In June of 2012, Google announced its preference for responsive websites for mobile design. While it may not yet penalize for sites without a responsive design or a mobile friendly content, it seems clear that this is important to them and will somehow factor in the ranking of a website.
So what does this mean for your website?
For starters, it means that you should have a mobile friendly website, built to be responsive. (Click here to learn what responsive design means.)
But let’s take a bit deeper to a few things that we KNOW effect SEO, relating to mobile.
1. Mobile Unfriendly Content
This is one area where Google has been clear that you can be penalized. If you have content on your site that doesn’t work on a mobile device, with no fallback option for the mobile user, you can be penalized. Historically, the biggest example of this has been Flash content. Flash is usually used for animations or that elusive “wow” factor on a website. Unfortunately it is completely useless on a mobile device and will never be supported. Other examples would be videos or interactive functionality that cannot be accessed without a mouse.
2. Mobile URLs
Because of the difference in screen real estate between mobile and desktop, many sites opt for a completely different site for the mobile device. When visiting a site from a mobile device, the user is directed (usually unbeknownst to them) to a whole separate site at a different URL, such as mobile.yoursite.com or yoursite.com/mobile.html.
This can cause problems for a few reasons. Firstly, the user probably doesn’t realize that they are getting a separate site. If the site has different content or a different layout, they can be confused, thus degrading the user experience. As preferred by Google, the site should be responsive (the same URL) and built to fit all devices from the ground up, instead of tacking on a mobile site after the fact.
Secondly, the different URLs count as different pages and can actually divide up your SEO power between pages.
3. Download Speed
Phones do not have the same processing power or connection strength as desktops. There is no way around that. Because of that, it is important to make sure your site still loads quickly and smoothly on a mobile device. Not only does this enhance user experience, Google can and will penalize you for slow loading sites. Nothing irritates and distracts a user more than a slow loading site.
4. Door Slams
A door slam is a practice that I am sure you have seen before. When navigating to a site, instead of viewing the mobile site, you are directed to a page asking you to download their mobile app instead. while it is understandable that a business would prefer a user use the mobile app instead of a mobile website, this practice is discouraged. It requires extra work for the user, directs users elsewhere instead of where Google wanted to send them and is in general, annoying.
With an average of 30% of users browsing the internet on a mobile device, you probably don’t need Google to tell you you need to think mobile for your website. But now they have made it even more compelling. More and more evidence suggests that mobile is the way way things are moving. Don’t be left behind!
Click here to read more about Google penalties.