It’s been common knowledge for quite some time that having a mobile site is highly beneficial. As every year passes, that benefit grows, as more and more people switch to browsing on mobile devices. Mobile devices continue to grow ever more sophisticated, but they aren’t potent enough to simulate a desktop experience. Moreover, they don’t try; mobile browsing is its own beast, and it needs to be catered to for best effect.
Still, many businesses hold out, thinking they do “well enough” without mobile, or believing that mobile is a fad that will soon die out. Mobile isn’t the pogs of our generation; it’s the next wave of technology, and it’s here to stay.
Thankfully, if you need to convince one of those stubborn business owners, you can now add yet another set of indicators from Google itself.
1. Favored Responsive Design
Responsive design is the most modern way to cater to mobile browsers, and it has a number of distinct advantages over the traditional subfolder or subdomain methods. For example:
- Both mobile and desktop searchers, when finding the site, will see the same URL with the same content. The only difference is in how much of it is displayed dynamically. Mobile browsers without certain capabilities will see a site that seems designed for what it can do, while more powerful desktop machines will be able to see all of the robust dynamic content. This is an SEO factor as well, because keeping both types of users on the same domain avoids splitting up the content. It also avoids potential canonicalization or duplicate content issues stemming from improperly implemented mobile sites.
- Mobile users come from a variety of different types of devices, but they tend to share one key feature; a low tolerance for sites they can’t use. A responsive site caters to these users and displays perfectly for them, which increases time spent on site and decreases bounce rate; both SEO factors.
- A responsive design doesn’t require code that implements redirects based on the user’s device. Instead, it relies only on screen size. In fact, desktop users can adjust the size of their browser to see what a responsive site looks like in a mobile device. A lack of redirects, particularly bad redirects, is also beneficial to SEO.
For obvious reasons, Google favors having a responsive design over having a dedicated mobile page. Likewise, Google favors a mobile page over not having any mobile display capability what so ever.
2. Mobile Error Penalties
Google’s developers center is a massive and robust resource for all things search and web development, and it has some very interesting things to say about mobile. Among other things, it will list out many common problems that sites have when trying – and failing – to work on mobile devices.
- Mobile devices occasionally can’t play certain types of multimedia. Apple’s historic issues with Flash, older devices having issues with HTML5, and other sorts of media errors make a webpage much less valuable, particularly when the primary content of that page is in the multimedia.
- Redirects are tricky, and sometimes the code can get hung up on certain types of devices. Faulty redirects can earn you a decreased rank, as certain types of users find your site unusable.
In every case, errors that appear on your site when a mobile browser tries to view it will cause a lowered rank in the search results. This is not a penalty; it’s simply an adjustment of your rank based on certain factors. Fix the issues and your rank will rise.
3. Mobile Friendly Flags
Starting any time now, Google has promised to begin rolling out a new indicator in their mobile search results. This indicator is a small line of gray text beneath the URL, next to the snippet, on search results. If a site qualifies, it will earn this indicator and a potentially higher rank in search. If the site is the only one in a list of results with this indicator, it’s a powerful signal for mobile users to click on that particular site. What is the indicator?
It’s a simple extension of everything that has been mentioned above, though the requirements to earn the flag are lighter than you might expect. Your site needs to:
- Avoid any software that causes issues on mobile devices, such as Flash media. This means any videos you post need to be in a mobile-friendly format, your navigation should not use Flash-based buttons and your site definitely should not be based entirely within Flash.
- Use text of a sufficient size to be readable without requiring a magnifier tool or a zoom. Mobile users who have tried to view desktop sites are well aware of the double-tap necessary to zoom in to read the tiny text on a typical site. A mobile site won’t require any such zoom and squint exercises.
- Size content for the screen. This is an extension of the text rule, but it also applies to layouts. Again, using a desktop site frequently requires horizontal scrolling, which has been an SEO no-no on desktop sites for years. This rule adds the side-scroll to the list of detrimental mobile factors as well.
- Position links in such a way that there is no chance of a typical user accidentally clicking the wrong one. This means your links need to be large enough to tap precisely without risking tapping the wrong one, due to their positioning.
Credits: John Boitnott