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Google Algorithm Update Promotes Mobile-Friendly Searching

Melissa McGibbon

Does your site pass the mobile-friendly test?

While you were busy shopping for your Thanksgiving turkey Google quietly implemented another algorithm that affects websites that haven’t converted to a responsive (mobile-friendly) platform. If your website is not optimized for mobile traffic, you need to make it a priority. Google anticipates that 2015 will be the biggest year yet in mobile device searching while desktop searching will continue to decline.

Google hinted of this coming algorithm update, and will be rolling it out globally over the next few weeks. In their ever-increasing efforts to provide users with a better search experience Google created criteria for what defines a site as mobile-friendly and provides a testing tool to determine if sites pass the mobile-friendly test.

Googlebots will use the factors listed below to determine a site’s mobile friendliness.

  • The content must not be wider than the screen.
  • Links must not be too close together to make it easy for users to select the right link.
  • Text must be large enough to read without zooming.
  • The site must avoid using software for mobile devices, such as Flash, because Googlebots cannot read its content.
  • Sites must fit content to the screen device, whether smartphone or tablet, so users do not have to scroll horizontally or zoom.

To see if your site passes the mobile friendly test click here.

Websites that do not embrace mobile-friendly practices will suffer the dreaded demotion of their sites in Google’s index. Sites that score high in the mobile-friendly category will be rewarded with increased rank results while sites that score poorly for will be penalized. Sites that pass the mobile-friendly test will receive a special label next to their web pages in search results that indicate its mobile-friendly optimization compliance.

Of course this is advantageous for site developers and search engine optimizers who will likely experience a surge in business from site owners needing updates. 25 percent of all websites—roughly 74.6 million—are now built on WordPress. To meet the demand of Google’s mobile-friendly compliance developers have created several plugins that enable sites to exhibit a mobile-friendly version, however this option is more of a quick fix. Sites that fully convert to a responsive design will have the advantage over sites that are using plugins.

In addition to creating a Mobile-Friendly Test Tool, Google has also added a new section in the search traffic menu of Webmaster Tools that indicates a site’s Mobile Usability. It surveys usability errors that include touch element closeness, content size, font size, viewport configuration, and flash usage.

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