Like it or not, the Internet has gone mobile. At some stage in 2014 the number of people accessing the Internet by mobile devices edged above the number accessing the Internet via PCs. Obviously, a paradigm change of this magnitude wouldn’t go unnoticed, and as far as Google in particular is concerned, it is now important that a website offer both mobile and PC users a good user experience.
A website designed for the PC doesn’t look good or respond well on a mobile device, and of course the opposite is true. On April 21, 2015 Google made a change to its algorithm that gave more importance to websites that have a 'responsive' design which makes them accessible to both mobile devices (mobile phones, phablets, tablets, etc.) and PCs. Google listings now go so far as to list websites as “mobile-friendly”, and those which are not can languish at the bottom of Google rankings.
However, with a new paradigm came a new set of rules, and although extremely important, it is not just a matter of having a responsive website design that looks good on mobile devices. Other factors now influence the ranking of mobile-friendly websites. Here then is a list of the basic issues that can become part of a strategy to get your website to rank well in mobile search results.
Avoid Adobe Flash
Flash was once extremely prevalent in websites, but has become increasingly less beneficial, especially as far as Google ranking is concerned. In September this year Google Chrome actually started blocking Flash, indicating how poorly it is received by Google. Like on a PC, Flash uses valuable mobile bandwidth slowing down the overall user experience. The use of HTML5 has no impact on Google’s mobile rankings and should be used instead of Flash.
How fast a website loads has always been an influencer as far Google rankings are concerned, and it is just as important with mobile search. Fortunately, Google has done a lot of the heavy lifting here, by developing a “PageSpeed Insights” tool.
Just add your website’s URL and the tool will offer ‘insights’ into the speed as experienced by mobile and desktop users. It offers you the advice you need to improve your site, covering areas such as browser caching, CSS modifications, compression, reducing server response time, and a wealth of other issues, with tips on exactly what your need to do to rectify problems.
Good UX (or User Experience) is infinitely more vital as far as mobile devices are concerned, and Google recognizes that fact in its rankings. With much smaller areas to utilize, issues such as font choice and use of the ‘real estate’ a screen offers has become very important. The size of a ‘clicking area’ is particularly important. If a button or link is difficult to get to this can be very frustrating as far as the user is concerned. Make sure links and buttons are of an adequate size for ease of use on a mobile device.
There is a bit of debate on this issue, but it appears that mobile optimized sites that link to sites that are only optimized for PCs might appear lower in Google’s rankings. However, it needs to be a lot of links to make a difference. Likewise, the number of internal links seem to be problematic – too many internal inks and a website goes down the rankings. It is pretty much commonsense that a mobile user is not going to want to be clicking lots of times on a small screen like that offered by a mobile phone. Likewise, the position of links makes a difference – as we said earlier, awkward positioning has an adverse impact on Google mobile ranking.
Size and Number of Images
As they impact speed, the size and number of images on a website’s page impacts Google’s mobile search ranking. As a rule of thumb there should be no more than 3 or 4 images on a page, and these images should be optimized for lightness – sites with high definition pictures that take a long time to load over through WiFi or a data package might have ranking problems.
Size of Pages
Being on the move, people do not have the luxury of sitting down and wading through dense text, regardless of whether it is enjoyable or not. Articles should have fewer words: 800 words an item would be optimal.
Mobile websites do better in the ranking if they have an active social media presence, particularly Facebook and Google+. If an item that leads to a website is ‘shared’ often, then that benefits the site as far as Google ranking is concerned.
Obviously, these are only a few of the issues that impact mobile search rankings. And as you might imagine, all of the key issues that impact desktop search impact mobile-friendly sites as well. Websites with text that has poor grammar and spelling will find themselves lower in mobile search results, as they will in desktop search results. Inward links play their part, as do keywords.
But more than anything, people who take a commonsense approach to their sites and consider them how mobile users need to use them are more likely to achieve worthwhile Google mobile search ranking.
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