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Being Mobile-Friendly: How important is it for search rankings?

When smartphones were first available, you probably experienced how difficult it was to view websites in their desktop version. As the usage of smartphones became prevalent, more websites became mobile-friendly. This means less tedious zooming in/out and scrolling sideways to view different sections. (Yay!) As you can tell, the impact of mobile-friendly sites on user experience is tremendous. But do you know it affects your search rankings as well?

Mobile-friendly algorithm

In April 2015, Google launched its mobile-friendly algorithm and begin using mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. For non-mobile-friendly sites, this means that their mobile rankings will be adversely affected. The impact that this brings is highly substantial as mobile searches are increasing at a rapid rate. True enough, shortly after the launch, Google officially announced that mobile search queries have overtaken desktop search queries.

To better capture this expanding share of searches, it is imperative for sites to become mobile-friendly. In fact, just a few months from the launch, it has been shown that 81 percent of the top 3 results in the mobile SERPs are occupied by mobile-friendly sites.

Mobile-first indexing

After the launch, there were minor updates to the algorithm periodically. In November 2016, there was a major update about being mobile-friendly when Google announced that they were moving towards mobile-first indexing. (Indexing = including in its database!) This means that Google will start to use mobile site content primarily in its indexing. Regardless of whether the search is done on mobile or desktop, the results will be ranked based on your mobile site content.

Wait, does this mean that I must have a mobile site in order to rank in the SERPs? Not necessarily, yet.

For sites without a mobile version, Google says that they will rank the site using its desktop version. However, how long will this continue? Nobody knows. What we do know for sure is, mobile-first indexing is expected to go live soon (possibly by end-2017 or 2018).

Is it really necessary?

You may be wondering, since Google is still indexing desktop versions, is it really necessary to be mobile friendly? If you wish to rank better, the answer is a definite yes. Although being mobile-friendly is not a major ranking signal for now, Google has been increasing its weight as a ranking signal. Furthermore, as a majority of mobile results are now mobile-friendly, it is becoming an expected standard by users rather than an optional feature. With most people arriving at your site using mobile devices, don’t let yourself lose out to your competition.

How to be mobile-friendly

Firstly, use the mobile-friendly test that Google developed to find out whether your site is mobile-friendly. You can then request for a free report which will suggest a list of fixes you can do to improve your page.

Secondly, decide how you would like to implement your mobile site. There are a few options available but the method recommended by Google is Responsive Web Design (RWD).

Compared to the other options, RWD is recommended as it has provides more convenience for both visitors and developers. Since it uses a single URL for both desktop and mobile versions, it is easier for visitors to share and link the page. It also requires less maintenance as there is no need for multiple pages. Additionally, with a single page, it saves you the hassle of having to do redirection in order to direct the “link juice” to the more preferred page. (Confused? Read Step 3 in our article talking about site migration!)

Moving Forward

For the benefit of your search rankings, aim to become mobile-friendly as soon as possible. If your site is not yet mobile-friendly, you still have some time before mobile-first indexing goes live. Better late than never. Unsure on how to go about implementing your mobile site? Don’t be afraid to get in touch with us and let our UX expert help you with that!

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Zachary is a Business Development Executive in Appiloque. In the after-hours, he serves as a Division Agent, taking back the city of New York when all else fails.

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