Google’s announcement that as of April 21st, 2015 they will be “expanding mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal” for their search results, has many companies that may have been delaying website updates suddenly taking action to make their sites “mobile-friendly” before these changes hit their wallet. With companies scrambling to avoid losing rank, we wanted to help make sense of the situation for those that want to know more about what it means to have a “mobile-friendly” site.
“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.” –Google
Why does Google care if I have a Mobile Friendly Website?
Google’s mission is to help organize the world’s data, and part of that mission is providing that data in a format for the best user experience possible. With such an increase in searches taking place on mobile devices Google has begun to determine standards that they deem to provide a good mobile user experience.
Mobile Responsive or Adaptive Website Design
Mobile Friendly Font size
You will want to ensure you have a mobile friendly font size that is easily readable on mobile devices. This goes with having a responsive or adaptive website, but you will want to take note specifically that your font size is designed with more than large monitors in mind.
Mobile Friendly Link Spacing
Even if you have taken the steps to use a website theme built for mobile, poor design can lead to link spacing issues and thus an “unfriendly” mobile design. Perform the Google Mobile Friendly Test on individual key pages to determine if your link spacing is causing any issues and if Google deems you to have a mobile friendly eCommerce website. At least a 28×28 pixel padding is recommended.
How does this affect my eCommerce business?
It is worth noting that whether you rely on Google to drive traffic to your site or not, the use of your website on mobile devices greatly impacts your business already. With more than 15% of all eCommerce sales already being made on mobile and projections for this number to jump to 25% by 2017, your mobile experience greatly affects your business regardless of what Google thinks about it.
But as far as the Google algorithm update goes, here are some things to note.
Google ranks web pages not websites. This is still the case in this “mobile-friendly” algorithm update. So if you have a few key pages that are ranking highly for keywords that drive business you will want to check these first. The good news is that if your high ranking category and products pages are all mobile friendly, their rank will not be affected by other pages that might not be.
This specific update is only for mobile searches. So the Google update occuring April 21st, 2015 does not affect desktop searches, however this isn’t to say that there won’t be an update in the furture that will affect all searches.
Before you say… “Whew! My customers mostly visit my site from a computer!” Take into consideration the rise of mobile. You may want to not only look hard at your analytics to confirm your mobile traffic share, but to also look into your industry’s search terms to see what kind of mobile traffic you may be missing out on currently or more so in the future.
Say you sell kayaks specific for fishing, which some could argue has an audience more inclined to search on desktop (older, male, non-tech industry, and a product that often requires research). An obvious generalization but a good product to get a feel for what percentage of searches this mobile update may affect.
You can see from the Google Keyword Tool chart below that over 58% of searches for the term “fishing kayak” are performed on mobile devices and tablets. Smart phones alone beat out computers head to head!
So what happens after April 21st?
Those pages that are not deemed as “mobile friendly” will likely take a hit when faced with close competitors that do have pages ranking that are considered “mobile friendly”.
A quick look at the search results for “fishing kayak”, we see at the #3 spot wildernesssystems.com/kayaks is not currently deemed as mobile friendly by Google even though it appears that the site was built on a mobile responsive framework.
Diving into the ranking page it seems to show an overlap in the font and other content that may be the culprit. There is no guarantee but with Google quoted as saying the change will have a “significant impact” on search results, one could assume that either Hobie or Cabela’s mobile friendly pages could leap frog into that coveted #3 spot if this is not fixed prior to the update.
How can I make my eCommerce site mobile friendly?
First you will want to head to Google’s Mobile Friendly Testing Tool to check to see if your key ranking pages are deemed as mobile friendly in Google’s eyes. As we saw with Wilderness Systems, although their website seemed to be built on a mobile friendly design and their home page was deemed “mobile friendly”, one of their top ranking pages was not, and Google will only take that page into consideration when determining it’s rank.
Once determining which pages need work you can follow Google’s instructions on How to Customize your website to be mobile friendly or their guide on Mobile SEO. There are step by step instructions as well as insights into best practices from Google on mobile site design.
Obviously if all of this seems a bit overwhelming you can always contact a web design agency like Current Commerce that specializes in eCommerce and mobile friendly design to help you through the process.
Through the months of March, April, and May 2015 we will be giving a free Full Mobile Analysis to those who want to be update their website for the Google “mobile friendly” algorithm updates.