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Google’s Friendly Reminder: Get Mobile-Friendly, Or Else

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

It’s rare that Google will make such an announcement, giving any sort of forewarning to the world about their plans for ranking signals. They’ve essentially given us all the details: the who, the what, the where, and the when. Beginning April 21st, Google will be intensifying their use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. To go along with this, it seems that Google will start to prioritize sites with content that is deep linked to Android apps. These changes will affect all sites — in all languages, across the globe — when being searched on mobile devices.

“When it comes to search on mobile devices, users should get the most relevant and timely results, no matter if the information lives on mobile-friendly web pages or apps,” said Google in the announcement on their Webmasters blog.

Google is constantly working to improve their SERPs and the way users experience them. With mobile search share predicted to reach 83% by 2018, this algorithm update is surely meant to nudge webmasters to embrace mobile compatibility.

In less than two months, this will be live, which should be nothing but good news for sites that are mobile-friendly. But for those whose users have to deal with the classic pinch-and-expand-four-times-to-press-this-link-OH-SHOOT-I-PRESSED-THE-WRONG-ONE-ARE-MY-FINGERS-FAT?!?, you better keep up or hold on tight because I don’t think you’ll have a chance of being found in SERPs on phones or tablets. Google is warning you that mobile-friendliness will have a “significant impact,”  they’re giving you a fair chance! Listen up!

The Coveted “Mobile-Friendly” Label

Mobile-Friendly Ranking Factor

Since November, Google has been including a “mobile-friendly” label to the individual mobile search results that they believe warrant that designation. The criteria for earning that label are as follows:

  • Use of software uncommon to mobile devices, like Flash, is limited or abstained from
  • Text must be readable without the aforementioned, terribly annoying, finger-pinch zooming
  • On-page content is scalable, meaning users won’t ever have to scroll left and right
  • Links are spaced far enough apart to avoid mis-clicks; fat fingered folk welcome

To test if your site is up to snuff, check Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.

Linking Your App to Your Website

App Deep Links

If you’re on an Android phone these days, you might have experienced an instance where you were urged, from a search result, to open one of your installed apps to view the desired content instead of opening it in your mobile browser. This link between app content and site content is called a deep link, and they allow Google to know the relevancy of in-app content and, when done correctly, to place an “Open in app” button in the search result.

If your site can provide just such a smoother user experience as this when performing a mobile search, Google will now view this as some proof of your site’s reputability, and will use this information for ranking purposes.

Once deep linking has been enabled on your app and your app has been linked to your website via Google Play and Webmaster Tools, you must add deep links to each page of your website that you want indexed by the App Indexing API. There are multiple ways to do this — here are several from Google’s own Developers site:

  • Using a <link> element in the the <head> section of a page.
  • Using an <xhtml:link> element in the Sitemap <url> element specifying the page.
  • Using markup for the ViewAction potential action.

Keep in mind that with any new technology there are also competing platforms, such as Facebook’s (which Bing uses for Windows Phones) and several others, that can be used instead.

User Experience Reigns Supreme

Google isn’t stupid. They, too, are a business who needs to cater to the wants and needs of their users. That is why they are doing everything they can to improve the way a Googler Googles. This didn’t start with the emphasis on mobile-friendliness and it won’t end with it. Let’s just be happy that this time, they sounded the alarm before dropping the bomb.

If you’re feeling taken advantage of or that your hand is being forced, think of it this way: no matter how Google regards your site, it still comes down to whether real, live human beings are clicking on and visiting your site. You want to present yourself to your audience in the best possible way — title tags, meta descriptions, or hey! How about that mobile-friendly tag and some deep linking — to encourage valuable traffic through clicks.

And since Click-Through Rate is now thought to be one of the strongest ranking factors, more user engagement will help you rank better…which in turn will help with user-engagement…which will help you to rank. Like a symbiotic relationship, each will feed off of the other and your business can live happily ever after, like Nemo in an anemone.

Charlie is a content writer and strategist at Chicago Style SEO. Follow him on Google+ and Twitter.

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