Yes – website mobile-friendliness can affect search ranking
Recently the media were scaring website owners with headlines such as “NZ websites face getting bumped from Google if not mobile-friendly”.
The articles usually made it clearer that this wasn’t completely true, but the headline started a mini-panic and we received several enquiries from clients who wanted to understand the impact of the Google announcement. Here we take a look at what it all really means.
Google set a date of April 21, 2015 for their ‘mobile-friendly update’. This ‘boost[s] the ranking of mobile-friendly pages on mobile search results’.
Look at that sentence closely – mobile search results of mobile-friendly pages are boosted. That is, when a mobile device is used to search with Google, pages that are mobile-friendly are more likely to be shown first.
Google have pointed out that computer desktop searches will not be modified by this update. And that this applies to pages not websites. Note that tablets are not considered as mobile devices and so search results on tablets are also not affected.
Should you be concerned about this? We’ll, you probably should if many of your pages have high traffic from mobile devices, and don’t display well on them. In this case, the pages will rank lower when people search with Google on a phone and this may cause a drop-off in traffic to those pages.
An important question to ask is ‘what does Google regard as mobile-friendly’?
There are 3 main factors, all relating to how easy the page is to use on a mobile device:
- Text needs to be readable without zooming
- ‘Tap targets’ need to be well sized (ie buttons easy to press)
- No unplayable content or horizontal scrolling
What does Google say about tap targets?
“… we suggest a minimum of 7mm width/height for primary tap targets and a minimum margin of 5mm between secondary tap targets. The average width of an adult’s finger pad is 10mm, and these dimensions can provide a usable interface while making good use of screen real estate.”
In some cases the whole site may be affected, eg. say your template causes pages to need a horizontal scroll on phones. In other cases it may be individual pages or a series of pages – say the format of picture galleries causes horizontal scrolling, or buttons on one page are too small or squashed together. Or perhaps a single page has really tiny text copied from a Word document.
If you are concerned, you can type your site name into the Google mobile-friendly tester, and check what it reveals about your pages:
A related test, which looks at page speed is also worth doing
From these two tests you will find out if you need to have pages or the whole site looked at. The tests may reveal a number of issues – some of which may be easy fixes and others may be not worth the effort.
With WordPress, if you are using a truly mobile-friendly theme, then you should be fine (although copying content from Word etc could result in Word-formats making text too small). Google has a whole page on being mobile-friendly with WordPress:
Talk to us and we can advise whether you need to act and give a costing.
Read the Google FAQ on the issue:
Mobile friendly test: