What You Need To Know About Googles Mobile Usability Change

March 24, 2015

In about a months time, 21st April, Google will be rolling out an update to their search engine that will make the “mobile usability” of sites a major ranking factor for searches done on mobile and tablet devices.

This is a move that has been a long time coming, with clues dropped over the past year including splitting their “Page Speed Insights” tool to test both Desktop and Mobile, as well as testing out various “mobile friendly” icons in search results. In February they announced that they will soon be carrying out a major overhaul of the mobile search results for any sites deemed to have “mobile usability issues”.

If you’re unsure if this affects you check your Webmaster Tools messages and you may have a message that Google have identified some issues with your sites, or if you haven’t received a message like that (they’re still rolling out), then you can use the Page Speed Insights tool to identify any issues your website may have.

The main issues for a website is usually when an older site, built to be viewed on desktops, is opened on a mobile device with a much smaller screen which makes it much harder to read text and navigate a website. Or even worse an older site using Flash technologies which have long been phased out on the majority of mobile devices. The main way to combat this is to build a site using “Responsive Web Design”, this technique allows your site to adapt and change responsively to the device it is being displayed on. With large full images on a desktop, to smaller view with touch friendly buttons and single column scrollable view on mobile devices. Google have long recommended responsive design for better web user experience.

On a deeper level you may find your website is built a bit too large in raw bandwidth for mobile devices, large images can chew up a large amount of bandwidth and download caps on phones especially while much of the nation is using 3G. Speed has always been a strong ranking factor for Google, on desktop as well, so worth checking your site for overly large images. There’s not much need to have print quality images direct from your camera. Crop and reduce images in size to ideally a few hundred kilobytes at most for best results. As 4G mobile networks and 4K “retina” displays become more common you might want to upgrade your images but for now it’s a long way off.

Google recommended even deeper technical changes to some websites though how important they are is up to you but if you can tick every box on Googles suggestions you’re in a better position to gain good ranks in mobile searches. These can include better caching set-up, mninifying CSS and JS code on your site, and improving server speed.

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