November 18, 2014 | Kayla Hollatz
Written with co-poster Sarah Danks.
Google has just announced that it will be rolling out a new mobile feature globally in the next few weeks. If you’ve grown tired of scrolling through SERPs in search of mobile-friendly websites, this change will excite you. Google will now be labeling websites that pass their Mobile-Friendly Test with “mobile-friendly” right in the SERP.
This is what the change will look like:
What does “mobile-friendly” mean, anyway?
What does Google mean by mobile-friendly? Well, obviously it refers to a website that works on a mobile device. And, this doesn’t mean the site merely shows up on a smartphone. Here at ThinkSEM, we define it as: the resolution and functionality of the design is optimized to match each device’s input capabilities. Technically, in this day and age, the moniker “mobile-friendly” is just another way of saying these websites are built with responsive web design (RWD).
Which websites are eligible for the mobile-friendly label? Google says websites must meet the following GoogleBot criteria:
- Use text/content that sizes to the screen — i.e., you don’t have to zoom or scroll horizontally to read what’s on the page
- Avoid Flash and other software not usable on mobile devices
- Links in the page are far enough apart so they can be easily tapped (read: fat-finger enabled!)
In essence, Google knows people searching via mobile devices want a good user experience.
So how will this affect SEO ranking?
With Google now showing users right in the SERP that a site is mobile-friendly, one has to ask: is this an attempt to (further) manipulate the rankings? While the mobile-friendly label may not directly affect ranking in the search engine, we predict it will affect click-through rate (CTR). If you have the choice between viewing a website using responsive web design vs. a non-RWD site on a mobile device, which would you pick? Naturally, you’d pick the mobile-friendly/RWD site, which offers the best mobile user experience.
RWD is king
Interestingly enough, only nine of the top one hundred retailers use responsive web design, according to Business Insider. With this new mobile-friendly label, not being optimized for the mobile user experience will be seen from the get-go before the user decides what link earns their click. Not having a RWD website just doesn’t cut it anymore in this mobile-driven culture. We are expecting to see an increase in RWD websites following this announcement.
Has anyone seen these labels in the wild? Let us know in the comment section below with your thoughts.