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Google: Ready to Penalize Non-Mobile-Friendly Sites?

Perhaps you’ve done a complete site upgrade or have at least taken steps to make your site more mobile-friendly; maybe you’re still on the fence. This period of indecision may be coming to an end with the testing of Google’s latest mobile-friendly search icon.

Google’s Big Test

On September 30, Google began testing new mobile-friendly icons. When a user performed a search on a mobile device, a small green mobile-friendly icon would appear on sites that were mobile-friendly. This allowed users to proceed knowing they would be able to view the content they were interested in.

Then, on October 13, the search giant changed their methodology by displaying non-mobile-friendly icons – gray cell phones with lines through them indicating non-usage. Same idea, different methods – this time, the network was punishing those sites that were not friendly rather than rewarding those that were.

October 14, there was yet another change in methodology. This time, sites that appeared in search results on mobile devices that were deemed mobile-friendly were accompanied by the words “Mobile-friendly” in gray.

The jury is still out on what Google is looking for and what the search company will decide to do with the information that is gathered from mobile users and how the icons being tested affect search results, but, one thing is certain: soon, whether a site is mobile friendly or not will be very easy to determine. Sites that are not mobile friendly may end up being displayed lower in search results, though this is just speculation at this point.

What does this mean for your website? Are you prepared to stay on top if a major change takes place as a result of the testing that is underway?

Why Mobile-Friendliness Matters Anyway

As a brand, you might be fairly pleased with your site right now. You’re bringing in the revenue you’d expect, your conversion rate is high and your traffic levels seem to stay steady or increase on a regular basis – why change the system?

As evidenced by Google’s latest system experiments, what’s worked in the past might not be enough to stay competitive going forward.

Not convinced? Consider the following statistics related to mobile device usage.

  • Mobile devices have been a driving factor in an increase in time spent online. In fact, since 2010, the time the average individual spends online has doubled.
  • 91% of adults in the United States own a phone; 61% of those phones are smart phones.
  • In 2012, marketers spent $4.4 billion on mobile advertising in the United States alone. By 2013, that number doubled to $8.5 million. By 2017, the figure is expected to fall around $31.1 billion. Search and PPC advertising accounts for nearly half of this budget.
  • 25% of adults in the United States only use a mobile device to access the Internet. PCs have become tools of the past.
  • Organic search results matter now more than ever before. In fact, one-third of all search clicks go to the top organic result; this means that the mobile icons Google is testing could play a larger role than you’d imagine going forward.

Put simply, mobile device usage has been steadily increasing since the beginning of the decade. With enhanced smart devices, online usage among owners of these devices has also changed. To reach your target demographic while standing out in search results, you must optimize your site today.

Steps for Mobile Optimization

Ready to jump in, or at least to start the mobile optimization process? Below are a few tactics and tips for getting started.

1. Keep it Simple

Look through your website. Determine what is “essential” information and what would could be considered “fluff.” If it’s essential, keep it. If it’s not, get rid of it. It’s that simple.

Today’s mobile users are looking for information that gets them where they want to go. They’re looking for short blocks of text that provide relevant, useful information. They want to know how to contact you and how to connect on social media. They want products to be easy to find. To allow for this ease of use, your site should be about the basics. Long gone are the days of 10 page navigation bars and detailed, 3,000 word blog posts. Keep it simple.

2. Consider a Mobile-Layout

You might be attached to your current layout. This doesn’t mean that it’s right for mobile users. In fact, traditional and newer layouts that look fantastic on PCs and larger screens could be cumbersome for mobile devices.

If you don’t want to change your entire site, at least consider creating a mobile version or app that can be easily accessed by mobile users. These sites contain simplified layouts with modified options – leave out the heavy photo pages and drive focus to where you want it: contact pages, order pages, search pages and account logins. Leave your blog posts and intricate designs for your standard page.

3. Maintain Your Brand

Remember, just because you have two versions of your site doesn’t mean you have two brands. Make an effort to ensure your mobile site matches your standard site.

Carry over elements like:

  • Color schemes,
  • Word-choice,
  • Logos and any other elements that make up your brand.

4. Use a Redirect Page

Mobile redirects are designed to help your site identify users that are accessing it with mobile devices. Once a user is determined to be using a mobile device, an option is displayed that directs him or her to the mobile version of the site. This simple step ensures Google picks up your site as “mobile friendly” and helps direct traffic to the site that’s best for them.

5. Allow Them to Go Back

Sometimes, regardless of whether a mobile device is being used or not, a user might want to visit your full site. This is especially true if not all information on the full site is available on the mobile site. Make this an option by creating a link at the bottom of the screen to visit the full site. You can then be sure you won’t lose visitors due to a lack of available information or features.

While Google’s direction for the future as far as mobile icons is unknown, it’s apparent that a change is coming. You can be ready and can maximize your site’s potential by implementing the tactics listed above. Act now for best results.

About the author

avatar

Adrienne Erin

Adrienne Erin writes twice weekly for SiteProNews about online marketing strategies that help businesses like AmniSure International succeed. Follow @adrienneerin on Twitter to see more of her work or get in touch.

167 Comments

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  • Now one more update again….Now everybody should make the website mobile friendly. and also change website in mobile version…

  • Thank you Adrienne for your post. You are so right about mobile optimizing.

    Another, simple way to make your website mobile, is to use a responsive layout. In this way, you have just one URL for each page, and you don’t have to maintain two websites.

    A responsive layout fits the size of the device used, and looks great on big or small, computer screen, smart phone or tablet.

    The matter is that if you built your website with html, and you have many pages, you might need to do a lot of work, but if you are using Word press, it’s much easier. You just need to change the template to a responsive template and make a few adjustments.

    • Absolutely right and the way to go. Having to have two sites or an app that converts the desk top version to a mobile is unnecessary with a responsive site.

  • i tink this is a great news.. But i don’t think that google will kill your site if not using mobile friendly.

    so, I wanna ask, how about responsive site/theme..

  • I wonder how WordPress responsive themes will fare with these new tests? Effectively, they should do away with a mobile version of a site but is this good enough?

  • Google always wants to provide the best websites in their search results in terms of information and friendliness. Due to the unexpected evolution in the mobile world, people mostly use the internet via mobile phones so if people find something difficult to open or read, they want to switch to mobile friendly websites. The main issue is to give importance to responsive websites in search results.

  • Very informative article and right on the subject.

    It amazes me that people running a business still overlook this important part of having an online presence.

    For those business owners that do not get it, open your eyes and look around. Chances are someone near you will have a small device in their hand…

    Thanks again for article.

  • This is just pure nonsense. This has been a topic ever since mobile phones began accessing the web. Phones and tablets are now like computers. A site that is mobile compatible is not cheap for an ordinary company especially if the website has already been running for a couple of years. Google engineers are just safeguarding their jobs. Don’t you have any more ideas? Why just not create a platform on which non-mobile websites can be viewed nicely on mobile devices. Google is android could create this platform.. instead of always thinking of penalizing. Tired of the word penalize from google.. I even stopped using google.. restricted googlebots on my servers… Enough of the power of google…

  • It does not take an auto redirect or responsive template to satisfy Google – a separate url can be used.
    “1. On the desktop page, add a special link rel=”alternate” tag pointing to the corresponding mobile URL. This helps Googlebot discover the location of your site’s mobile pages.
    2. On the mobile page, add a link rel=”canonical” tag pointing to the corresponding desktop URL.”

    This information is available at https://developers.google.com/webmasters/smartphone-sites/details

    I checked my phone and not seeing these icons yet. Must be rolling them out on a very limited basis. Supposedly Google serves up the mobile results first anyway so this is just a ramping up of this.

  • I am so happy about this!!! I see many sites still using old code and getting rankings on Google, when they have been lazy about getting their site up to date!!!

    Now companies that have taken the time to make the changes needed should be rewarded by Google….

  • Interesting, if you are a webdeveloper I recommend the mobile_device_detect.php, this script can check if the user is acessing your website with a mobile device, and you can do a redirect or transform the website in the mobile version.

    Also, Google PageSpeed is good to check the mobile and desktop versions of the website.

  • I began building websites in 1998 using Microsoft’s FrontPage. As it turns out, FP creates webpages using cascading style sheets and a page-width of 100% versus a fixed pixel width. The result is that all the websites I ever built using FP, have all been what is now referred to as “Responsive Web Design. Thus they render perfectly well on any screen size or resolution as well as any mobile devices.

  • Perhaps the world urgently needs a real global google alternative, and a google free global day.

  • I have several sites that are not friendly to mobiles and have not declined in the search results. Sure, it seems that in the future the issue will be more important. It is best to build two sites, one for mobile, the other for the web site.

    Greetings

    Miriam

  • Ive noticed mobile optimized sites (w/ icon) are already given priority rankings on mobile search. Nice stats collected “)

  • hey..

    great Article Adrienne Erin…

    Thank you for sharing that with us! I was looking for this information for a long time please keep writing articles like this.
    Thanks Again.

  • I see this as becoming more the norm.
    People tend to use there mobile devices for browsing the Internet and since everyone has their mobile with them, it’s a no brainer that all websites these days should be mobile friendly. However, it’s the developers of website scripts that need to work on making websites mobile friendly. Let’s hope they all do this.

  • I see no reason to have a desktop website. Go Mobile all the way. I encourage my clients to ditch the desktop.

    Put up a Mobile website. Put up an App. You’re done.

    This business of “responsive” misses the issue: behavior.

    In fact, now you can make a Mobile website that “responds” to a desktop query, making the desktop user feel warm and fuzzy on the desktop…

  • I travel a lot. So I often use my smartphone to surf the web. I absolutely appreciate googles move – the new label saves me a lot of time. Since there are tools like snapmobl or duda for getting a smartphone friendly web site with just one click, no one has to bother its mobile visitors anymore with bad mobile user experience.Thanks google!

  • Thank you for sharing that with us! I was looking for this information for a long time please keep writing articles like this.

  • Yesterday I got a letter from Google with the following content:

    “Google systems have tested 2,180 pages from your site and found that 95% of them have critical mobile usability errors. The errors on these 2,070 pages severely affect how mobile users are able to experience your website. These pages will not be seen as mobile-friendly by Google Search, and will therefore be displayed and ranked appropriately for smartphone users.”

    But my website is a fully responsive – and appears on smartphones, laptops etc. absolutely freely. I have a few sites – each of them got this message. Before developing these sites I’ve checked lots of information to find the best solution for developing sites maximally optimized for SEO. And now Google send me the letter and don’t understand what’s wrong?

  • As I know – google sent such letters to many webmasters. I think you have some problems with inner optimization. What CMS do you use?

  • I wouldn’t recommend to use any website builders. As for me Magento and WP – are the best one for small projects but I suppose the matter is not just in CMS – you have to check code of your sites, perhaps you have errors you don’t know about. Check your Google Webmaster Tools.

  • My website looks just perfect on mobile, yet Google with their damn algorithm says it does not. I do not agree.

    I implemented the thing they asked me to regardless, but by doing so the website looked horrible so i put it back the way it was.

    What happened to creative freedom? Why do I need to design for the Google computer?

  • Hi

    I don’t agree that Google is going to penalize non-mobile friendly websites. This update is for mobile ranking in mobile search. I think Google is focusing more on mobile and that is the reason for the update.

  • I am completely agree with web design delhi thoughts. Googles’s mobile friendly update is not for penalizing websites but rather Google will take into account mobile friendliness to rank sites in its algorithm. 🙂

  • Amazing your content related to Google is going to penalize non-mobile friendly websites. This update is for mobile ranking in mobile search. Your content is really good for us……..

  • This is an amazing and informative post. Google is going to penalize non mobile friendly websites. Great Article!

  • So it’s an end to all bloggers who are using websites without responsive themes. I think it is a good decision by google anyway.

  • Mobile friendly sites are being ranked better now by Google. So every web owner should go for mobile friendly site if they want to rank it.

  • It’s good to see that Google is improving the user experience by releasing such updates. But I wonder that what about all the .EDU websites of which most don’t have responsive themes.

  • Has anyone’s DA changed since Google rolled out the mobile friendly algo ! waiting for your reply

  • With the current smartphone user bandwidth & the increasing number of smartphone users, it is very important that one should have mobile friendly website. Thanks Adrienne.

  • Fantastic blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring writers? I’m planning to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m completely overwhelmed .. Any suggestions? Many thanks!

  • I my self made the mistake of not mobile optimizing my own website and suffered dramatically!! needless to say i have since sorted it out and everything is back to normal thank god, very informative article, many thanks for sharing

  • Thanks for this article. One of the problems I am having is with client websites that appear fine on some mobile devises but poorly on others – and with so many people using mobile it’s becoming a major issue.

    Thanks.

  • Great Post about google latest mobile updates, as google always try to update its algorithm to provide the best quality search experience to user.current Mobile friendly update has effected so many sites which are not the mobile friendly, Making your website mobile friendly can recover your loss so don’t wait for long if you are affected by this update then take the action right now, if you are facing some problem then you can reach us we will help you out.

  • Thanks for this article. One of the problems I am having is with client websites that appear fine on some mobile devises but poorly on others – and with so many people using mobile it’s becoming a major issue.

  • Thanks for this article. One of the problems I am having is with client websites that appear fine on some mobile devises but poorly on others – and with so many people using mobile it’s becoming a major issue.

  • Thanks for this article. One of the problems I am having is with client websites that appear fine on some mobile devises but poorly on others – and with so many people using mobile it’s becoming a major issue.

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  • Nice article about google latest mobile updates, i always like Google updates because they are trying to improve search experience and that is good sign.

  • An interesting article. We are are currently testing the redirect method you mentioned. We have a totally different website on a sub domain that is optimised for mobile users.
    We want to see if this is a better option than using a responsive website layout.

  • Great post. Im interested to know what your personal thoughts are on creating another site specifically for mobile, which essentially is doubling the amount of content you have to create.

    Which do you prefer, a responsive site, a mobile app or a new site specifically for mobile?

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  • Now mobile-friendly website will rank faster than non mobile-friendly website because google consider that as a ranking factor.

  • Now the phone is also popular and fast load mode and network interface is now also integrated on the phone a lot and should load faster web is just okay

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  • This is a very good move taken by Google. Non Mobile Friendly Sites should quickly make their sites friendly. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  • I don’t thinks so that Google will penalize non mobile friendly websites but due non mobil;e friendly we might not achieve ome ort of search engine ranking positions.

  • Now will mobile-friendly website faster than not mobile-friendly website rank because Google believes that as a ranking factor. Yes of course, I have the same impact on a site that is seen activated.

  • I THINK ITS a great step by google since google must promote the websites which are mobile friendly rather than supporting slow and blown out websites.

  • Today’s mobile users are looking for information that gets them where they want to go. They’re looking for short blocks of text that provide relevant, useful information. They want to know how to contact you and how to connect on social media. They want products to be easy to find. To allow for this ease of use, your site should be about the basics. Long gone are the days of 10 page navigation bars and detailed, 3,000 word blog posts. Keep it simple.

  • I’m really impressed with your article, such great information you mentioned here, thanks for your sharing and waiting to see your future posts.

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  • Thanks for good information. After reading the above article, I changed my website into mobile friendly.

  • Thanks for good information. After reading the above article, I changed my website into mobile friendly.

  • This was a much needed step from Google keeping in mind the fact that mobile users are increasing at fast pace.
    Thanks for sharing this info 🙂

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  • Well, nowadays mobile friendly website is very required and yeah if you are working on proxy websites then you’ll really need develop them in mobile friendly.

  • Yes now a days, if a website not mobile friendly, it means that the website is not friendly to the visitors, cause now maybe everyone have a mobile in hand, so the mobile friendly and the response is more and more important, I agree with the opinions which talked in the article.

  • This is really good post, Help us to make more secure our business on Google search. Thanks

  • This is really good post, Help us to make more secure our business on Google search. Thanks

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  • PC website and mobile site optimization, although similar, but still a little different. The purpose of the user is the key, so stop before embarking on page optimization, served further analysis users on your site have seen what, do what needs Why? … And so on. To find out the needs of the users to make the appropriate optimization

  • Construction of a complete website takes only a fee, and the need to invest a lot of time. Thus, before the first station was a good plan, such as market analysis, user analysis, and profit model and so on.

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  • Thanks for this great information. Now it better to use responsive theme for our site. That will help to get high rank in google for mobile site.

  • Here comes the best way to modify the sites to mobile friendly. Though the update came long back and there are some more advanced features like AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). Still there are sites that do not comply with either AMP or Mobile Friendly.

  • Here comes the best way to modify the sites to mobile friendly. Though the update came long back and there are some more advanced features like AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). Still there are sites that do not comply with either AMP or Mobile Friendly.

  • So to quickly attract the attention of users in a limited time, you have the interest of the user and the user’s perspective. Do not just say “we are the best site”, but that is conveyed, “We are more convenient and efficient” in.

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