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google mobile friendly label

This is the 3rd post of a series of 4 to help you improving your Mobile SEO:

  1. First post How are you chasing your rabbit? was about the technology shift beneath Mobile SEO.
  2. The second post Top 7 Advantages of a Mobile-Optimized Website shows how your online business can take advantage from being mobile-friendly.
  3. Today we are about to see how Google is pushing mobile-friendly websites: Why Mobile SEO affects your Google ranking?
  4. The 4th and last post will show you some tools already available to maximize your website Mobile SEO.

If you read previous posts, you already know that internet users are becoming device-agnostic (they will browse internet with a PC, a laptop, a smartphone or a tablet, indifferently) and that this trend will speed up in the next 5 years.

Also, you learnt why you must take advantage of this shift. If you manage to get found through the device of your users’ choice – in other words, if you improve your Mobile SEO – you get a higher rank in search engines, a better performing website, an improved user experience, and – eventually – more business.

Today we’ll deep dive into a crucial aspect: why your good (or poor) Mobile SEO affects your Google ranking.

It’s already a couple of years that Google is warning webmasters to get mobile-friendly.

First clue was this post – June 11th, 2013 – on Google Webmasters Central Blog. Google anticipate that:

«[They] plan to roll out several ranking changes in the near future that address sites that are misconfigured for smartphone users.»

This has been the first warning: guys, make sure your websites work well on mobile or you’ll be in trouble with us.

That post made couple of examples of bad mobile optimization: faulty redirects (e.g., all desktop webpages linking to mobile website homepage) and smartphone-only errors (e.g., website working OK for desktop and serving errors for mobile, Flash content, for instant).

Second Google’s announcement pushing for mobile-friendly website is this post, July 14th, 2014.

This time Google say that:

«Starting today in [Google] English search results in the US, [the] will indicate to searchers when [their] algorithms detect pages that may not work on their devices».

Second warning: guys, we are not only monitoring how your website is performing on mobile devices, but from not we are notifying your mobile users as well.

On November 18th, 2014 Google made global the approach with this post:

«Starting today, to make it easier for people to find the information that they’re looking for, we’re adding a “mobile-friendly” label to our mobile search results».

They are not only marking (negatively) non-mobile-friendly website, but they’re marking (positively) mobile-friendly websites.

Google shows when websites require browser technologies that are not supported by the device from which the user is performing the search. When users access such pages they have a very poor experience: they may see nothing but a blank space or miss out a large portion of the page’s contents.

To be considered mobile-friendly a webpage must meet 4 criteria detected by Googlebot:

  • Avoiding software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash.
  • Using text that is readable without zooming.
  • Sizing content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom.
  • Placing links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped.

On February 26th, 2015 Google take a step – and a fundamental step – ahead with this post:

«Starting today, [Google] will begin to use information from indexed apps as a factor in ranking for signed-in users who have the app installed».


«Starting April 21, [Google] will be expanding [their] use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal».

Google not only communicate to their users how mobile-friendly your website is, but incorporate this information into their ranking algorithm as well.

This means that if your website is not mobile-friendly, this will affect your ranking in searches performed on mobile devices and desktops too.

A new page on SEO is starting and consolidated leadership can be challenged now. Google will favour – as it is now – relevant and high quality content, but will value more content mobile optimized in all searches.

For those with an online footprint, mobile-friendliness should have already been a priority before this post, but not it is just mandatory.

Want a rough estimation of how many positions you lose for not being mobile optimized? You can do as follows:

  • Use a keyword analyzer tool to find a list of your most relevant keywords and their ranking in desktop and mobile search.
  • Select keywords ranking in Google page 1 for each device (desktop or mobile).
  • Estimate your traffic generated by each keywords based on your Click-Through rate and search volume (you can get this from AdWords search volume).
  • Now make some assumptions. For instance: take a particular keyword for which you are currently ranking number 1 in mobile search. How your CTR and traffic volume will be affected if your website will drop to number 2? What if you drop to 3? And 4?

At the end of this exercise, you’ll have a number of different scenarios telling you how much traffic you will lose from desktop search and mobile search respectively, if your Google ranking will be penalized for not having a responsive design on mobile devices.

For some business – those with low mobile traffic – won’t be a big issue at the moment. But it will become big earlier that you think: your users are going mobile anyway, and your competitors won’t wait for you. So let’s fix your Mobile SEO now.

What exactly Google is looking for, to evaluate how good your website is for mobile devices? 7 things. Check out their Developer Guide:

  • Faulty redirects. A faulty redirect is when a desktop page redirects smartphone users to an irrelevant page. A typical example is when all pages on the desktop site redirect smartphone users to the homepage of the smartphone-optimized site.
  • Blocked JavaScript, CSS and image files. For optimal rendering and indexing, always allow Googlebot access to the JavaScript, CSS, and image files used by your website so that Googlebot can see your site like an average user. If your site’s robots.txt file disallows crawling of these assets, it directly harms how well our algorithms render and index your content.
  • Unplayable content. Some types of videos or content are not playable on mobile devices, such as license-constrained media or Flash content.
  • Mobile-only errors. Some sites serve content, but show an error page to mobile users.
  • App download interstitials. If you promote your business’ native apps to your mobile website visitors. You must pay attention to the user experience in order to avoid disruption of the visitor’s usage of the site.
  • Irrelevant cross-links. A common practice when a website serves users on separate mobile URLs is to have a link from the desktop page to the mobile page. A common error is to have links point to an irrelevant page of the other site.
  • Slow mobile pages. It is very important to make sure your mobile site loads quickly. Users can become very frustrated if they have to wait a long time to see your content.

Curious to know how to meet Google requirements? Wait for the 4th post of the series with a handful of tips for webmasters!


5 Comments on “Why Mobile SEO affects your Google ranking”

  1. Mobile SEO is becoming more and more important these days. It will now have direct effect on the search rankings. That’s why it’s so important to have a responsive design for your site.

    It can be done using two ways – either you use a theme that comes with responsive design or use a suitable plugin to turn your website into a mobile friendly site.

  2. Hello Dawid, thanks for this awesome piece of information. Seriously I’m very much disturb about the new Google updates that is scheduled to happen this month and that’s why doing my best to keep my ranking as it is or to improve.

    Thanks again for helping me by writing this update here.

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