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What do the Google Mobile Friendly guidelines really mean?

April 02, 2015

New research from Criteo shows that sales from mobile devices account for 44% of UK eCommerce sales. What’s more, it is smartphones rather than tablets that are fuelling the growth. Given how much it knows about how people access information, Google is changing how it ranks sites based on their ‘mobile friendliness’.

Is mobile really that big a deal?

People are more comfortable than ever using mobile devices – even those with the smallest screens – to get things done. On average over 50% of email is read on a mobile device. Venture Beat recently reported a figure of 65% of all email is opened on a mobile first. The vast majority of social media activity is via mobile devices too.

Google wants to make it easier for mobile users to get the information they want. Now they’re effectively going to enforce the change. What’s becoming clear is that mobile is no longer the “third screen”.

What is Google’s Mobile Friendly Test?

From April 21st Google rolls out changes to its algorithms that promote “mobile-friendly” sites. Google rarely gives away many clues about how it plans to change ranking criteria. This time there has been a considerable lead-up to the changes. There are even what amounts to Google Mobile Friendly guidelines that outline what makes for a good mobile experience.

For the first time, brands, retailers and content marketers will need to make sure they present themselves effectively on smartphones – or face being penalised in search engine results pages (SERPs).

What do marketers need to do?

Helping readers digest and navigate your content is important. On small screens it’s even more important. There are a number of things that marketers can do get in line with the Google Mobile Friendly guidelines.

  • Give your site the Google Mobile Friendly Test – it’s fair to say that Google have given plenty of warning for the impending changes. They’ve even provided a tool to review your site for mobile friendliness.
  • Responsive design – designing your website so that it changes its presentation so that it is responsive to a range of screen sizes makes a lot sense from a usability perspective. More technical elements like font scaling and fast page load times also come into play.
  • Adaptive design – adaptive design is effectively concerned with making choices about what elements elements to include or exclude for viewers on smaller screens.
  • Optimise how information is presented – good headlines and clear, informative introductions and excerpts are good practice anyway. However, they’re essential for helping smartphone users orientate themselves with your content.
  • Touch-able CTAs – are buttons big and clear enough to make it easy for them to respond to your calls-to-action?
  • Skim-ability – ensure that readers can easily get an overview and understanding of your content without having to read it. Structure content with sub-headings and use bullets and bolding to pull out the key points.
  • Rethink your navigation – make sure that part of your adaptive design process is to ensure that users aren’t presented with long, long lists of menu options. Structure the journey so they make one choice at a time. Use links within the content to keep them progressing quickly and painlessly.
  • Boost your calls-to-action – put them front-and-centre and make them clean, crisp and strong.
  • Check your Google Analytics stats – monitor how your content is accessed and compare metrics by platform. Ask yourself questions such as: Do mobile users have a higher bounce rate? Do tablet users stay longer than smartphone users? Do PC users visit less often?
Read the full Criteo report on mobile use and users here. If you want to talk to Why Digital about getting your content in shape for mobile, contact us today.

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