Example of responsive web design

In late February Google announced that it would be expanding it's use of "mobile-friendliness" as a ranking factor. Starting from April 21st 2015 it will be placing more importance on whether or not a website is mobile-friendly when returning search results on mobile devices.

Google's Official Q&A Session

In a live question-and-answer session on Google+, Mary and Michael from Google's webmaster relations team answered webmasters' questions about the new ranking algorithm. Although the discussion lasted almost an hour, most of the points raised only served to confirm what we already know:

  • The mobile ranking algorithm will start rolling out on 21 April 2015 and all languages will be affected within several days.
  • The mobile ranking algorithm will only affect searches performed on mobile. This means that if your Google Analytics account tells you that none of your website's visitors use mobile devices, this update will not affect you. Likewise, if a large proportion of your website's visitors access your website using their mobile device, and your website is not mobile-friendly, you can expect to see a significant decrease in referrals from Google searches.

Later in the discussion there was also some more useful information to consider:

  • Google will consider a web page to be mobile-friendly or not - it is not possible for a web page to be considered slightly or very mobile-friendly.
  • Google will consider each web page separately. This seems to suggest that some pages of your website can be considered mobile-friendly (and therefore rank well in searches performed on mobile), even if your entire website is not. However, it remains to be seen whether these individual pages will rank as highly as they would if the entire website was mobile-friendly.

Is Your Website Mobile-Friendly?

If you use Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools), you should already have been notified by Google if they have detected mobile-usability issues with your website. Google has also provided a handy Mobile-Friendly Test for anyone to test their website and find out whether Google perceives it as being mobile-friendly. You can also receive a more in-depth report about your website's performance on multiple different types of devices using Google's free Mobile Website Speed Testing Tool.

Do I Need A Mobile-Friendly Website?

According to a March 2015 report by comScore, the proportion of searches that are now performed on mobile devices has reached 29%. As this increases, and following this update from Google, websites that are not mobile-friendly will attract fewer and fewer visitors from search results. We therefore recommend that all website owners consider upgrading their website to one that caters well to all devices (using responsive web design).

Last updated: 26th October, 2016