Google is quickly becoming the self-appointed internet police force. To be fair, it sure is nice to have Google warn us when a website may be compromised and spreading malware. Google recently gave some false positives, but otherwise does a good job of keeping the internet a safe and happy place. Now Google is going a step further and is targeting mobile experience. With dramatic increases in mobile search over the last several years (and decreasing desktop search), Google is on a mission to identify mobile-friendly design and usability. Google is again changing the face of the web by mandating these features for sites that wish to rank highly in search results.
Text vs Images
In the early days of the web, browsers did not support multiple typefaces / fonts. Designers used jpg and gif images to create buttons for their menus and navigation, but search engines couldn’t read the words – missing an important signal about the URLs being linked to. A compromise had to be made, and for designers it felt less than ideal. The advent of web fonts have breathed life back into web design, but it was a difficult transition for many.
Slow website loading times are repulsive to Google in a couple of different ways: Not only are Googlebot’s crawlers tied up, but user experience suffers as well. Google can see bounce rates increase and knows they didn’t deliver the “right result” in those ten blue links.
Ads Above the Fold
Google’s own advertising system helped create a world of sites filled with ads. Users developed ad blindness and ad blockers, but usability still suffered. Having ads at the top of the page became a signal of poor quality to Google, and they rolled out an algorithm update specifically targeting these designs. Moving the ads meant a reduction in revenue for many sites, but changes were made to preserve the sweet flow of Google traffic.
Google’s latest improvement for the web is happening in mobile.
Last fall, they started testing labeling which results were mobile friendly, showing tags next to sites on mobile devices. Google has announced a big change is coming in April for their mobile search results: sites will be severely penalized for a lack of mobile usability. Labels will be given to mobile friendly sites, too. It’s likely that many sites will see a drop in ranking when this goes into effect. Google and Bing both understand mobile is their most important battleground for marketshare, and Google assures us the change means “users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.” For businesses, it will be vital that all pages pass Google’s Mobile friendly test, check Mobile Error Reports in Webmaster Tools and watch for common mistakes on mobile.
Not sure of next steps for your site? Time to start testing – or maybe a redesign from that “good place”. Need a good interactive agency or website design firm? We’ve worked with agencies and designers. And we partner with the best! Talk to us about your needs, and we’ll introduce you to the right match.
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