How does Google evaluate mobile websites?

Laptop ReportA great deal of time is spent by digital and marketing experts exploring the way Google evaluates websites.

This work is made harder by the fact that the search engine regularly updates its own algorithms, meaning that the playing field for web content developers is constantly changing. As a result, there is a continual appetite for insight that will help you to ensure your site remains at the top of the rankings.

What is Google’s latest update?

The latest update from Google, issued in April this year, relates to mobile compatibility. 

It is widely claimed that in early 2014, mobile web use overtook pc access for the first time; this is a trend that won’t be reversing. As a result, websites have had to up their game. Ensuring that your site is as user-friendly on a phone or tablet as on a laptop is essential if you want to retain customers and attract new ones.

With Google’s newest update, mobile compatibility becomes not just about the user experience, but is crucial to being found at all. Since April, the algorithm gives greater weight to websites that are mobile-friendly, prioritising them in their results.

It’s therefore more important than ever that your website meets Google’s criteria for mobile-friendliness. Failure to do so will penalise your site, pushing it down the rankings relative to your competitors.

The new algorithm was widely publicised before it was launched, with a certain amount of hysteria surrounding its impact. Being referred to by names like ‘mobilegeddon’, ‘mobilepocalyse’ and ‘mobocalypse’ by bloggers and SEO commentators helped to hype up its arrival.  As a result, unsurprisingly, many online marketers were concerned about its potential impact.

How does Google evaluate mobile websites?

On the plus side, Google has helped online content providers by giving very clear guidance on its approach and on what its spiders are looking for in a mobile site. The search engine awards its own ‘mobile-friendly’ label to sites that avoid mobile-unfriendly software; make text legible with content designed to fit mobile screens; and optimise links for a mobile user.

Google also provides tools to help designers and marketers evaluate their own sites. Enter your URL into their Mobile-Friendly Test tool and it will tell you how mobile-friendly it is according to their criteria.

Other marketing tools can also help: some automated workflow systems incorporate web-testing capabilities. Using one of these can help you to determine how mobile-friendly your site is as you build it, rather than once it’s built – always a bonus.

Three months on from Google’s mobile update, there is as yet no hard data on its impact. It’s clear, though, that the move to mobile – and Google’s reflection of this in the way it evaluates websites – is unlikely to change.

Any marketer or web content designer needs to take this into account – ideally from the start – when building a website. Sites need to be accessible by, and optimised for, mobile devices if you want them to feature in Google’s all-important rankings.

You can read more on this topic – including more detailed information on what Google is looking for and how you can deliver it – by downloading our Whitepaper, ‘Mobile Compatibility and the Link to SEO’. You can get your free copy here.

Nothing in this document should be treated as an authoritative statement of the law. Action should not be taken as a result of this document alone. We make no warranty and accept no responsibility for consequences arising from relying on this document.

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