In 2014, it was estimated that 60% of internet access was via a mobile device. By mid-2015, that figure is likely to have increased – and the chances are that it will carry on increasing in the future.
For businesses, this has significant implications.
There is a high likelihood that your clients are viewing your website on their phone or a tablet, rather than a laptop or desktop. If you want them to have an optimal view of your site, it needs to be designed so it works effectively on a mobile device.
And your visitors aren’t the only ones who care how mobile-friendly your site is. Equally importantly, Google cares too.What are Google’s views on mobile compatibility?
In April 2015, Google released a new algorithm that assesses websites’ mobile compatibility and uses this as part of its criteria in its organic search rankings. So even if firms aren’t interested in mobile compatibility for its own sake (although they should be!), the threat of Google obscurity might be enough to make them sit up and take notice.
Because mobile web access is now so prevalent, Google decided to include mobile compatibility criteria to ensure users are taken to sites that optimise their experience. It wants to direct people using its search engine to sites that deliver legible, user-friendly results.
What does Google look for when assessing mobile compatibility?
1. Size of content and text
Your site needs to be built so that it appears as it should on all mobile devices, as well as on laptops and desktops. If content is slipping off the edge of the page, or words are overlapping each other, it is not configured correctly for mobile use and will be marked down.
Similarly, your text needs to be sized to fit a mobile screen. Ensuring your font is in proportion with the size of screen it will be viewed on scores a plus. No zooming in or out should be needed.
2. Can links be easily selected and tapped?Links, buttons and other ‘tap targets’ are another way Google assesses mobile compatibility. They should be spaced sufficiently far apart to enable them to be tapped easily.
3. Use of interstitialsInterstitials are overlays that can appear over your website – like ads, forms or app adverts. On mobile sites, they are best avoided as they can cover the entire screen and the ‘close’ button can be hard to see. Google will penalise your mobile site if it has interstitials.
4. Loading timeSites with slow load times are also penalised by Google. Many mobile sites load slowly, and Google rankings are not the only reason to address this if it’s an issue you face. Research has shown that conversions, page views and customer satisfaction all decrease in proportion to the length of time your site takes to load.
5. PluginsSome sites require plugins like Java or Adobe Flash in order to show content correctly. Because these plugins don’t work well on mobile sites, Google will mark you down if your site uses them. Ditch the plugins and score more brownie points.
6. Cross-referral between mobile and desktop sitesGoogle will assess whether your mobile site is referenced in the code on your desktop site, and vice versa, and consider this in its evaluation. Make sure your sites are designed so that they do this, and you will be ranked more highly.
It’s clear that there are a variety of considerations for businesses when it comes to making sure their website is mobile-friendly. And although Google’s new criteria for rankings are focusing people’s minds on this, there are reasons beyond Google to make sure your site is providing users with the best mobile experience.