Mobile devices now account for more than half of all web searches, although desktop computers have reigned supreme for much of the internet’s short history.
As smartphones became more ubiquitous, mobile search grew and Google had to re-evaluate its approach to ranking mobile-friendly sites.
This led to an event that has become known in the SEO community as “mobilegeddon.”
Is it as scary as it sounds? And is mobile friendliness a ranking factor today?
This chapter will examine the claims and provide insight into the impact of mobile-friendliness on search rankings.
The claim: mobile compatibility is a ranking factor
It is said that websites designed to adapt to mobile screens enjoy higher rankings compared to sites that are only optimized for desktop computers.
This claim stems from the fact that a greater percentage of searches are conducted on mobile devices and the understanding that Google aims to provide pages with the best user experience.
With a majority of users searching on mobile, the best user experience can be assured by providing results that work on both mobile and desktop.
Before mobile became the primary way people searched on Google, it was common for users to land on pages that weren’t optimized for their smartphone or tablet.
Naturally, users were frustrated visiting pages they couldn’t easily navigate.
Google ended up with a search quality problem on its hands.
Without any incentive, waiting for webmasters to make their sites compatible with all devices could have taken years.
Google couldn’t force sites to become mobile-friendly, and it wouldn’t be fair to threaten websites with punitive action for having an outdated design.
Instead, Google has gone the other way by rewarding domains that have opted for a mobile-friendly design themselves.
The ranking advantage gained by mobile-optimized sites has spurred the adoption of responsive web design on a larger scale.
Now, it is rare to perform a mobile search and land on a page that is not optimized for a smartphone.
Is it because mobile compatibility is a ranking factor?
Or are there simply more mobile-friendly sites on the web?
It’s probably a combination of both.
Here’s what the evidence says.
Evidence of mobile friendliness as a ranking factor
Mobilegeddon is not a myth (although, to be clear, the name Mobilegeddon is not from Google). It performed on April 21, 2015, after being announced two months prior.
When Google launched what is officially called the “mobile-friendly update”, it declared:
“As we noted earlier this year, today we begin the global rollout of our mobile-friendly update. We are improving the ranking of mobile-friendly pages in mobile search results.
Now users can more easily find high-quality, relevant results where text is readable without tapping or zooming, touch targets are spaced appropriately, and the page avoids garbled content or horizontal scrolling.
A year later, in 2016, Google announcement this would strengthen the mobile-friendly ranking signal:
“Today we are announcing that starting in May, we will begin rolling out a mobile search results update that increases the ranking signal effect to help our users find even more relevant and user-friendly pages. mobile.”
The mobile-friendly update was designed solely to impact mobile search results.
There was no boost for mobile-friendly sites when a user searched on a desktop.
While mobile-friendliness is a ranking factor that has grown stronger over time, Google reminds us that user intent is a stronger signal.
A page that is not mobile optimized may still rank in mobile search results if it best matches what the user is looking for.
“And remember, search query intent is always a very strong signal – so even if a page with high-quality content isn’t mobile-friendly, it might still rank well if it has a relevant and quality content.
However, Google advises in its Mobile-first indexing best practices Documentation:
“Although it is not necessary to have a mobile version of your pages for your content to be included in Google’s search results, it is highly recommended.
Mobile compatibility as a ranking factor: our verdict
Mobile friendliness is a confirmed Google ranking factor.
It’s fair to say that websites that aren’t easy to navigate on mobile are at a search disadvantage.
Businesses with outdated website designs should seriously consider upgrading in order to stay competitive on Google.
Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal