Google expands its use of “mobile-friendliness” as a ranking signal

Google is expanding its use of “mobile-friendliness” as a ranking signal beginning on April 21. In advance of that change, Google both helps mobile users find mobile-friendly web pages via the "mobile-friendly" tag in search results, and also warns webmasters if their websites and web pages are not mobile-friendly.

Why make a website mobile-friendly? As of 30 June 2014, there were 20.6 million mobile handset subscribers in Australia, according to Australian government statistics, and the volume of data downloaded via mobile handsets for the three months ended 30 June 2014 was 38,734 Terabytes, a 40% increase from the three months ended 31 December 2013. According to a report by InMobi, 55% of Australian mobile web users use mobile devices as either their primary or exclusive means of online access, an increase from 40 percent in 2013, and 86% expect to engage in mobile commerce within the next twelve months. This means mobile users can be critical to your business. Mobile shoppers are especially impatient according to MediaPost: "Mobile shoppers put ease of use foremost when it comes to mobile shopping sites, with 48% of respondents citing it as the most important quality of a mobile site they visit. According to a new study of mobile shoppers from mobile site testing and optimisation platform Maxymiser, 30% of dissatisfied m-shopping visitors will leave and go visit a competitor's site instead.

Google says that expanding mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal in all languages worldwide will have a “significant impact” in its search results, and judging by the impacts of past changes, this one should not be underestimated -- recall that the Google Panda update caused quite an uproar among website owners who watched their page rankings sink. If you want to know if your website passes the mobile friendliness requirements, speak to one of our SEO specialists based in Sydney.

What makes a mobile-friendly site?

According to the Google developer's blog: "A mobile-friendly site is one that you can easily read and use on a smartphone, by only having to scroll up or down.” It is immediately readable and usable to users with content sized appropriately to mobile device screens using legible fonts so that there is no need to rotate and swipe to read information. Nor is it built with technology such Adobe Flash that cannot be viewed on iOS devices or Android 4.1 or later. In addition, any links on the page will have enough space around them to accommodate touch easily. Although mobile users are able to pinch and zoom the desktop version of a website, having to do so makes it more frustrating to view content on their device, and could cause a viewer to abandon a mobile-unfriendly website.

Google has been previewing mobile friendliness with various tools for rating web pages and entire websites as advance warning of the significant upcoming change. However, many sites are still well behind and still thinking that mobile is an afterthought. But as mobile devices rapidly increase in capability and phablets mark the convergence of phones and tablet devices in utility, mobile web usage can only increase its proportion of usage compared to desktop web browsing. Mobile traffic is no longer an afterthought for webmasters. Mobile traffic for some is up to 60% of the total and growing, making mobile websites more important than the desktop site for some industries.

Google also announced that it has started to employ information from indexed app linking to increase the rankings of apps within search results, provided the mobile user already has the app installed. Google has been indexing information from Android apps in much the same way that it indexes websites. App indexing, called the new SEO generation by Search Engine Watch, enables users to have a seamless user experience across websites and mobile apps, by being able to launch the app directly from the search results. App indexing allows information contained within the pages of an app to be as searchable through a browser as information contained on the associated website. Some well-known Android apps with deep links would be AOL, Bleacher Report, Eventbrite, Goodreads, Huffington Post, IMDB, Merriam-Webster, Pinterest,, Seeking Alpha, TalkAndroid, TripAdvisor, Tumblr, YP, Zagat, Zappos, and Zillow.

These two new changes in Google ranking signals can increase traffic for strong mobile-friendly websites with embedded indexed apps. In matters of shopping, mobile shoppers are likely to search competing prices in advance or on the way to a store, and then continue to look for price comparisons while inside the actual store. Selection of a high-ranking search listing, then an easy-to-navigate mobile site design with embedded app to complete the transaction would be a goal of mobile commerce sites. Otherwise, without attending to this new algorithm update, the loss of sales can be significant.

If you care about and rely on Google traffic, Quantum Web can assist you with clear and definite steps to make your site mobile friendly. Call us on 1300 3888 11 today to find out how.

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