Posted on March 17, 2015

Get responsive – Google’s ‘mobile-friendliness ranking’ boost is here!

By Neale Gilhooley (updated 30/3/17).  We are all aware of the impact that mobile devices (mobiles, tablets and even wearables) have on website usage, especially when we view our own webstats. Now it is official that Google are putting more emphasis on mobile friendly or responsive websites in this rare announcement ‘expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal’ and they even gave rare advance warning of the deadline of 21st April 2015, aka Mobilegeddon. OK it sounds a bit Y2K but it is real and if you don’t get in line go to the end of the line.  (Note: on 19th May search engine Bing’s Blog also announced it would be soon be doing similar).

staff using an ipadThis has long been suspected amongst SEO specialists and bloggers but now it is official Google practice, its a fact it is also good business practice. So you had better adapt or risk losing search results rankings and subsequent site traffic if your website is not mobile friendly or better still fully responsive assuming you have not already done so. This is not just about smartphone and iPhone use, it also covers iPads and other tablets, so read on and it is not just mobile search it will affect search results across the board.

screen sizes of many mobile devicesResponsive Website Design (RWD) is more than just a web design trend, it is fast becoming a web design requirement, pretty high up the must have check list, especially after 21st April. By the end of 2015 it is estimated that desktop viewers will become make up less that 50% of site visitor stats.  But we are not talking about mobile websites, these tend to work at the lowest common denominator level and in many cases are being left behind as the experience is a far cry from the desktop site.

So what is RWD? Responsive web design is about crafting sites displaying with optimal viewing experience – easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling – across a wide range of devices without forgetting that we are designing for people not their devices.  So in short images and text content scale to fit the window, controlled by inserting spacers as break point to ensure that the site is displayed in its best form automatically. So as long as the site is set out in a sensitive way the user can view with the least obstacles. Designing responsively does away with the need to create a separate mobile site, It provides users with a seamless brand experience across devices and gives them access no matter how they access your site.

Screenshot_2015-03-02-12-26-26View on your mobile. Yes some images display better than others but we have given emphasises to displaying; our branding, contact info, the menu then the text followed by the images. You can see how it reforms to portrait or landscape use and importantly it can decrease loading times of user requested content (another Google indicator). Like many RWD websites it is a much better user experience when viewed on reduced smartphone on-screen real estate (display area space), but is a serious improvement without the users need to pinch and expand the page resizes to best display the page. So why are people visiting your website? Is it for the same reasons that you want them to visit, are they going to the pages that you desire? At least being fully responsive and checking your webstats will give you some indication if your inbound enquiries and orders do not. And lets face it anything that can enhance the users experience has to be worthy of consideration in web development. It is also time to stop obsessing about the ‘below the fold’ as mobile users have no problem scrolling down the page to find the content they want as a swipe is faster than a scroll. But remember that RWD is a user experience tool and SEO tactic, not a replacement for strategy or great content.

Text Screenshot landscape formatIf your website is WordPress you can ask us to reformat it quite easily and while this will help make your website as future friendly as possible when converting your website to a responsive site it’s a good opportunity to rethink the content from a users perspective. We would urge you to look at your website and your webstats as part of this process. Remember that while you are improving the presentation people don’t want to read screeds of text on a mobile, ever and Cookie Consent or T&C’s tick boxes can be hard to find if care is not taken especially if these block access to pages or contact or ordering.

Android vs iPhone 2015-19But which mobile or device? You can see exactly which devices are used on your website if you have Google Analytics installed (yes you can do it after the site has been built) and it’s free! Log in and go to Audience then click Mobile then first is Overview to see your Desktop/Mobile & Tables split then click Devices to see the exact devise used to access your site. You can detect user issues here by the amount of time/pages visited or a total lack of a phone model, i.e. they can access your site. Next point is to realise that the mobile war is well and truly over and Android won (and with even more new Chinese made phone models hitting the US and Europe later in 2016 the numbers will get wider apart, see this chart for the stats including 2015 and a projection to 2019 courtesy of Statista.

If you are not sure if your site is fully responsive then put your URL in here for a fast free view on different screen sizes.

Another tip is when you add content you also need to spend time on editing and updating this content, important housekeeping as Google will penalise you for broken links, so don’t send your visitors to 404 pages when you can check here if your site links are 100% up to date > it’s fast and free!