Google has started sending mass notifications to webmasters who have websites that do not meet Google’s criteria for a mobile friendly website. The messages, send through Google Webmaster Tools and via email, alert webmasters to the areas in which their website is not considered to be properly optimised for mobile users.
The sending of the notifications has been interpreted as another sign that Google is experimenting with the launch of a specific mobile algorithm, which could see mobile users presented with different search results to desktop users using the same search term. Google has previously suggested that it is looking at enhancing the mobile user experience, with ‘mobile friendly’ tags launched back in November, and a statement on the Webmaster Central Blog infers that a mobile-specific algorithm may be in the offing:
"We see these labels as a first step in helping mobile users to have a better mobile web experience. We are also experimenting with using the mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal."
Assuming that the majority of brands that don’t have mobile friendly sites are aware of this fact, the sending of notifications is a clear sign that Google is looking to push forward with changes to mobile search, so what should you do if you receive one?
Understand the opportunities.
If your website isn’t already optimised for mobile devices, you are missing out on some huge opportunities.
According to Ofcom, the proportion of mobile internet users purchasing goods has increased from 20% to 24%, 2013 to 2014 and those shoppers, as well as growing in number, are also spending more each quarter. In March 2014, 42% of mobile shoppers spend more than £100 on their device, compared with 37% during the same month in 2013.
Mobile optimised websites are also critical for online product discovery. Whilst Google reports that almost half (48%) of mobile research starts with search engines (significantly lower than desktop), a third of mobile research starts with branded websites.
Familiarise yourself with Google’s mobile friendly criteria.
Google has a set of criteria to determine whether a site is mobile friendly. To earn a ‘mobile friendly’ tag, a website must be one that:
- Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, such as Flash,
- Uses text that is readable without zooming,
- Sizes content to the screen so users don't have to scroll horizontally or zoom,
- Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped.
You can test whether your site meets these criteria at Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
Ensure your site complies with mobile best practice.
Mobile users expect the same quality of experience when browsing on their mobile as they do their desktop, so it is essential to make sure your site is responsive to the devices that they are using without compromising on the content or functionality. If your site isn’t capable of displaying a particular element on the small screen, reconsider how you use that element.
Design your website with responsiveness in mind. Your customers are now multi-platform, and demand the same standard of service on every platform.
Try to make your site code as simple as possible, using HTML5 best practise, and focusing on the right break points. Ensure that your user functions are easy to use on smaller screens and that they are compressed to suit multiple device sizes. If necessary, streamline your site content by removing any that could be considered unnecessary.
Capitalise on the growth of mobile.
According to Velti, 20% of UK smartphone users use their mobile for online shopping – the same proportion of users who use their smartphone to access Twitter. Despite this, 59% of brands admitted that their mobile presence either wasn’t active or that it needed considerable improvement, and just 24% believed that they were effective at using mobile insights to optimise their campaigns.
Mobile is the biggest growth area in digital marketing. Smartphone and tablet adoption is increasing year on year, with half of UK households now owning a tablet device, and 63% of adults owning a smartphone (an increase of 20% since 2013), the demands from users for a seamless digital experience have never been greater.
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