficult for users to get to other pages on the site? Is the site navigation too cumbersome on mobile devices?
  • Content Wider than the screen: Are pages cut off when you look on mobile devices?

To see how your site will look on mobile and determine whether it passes Google’s mobile usability standards, enter your website’s URL in this handy-dandy tool here.

How can you prevent getting hit by the mobile algorithm update?

Two words: responsive design.

A responsive design website can not only fix all of the above issues but also make site updates simpler.

A responsive design website automatically adjusts your site’s layout based on the device you’re viewing it from. Your site content will still be the same when viewed on mobile; the only difference is that the layout will change to adjust to your device’s screen size.

Take our site for example. Here’s how it looks on desktop:

desktop version of a website

But if you view it on a tablet, mobile, or on a smaller desktop screen, here’s what you might see:

mobile version of a website   mobile version of a website

Notice how the page automatically adjusts the content and images based on the screen size? That's responsive. 

Google loves responsive design, mostly because it looks great no matter the screen size. However, converting your site into a responsive design is better than creating a mobile-specific website, because this way, you don’t have to manage both a desktop site and a mobile site. When you make updates on a responsive site, you’re only updating that one site.

Convert your site to responsive design

As the April 21 deadline quickly approaches, there's no time to waste. Failing to go responsive could prove to be detrimental to your business. So what are you waiting for?