16 Mar SEO checklist part 7: User experience & responsive design
RESPONSIVE DESIGN CHECKLIST
“Mobilegeddon” has been coming for a long time now. But on February 26, 2015, Google made it official on their Webmaster Central Blog.
Mobile-friendliness is becoming a significant search-ranking factor.
In a massive effort to provide the highest quality search results that are optimized for all devices, Google will begin to rank every website for mobile-friendliness on April 21.
How much will could this new ranking factor affect your website? In Google’s own words, “This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.”
What is a mobile-friendly website?
The desktop version of your website may be too difficult to view and use on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. A website with a poor mobile experience is one where users have to pinch, zoom or pan to resize and view the entire page. A mobile-friendly website correctly displays information to users based on the dimensions of their device for easy reading and navigation.
Google’s mobile ranking factor
Gary Illyes, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, shed some light on how the mobile ranking factor will work at the SMX West conference. Specifically, Gary announced that the part of the algorithm that handles the mobile ranking factor will run in real time and grade websites on a page-by-page basis.
- Real-time search algorithm
Once Google crawls the page it will immediately index it as either mobile-friendly or not. Theoretically, this means that your website’s ranking can benefit as soon as you make mobile enhancements, without having to wait for a Google update.
- Page-by-page mobile ranking
Rather than grading an entire website on it’s mobile-friendliness, Google will crawl each page separately and give it a unique score. This is important because it gives webmasters comfort knowing that not having 100 percent of their pages mobile-friendly will not hurt the entire website.
Top three tips to build a site for mobile devices:
- Make it easy for your visitors
- Measure your site’s effectiveness by the time it takes to complete common tasks
- Use a mobile-responsive template, theme or design
Keep in mind that Google’s number one goal of providing the best websites for user search queries should also be important to any business. Whether they are purchasing a product, reading a Safety Data Sheet, or filling out a contact form, making your website mobile-friendly will help visitors complete their objectives. Streamlining your customers’ journey to completion will not only help you rank higher in search results, but will also increase your conversion rate.
What is responsive web design?
Responsive web design refers to a website that uses the same URL and HTML code no matter what the device is, but the content on the page is optimized and “responds” to the screen size.
In the past, web developers struggled to build separate desktop and mobile versions of sites, but with the growing number of different screen sizes that method has become too costly. Now, web developers use CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) media queries to specify rules in how the website is presented depending on browser dimensions.
The tremendous benefit of a responsive site is the ability to maintain only one version of your website and have it be optimized for all devices. Many content management systems, like WordPress, offer responsive design themes that make it easy to build mobile-optimized sites. We’ve been stressing the value of investing in responsive design to increase mobile-user engagement for years, and this algorithm change only pours gasoline on that fire.
How is Mobilegeddon different from other Google announcements?
Google is not known for hyperbole. The typical Google announcement is usually extremely understated. But this one contained the words “significant impact” and “get ready for this change.” They also rarely announce an exact date for an algorithm change.
All of this to say, that if your website is not mobile-friendly by April 21, your organic traffic is likely decline dramatically.
Luckily Google didn’t leave us completely in the dark. Here is a Google Developer test to check each of your pages to determine how the Googlebot sees your page and whether or not it passes the mobile-friendly test.
Like it or not, mobilegeddon 2015 is coming. Our recommendation is to batten down the hatches, make your website as mobile-friendly as possible, and start stockpiling high quality links. Pro tip – focus your mobile optimization efforts on the homepage since it receives the most traffic.