Evidence for an impending mobile algorithm change from Google has been mounting for months (Update: Google has just announced April 21 as the deadline to beat its mobile-friendliness algorithm). Google has rolled out a mobile-friendly testing tool, added a mobile-friendly label in mobile search results (along with a slight ranking boost), and it now provides usability reports in Webmaster Tools. All signs have been pointing towards an increased focus on mobile user experience, and Google just gave another clear signal that it’s time to get serious about your website’s mobile UX.
Today, Google began sending mobile usability warnings to webmasters – it’s not a penalty (yet), but this should be a signal for anyone who hasn’t already started the move to a mobile-friendly website. Google’s Penguin and Panda penalties have come as a shock to SEOs and webmasters in the past, so you should view these usability warnings as a final wake-up call for site owners who now know their sites are not mobile friendly.
Google’s getting serious about mobile UX, and you should be, too. If your site is struggling with mobile friendliness, we can show you how to right the ship.
Importance of Mobile
Let’s just cover the basics real quick. Right now, mobile UX is just a small ranking signal in a big algorithm, but it has incredible implications for business owners worried about SEO. Not all sites rely on mobile traffic, but a few simple stats show that you can’t afford to ignore it:
- A comScore report says smartphone and tablet traffic now account for 60% of online traffic.
- The rise in mobile helped digital dethrone television as the most-viewed media for the first time.
- Retailers like Wal-Mart saw 70% of online purchases come from mobile during the holiday season.
Are You Mobile Friendly?
As a wise action figure once said, knowing is half the battle. Google sent usability warnings to sites that with 100% non-mobile-friendly pages, so there are plenty of webmasters who may not have received a warning, yet are still in dangerous waters.
One of Google’s first moves toward mobile-UX ranking was its testing Mobile-Friendly Testing Tool, and it should absolutely be your first move. If you’ve got a healthy site, Google will confirm that you’re in the clear. If you’ve got some improvements to make, the tool will give you a clear report on things to improve, with common errors including:
- Classic SEO mistakes like keyword stuffing
- Poorly optimized images
- Small text and buttons
- Multiple copies of pages with different URLs
Once you know, now it’s time to do something about it.
There are many ways to build a site for mobile users, and the solution will be different for every business. It all starts by gathering data from your analytics and from your customers. Your data should help you plot a course for building a website that is ready to meet Google guidelines and provide a rich user experience for your customers.
For webmasters of smaller sites, we’ve shown how our marketing teams have built mobile-friendly solutions using separate URLs for mobile landing pages. This solution is ideal for businesses that need to improve mobile user experience on a budget, but it doesn’t provide a long-term solution that passes Google’s tests and works for the myriad screens of your users.
Google’s Mobile Webmaster Documentation prefers building a future-ready site with responsive web design, and it’s probably the best solution for most businesses. Our associate creative director predicts that we’ll see a rise in standalone web apps for e-commerce, but responsive design allows you to have a unified online presence that works on any screen.
No matter how you decide to improve your mobile UX, it’s well past time to get started. Even without Google’s actions on mobile search, your users are becoming increasingly mobile. Google hasn’t set a deadline for improved mobile experience yet, but you can be darn sure one is coming.