Google Rules for Mobile-Friendly Content

Since November 2014, Google has been rewarding ‘mobile-friendly’ content – that is, content which passes Google’s own set of requirements as being optimised for mobile phones – and labelling them as such in search SERPs.

The labels have now been removed. The change is purely cosmetic, as how ‘mobile-friendly’ sites are is now being taken into account when choosing where they rank. However, it indicates that Google views this as ‘job done’. Indeed Google recently reported that 85% of websites in its search results pages now meet this criteria.

That was the carrot, and soon we’ll get the stick.

Come January 2017, Google will start to penalise websites for not adhering to its rules, and they’ve created a test, so you can determine if your site is in line with its guidelines, and where you may need to make some changes.

The basic rules are:

  • Usability is key and the design should reflect this
  • Select a template which is consistent for all devices (a responsive web design, RWD)
  • Use the same URL as your desktop site (your RWD should help with this)
  • Understand your mobile customer (and make sure you’re developer does too)
  • Keep it snappy – no long loading times please!
  • Install analytics
  • Revise and improve your mobile site after its initial launch

However there are also some aspects of the site which could drag your ranking right down.

One such indiscretion is the use of pop up ads, particularly those which obscure all, or the majority of the site’s content, at any time whilst the user is viewing the page.

Such ads may be the bane of mobile users’ lives, but they are extremely lucrative, and their removal could cause a massive reduction in profit for some websites who rely on them.

Then again, if you don’t rank highly on Google, you’re going to struggle to get your website noticed.

Marketers therefore have a choice to make, do you continue to use pop ups and the pay that comes with them, but slip down Google’s SERPs? Or do you remove them and take the financial hit but climb those rankings?

Neither is ideal, but you should know which will have a bigger impact on your business.

Pop-ups with a purpose, such as acknowledging cookie usage, or verifying a user’s age won’t be penalised. The same goes for login boxes, and also ads deemed small enough to be unobtrusive (Mashable).

Standalone interstitials, which have to be dealt with and closed before the user can access the main content, will also incur a penalty.

So ads obscuring content is a no-no, but what about the content itself? What constitutes ‘mobile-friendly content’?

Well, there are a few things you can do to make users more likely to respond positively to your mobile site, and since most of them have to do with the break-up of the text, we’ve outlined them in bullet points below:

  • Use subheadings/bullet points to break up text
  • Stick to short sentences and simple language, so words don’t stretch over two lines
  • An image is worth a 100 words

For many businesses, their mobile site used to be an afterthought, something which it would nice if it worked as well as their website, but certainly not their first priority. Now, it is essential. April 2016 statistics show that the percentage of all global traffic which came via mobile was 38.6%, up 5.2% on 2015, and it’s rising every year (Statista.com)

As with any website, the best are a perfect blend of functionality and design. Treat your mobile website as a separate entity which is just as important, if not more so, than your original website. Create a template specifically for the site or use a responsive web design which automatically adapts to mobile. Ensure all images, particularly header banners etc fit perfectly on every mobile screen, without pixelating, looking stretched, or getting cut. The same goes for written content which should be easy to read on screen, without needing to zoom or scroll.

Finally, make sure you have tracking optimised so you can collate all traffic data together.