Last week Google announced that it was adding a “mobile-friendly” label to mobile search results. It has provided a simple list of criteria that a site is expected to meet to be labelled mobile-friendly:
- Avoids software that is not common 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 so that the correct one can be easily tapped
…and has also very helpfully created a Mobile-Friendly Test to allow you to quickly see if your site qualifies, providing feedback on sites that aren't eligible for the label.
What does this mean for online retailers?
The mobile-friendly label is currently being rolled out globally, but already we have started to see its appearance in mobile search for a large number of retail brands.
Currently, the implementation is fairly subtle, but once consumers begin to notice its presence, online retailers that have earned their mobile-friendly label can expect to see an increase in mobile traffic. And with Google suggesting that it will experimenting with the mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal, retailers that fit the bill can also expect to rank higher for mobile searches, further increasing traffic from mobile devices.
Google’s announcement suggests that those brands that have already invested in becoming mobile-friendly are going to be rewarded fairly handsomely. Those that haven’t will be rapidly pushing mobile to the top of the agenda, with 2015 the year when even the most mobile-shy of brands brands finally realise that they can’t delay the inevitable any longer, and begin to take action.
Is responsive the answer?
Google thinks so. It pushes responsive as its recommended design pattern pretty openly in its post on mobile configuration. However, given that responsive sites also significantly reduce the Google Bot’s workload, we’re not convinced that Google’s eagerness to encourage responsive design is entirely altruistic. We discussed some of the merits of the different options for creating mobile-friendly sites in a recent blog post on adaptive vs responsive design.
Don’t make any rushed decisions. Take a considered and planned approach to the challenge of becoming mobile-friendly. Interrogate your analytics data, understand how your audience engages digitally, establish your digital objectives and analyse what functionality & content you have and need. The approach you take to becoming mobile-friendly could impact your entire business, from the budget required to meet Google’s criteria, to the operational overheads of updating your site. A strategic decision, involving key stakeholders within the business should be taken to ensure complete buy-in and the right choice of solution first time.
And if you're unsure of the best course of action, ask a digital expert!