Google Raises the Bar for Mobile-Friendly Search Results

A few weeks ago, Google made a rare, definitive announcement: 

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. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices. For the full announcement, click here.

There are two important things about this announcement: Google has set a date and it’s used the words “significant impact.” Google tends to roll out changes and let us know afterwards. They never quite say exactly how or how much those changes will affect current rankings. With this announcement, the company is letting everyone know that Google will reward websites that support mobile devices and penalize those that don’t.

Significantly.

Google has been moving in this direction for a while. Google Webmaster Tools provides a mobile usability report as well as a mobile-friendly testing tool, and Google has added "mobile-friendly" labels to mobile search results.

People reading the announcement might quibble and say ‘Yes, but they mean mobile searches. Not desktop searches. Our audience doesn’t use mobile that much.’ 

Mobile searches overtake desktop searches

Think again. Especially if you’re a business that relies on local traffic. Remember also that mobile also means tablets such as iPads, not just smartphones.
 
•    Google predicts that mobile searches will surpass desktop searches in 2015
•    40% of mobile searches are for local businesses
•    81% of mobile conversions are fast - they happen within 5 hours of the search

See for yourself

Google Analytics provides Audience Reports, which include a specific category for mobile traffic. This lets you see how much traffic you receive from visitors using a mobile device. If you feel the need to monitor the situation, Google Analytics already provides some default segments to view just your mobile traffic:

•    Mobile Traffic
•    Tablet Traffic
•    Mobile and Tablet Traffic
•    Tablet and Desktop Traffic

But don’t risk it

Even if your mobile traffic is a small percentage of overall traffic, it’s wise to take steps now toward a mobile-friendly website. This announcement from Google makes it mandatory. Check out this list of the blogs we’ve written on the topic of mobile and local search and get in touch if you have questions on how to update your website to be mobile-friendly