By Carrie-ann | Dec 15, 2014 | Google news, Internet Marketing, SEO

Mobile Ranking Algorithm – Don’t Get Left Behind

Google is experimenting with a mobile ranking algorithm or at least ranking signals. The signals focus on user experience.  Relevance still matters of course, but Google wants website owners to deliver sites that work well on mobile devices.

Why Mobile Search Matters

Mobiles are now the default device for accessing the internet.   Google has been on top of the growing mobile search market for a number of years.  Therefore it’s no surprise there have been significant improvements with more under development.   But is your site keeping up?

To What Extent is Your Site Mobile-Friendly?

You can be under no doubt that Google expects you to have a mobile friendly version of your site in place. Google has launched “Mobile-friendly” labels and made it clear it’s already developed mobile ranking factors, albeit these are still undergoing testing.
The “Mobile-friendly” labels appear next to search results, or not, as the case may be. It depends whether your site resolves a sensible mobile version.  If you search on Google using a mobile you will find the labels displayed in the search results before the first word of the page’s description, as shown below.

Regardless of whether your small business site is managed in-house or not I recommend you assess the extent to which your site is mobile compatible and take action accordingly. Helpfully Google provides a mobile- friendly online test for sites. You can find it at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/. You can also make use of the Mobile Usability Report within Google Webmaster Tools. Naturally both are focused on the user experience.  Honestly, I can’t urge you to do this quickly enough because sooner rather than later a mobile ranking algorithm is headed your way!

Why Sites Fail Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test

There are a wide range of reasons why a site may fail the test. These yield clues as to the mobile ranking factors currently under testing and are discussed below. What you should also know is that research shows most mobile users won’t return to sites that are difficult to read, it’s just too much work. This is also a big deal.
Solutions vary depending on the platform you use and Google provides some guidance here:  https://developers.google.com/webmasters/mobile-sites/?utm_source=wmc-blog&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=mobile-friendly.  A fully responsive site is the ideal but there are quick fixes for sites running on modern platforms such as WordPress but businesses running older sites may be in trouble.

So what are Google’s Mobile Ranking Factors?

For the time being it’s not clear exactly what these are. Google is keeping that to itself for now.  However it’s already known Google will demote a site in the rankings if it’s misconfigured for mobiles or not mobile-friendly. It’s fair to assume I think that the mobile ranking algorithm will be built on this capability. However I expect it to look much more closely at evaluating the user experience as per Google’s mobile-friendly testing tool.  Mobile site issues that are likely to count against you include: The absence of a viewport (defined viewing area) and correctly fitting content to minimise scrolling, flash, fonts not to scale, buttons and links too close together.  In a nutshell, the mobile version of your site must be up to the job in terms of form and function.
None of this is rocket science, but I am surprised how many businesses are not on top of their mobile capability. Google doesn’t always give prior warning of algorithm changes or updates. If your business needs to, it should take advantage of it.