This past week, Google officially dropped the hammer on a topic that has been of much interest in the SEO community for the past few years: mobile sites and their effect on rankings. We’ve anticipated an announcement from Google in the SEO community for some time, and have even suspected that some of this was happening in the background at Google.

Finally, the smoke has cleared and things are fairly clearly laid out.

Mobile Friendly Search Labels

Launched just this week, Google is now applying “mobile-friendly” labels to Google search engine results pages. These are intended to help users understand which of their search results has a dedicated, robust, and most importantly useable mobile experience. However, while this would appear to only affect click-throughs on a mobile level, sites showing the “mobile-friendly” label will actually help drive higher desktop and mobile rankings overall.

Google says, “We see these labels as a first step in helping mobile users to have a better mobile web experience. We are also experimenting with using the mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal.” It’s not often Google affords us with such a bold statement, but in this case, we need to take it very seriously!

So what makes a site “mobile-friendly?” Here are a few of the most important aspects of a site that earns the “mobile-friendly” label in search results:

  • Avoids software that is uncommon on mobile devices, like Flash
  • Uses text that is readable without zooming
  • Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
  • Places links far enough apart that the correct one can be easily tapped on a touchscreen

Google has even taken mobile-friendliness a step further. In Google Webmaster Tools, the “Mobile-Friendly Test Tool” has been developed for quickly assessing a website to determine what improvements are needed in order for the site to earn the “Mobile-Friendly” designation.

One final tool we often use to assess a mobile quality experience is Google’s “Page Load Speed” testing tool. This is a fantastic tool that allows us to understand website load speeds on both desktop and most importantly, mobile devices. We’ve known for some time that slowly loading mobile sites can inhibit both mobile and desktop rankings, but now it’s been made clear. Mobile load speed is critical to desktop rankings!

With mobile traffic sharply on the rise, and in certain cases even overtaking desktop traffic, it should come as no surprise that Google is emphasizing a quality mobile experience in its SERPs. Here is how you can rank your mobile site.

Looking to learn more about your site’s mobile readiness? Check out our ebook, The Marketer’s Guide to Managing and Maximizing SEO Success, where we have an entire chapter on mobile SEO.