It might seem obvious to say something like Google’s “gone mobile”, but just two days ago, a post on the official Webmaster Central blog outlined plans for a new labelling system whereby sites that meet certain criterea will gain a ‘mobile-friendly’ tag next to their search listing. We took a closer look at Google’s new mobile checking tool…

Go mobile or go home

Have you ever tapped on a Google Search result on your mobile phone, only to find yourself looking at a page where the text was too small, the links were tiny, and you had to scroll sideways to see all the content? This usually happens when the website has not been optimized to be viewed on a mobile phone.

Browsing non-mobile sites on a handheld device can indeed be a frustrating experience, and while Google obviously can’t force anyone to make their site mobile-friendly, they are setting a new metric by which visitors will judge a site before they’ve visited it. If presented with two sites of interest, and one is mobile friendly while the other doesn’t carry this new label – which will you visit?

To help take any guesswork out of the process, Google have explained the criterea by which Googlebot will detect a site’s mobile-friendliness:

  • It must avoid using uncommon mobile web technology, such as Flash
  • It must use text that is readable without zooming (they don’t explain how they define “readable” text, though)
  • It must size content to the screen to eliminate horizontal scrolling
  • It must place links far enough apart so that the desired one can be clicked easily

Google have also provided a number of ways to check if your site is mobile-friendly, including their new online Mobile-Friendly Test:

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 14.39.18

The test provides a nice visual rendering of the site and lets you know quickly if your site passes. If you’re unsuccessful, the test lists the critera which were not met, and provides a few helpful pointers to get you started down the responsive route.

Will this affect search ranking?

It’s also important to note that while Google don’t currently use the results of this test, or Googlebot’s individual site analysis as a means of penalising sites that fail, they do make clear on their blog that they are “experimenting with using the mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal”. It’s therefore not unreasonable to see a future where mobile-friendly sites will rank higher on searches carried out by mobile devices.

Naturally the Createful site passed with flying colours – as we’d expect it to! How does your site perform? If you run the test and your site fails – fear not, as there are a number of ways that we can help audit your site and help devlop a solution that will earn you that coveted “Mobile-friendly” label!

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