The news that Google was rolling out a mobile-friendly algorithm should have come as no surprise. As the search giant revealed yesterday, mobile search queries on smartphones now outnumber those on tablets and desktops.
Nonetheless, the announcement was unprecedented in one respect: Google ostensibly manages some 200 algorithms that govern how websites are ranked in its search engine, but changes or adjustments rarely, if ever, trigger public notice. This time, Google announced the change in mobile search months ahead to give companies time to optimize websites for mobile users.
It’s a clear signal. We now live in a world in which mobile increasingly comes first — and that means marketers need to deliver mobile-friendly experiences.
Google Redefines Mobile-Friendly
What’s at stake? Portent, a market-research firm, ran tests based on the new rules and found that, “40% of the leading sites failed Google’s ‘mobile-friendly’ test and may be down-ranked in search.”
Under the new mobile rules, Google will be giving preferential search rankings to sites optimized for mobile. Or, as Google said, “This test will analyze a URL and report if the page has a mobile-friendly design.” The change will affect mobile searches in all languages, Google says, and have a “significant impact on search results.”
Google defines “mobile friendly” as sites featuring readable text without zooming, content sized to a smartphone screen (no horizontal scrolling required), easy use of links and the absence of applications not customary in mobile like Flash. Sites not meeting this standard will likely fall in search rankings, although strong content will continue to be rewarded.
At this point, the rules relate to searches on smartphones, but it’s likely only a matter of time until tablets are added.