Mobile-friendly for SEO

Apr 03, 2015 · 4 min read

Google has been helping mobile users find mobile-friendly sites for a while now. By the end of this month they are expanding the use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. Many websites are running the same story about how you are going to be in trouble if your site is not mobile. For my huge amusement, some blogs which are not mobile-friendly are also giving you advice on this subject. With all this potential misinformation and panic, it's time to take a calm look at what's happening and how this all is affecting your search engine optimisation. Please note the following emphasises Google over other search engines.

Mobile-friendly for SEO -- Mervi Emilia

According to Google's reports collected almost two years ago over 60% of people in USA used mobile phones to make searches every day. The same number in Finland was 38%, UK 54%, Canada 55%, Brazil 58% and Netherlands 41%. Yes, that was May 2013. Considering the amount of smartphones sold after that I can only guess how the numbers would look today. Most sites I see receive 30-40% of their traffic through mobile devices. That's quite a lot. It's good to point out that it appears most people search information about products with their mobile phones. If you aren't reviewing those searched products or straight forward selling them, you won't be getting that much of the mobile search traffic. Mobile searches still are a lot about anything that happens on the go.

First I recommend doing a mobile-friendly test to your site. The test will tell if your site is mobile-friendly and also gives notes about any possible problems the site has. In case you are curious, you can also check other websites with this test.

Mobile-friendly test -- Made In Helmikuu

There are different ways to make a website mobile friendly. A responsive website serves the same HTML (structure) with the same URL (website address) regardless which type of device is being used to access the site. CSS is used to alter the rendering of the page, for it to fit best on different screen sizes. Additionally JavaScript can be used for this. Basically responsive design is not about the different devices and it's all about screen sizes. In dynamic serving different HTML (and CSS) is served depending on the device, but the same URL is always used. This is a bit more complicated to set up than responsive website and also Googlebot for smartphones doesn't necessarily know to crawl the mobile version(s) unless the server is set to send it a hint about this. There can also be separate URLs for desktop and mobile. A common setup would be m.example.com for the mobile site while the regular site would be www.example.com. Different variations are possible. This is also pretty complicated and often this setup results in faulty redirects and broken cross links.

Google recommends responsive and so do I. It's easiest to set up and to avoid common mistakes such as the couple I mentioned above. Because a responsive design doesn't care about the device, there are no failures which often comes with detecting the user-agents. Serving different HTML or redirecting to different URL, of course, increases load times, which is bad since mobile users expect speed. Your new content will also be indexed faster since Googlebot doesn't have to crawl separate versions of each page.

Okay, so how about the fear mongering, panic inducing, doomsday calling articles you see all over about the mobile ranking changes? I wouldn't call for a panic at this time. Google says they will expand their use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal starting April 21. This means your site will not be too likely to see the changes in search ranking immediately. In time you will want to have a mobile-friendly site in order to get to the top of the mobile search results. You'll want to also acknowledge the fact that this doesn't necessarily impact your desktop search ranking. If you don't for a reason or another care too much about mobile users, then it's not much of a shock for you. However, you might want to take another look at those rising numbers of people using mobile devices and using them for making web searches. It's good to remember this will continue to be only one of all the search ranking signals and there are plenty of other factors that will affect your search visibility now and in the future.

I must address that I do recommend getting a responsive design for your site. In case the structure of your current site is good implementing responsive design won't be too difficult a task. Otherwise you might want to consider getting a completely new responsive design. Either way you can ask me for more information and help.

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Thank you for reading Mobile-friendly for SEO. I have closed the comments for now, but I welcome you to write your response to your own blog, or to voice them at Twitter or Facebook. In case you wrote your response on your blog, do let me know so that I can read it and possibly link to it from this post.

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Hei, I'm Mervi!

An artist, geek girl, marketer, and business coach, devoted to help you to be undeniable.

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