In June 2013, Google introduced a penalty for websites that provide a poor mobile search experience as they continue to push for overall improved capabilities for mobile users. In addition, Google unveiled Mobile Usability reports in Google Webmaster Tools earlier this month to encourage webmasters to resolve issues that may hurt the mobile user experience. Now, Google is taking it to the next level, announcing an experiment that will give mobile-friendly websites some type of “special treatment.” What exactly is the special treatment? No one knows yet as Google is remaining tight- lipped, but we can safely assume it’s an increase in ranking.
Google confirmed that they are testing various mobile websites with mobile users in mind. According to Google, websites that have received the new “mobile-friendly label” will benefit in one way or another, stating “We see these labels as a first step in helping mobile users to have a better mobile web experience. We are also experimenting with using mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal.”
Unveiling the Mobile-Friendly Label
Tuesday, Google announced the release of mobile-friendly labels, which are being used in the experiment to test sites for their mobile user capabilities. Essentially, this involves notifying mobile users via a text label underneath an URL that reads “Mobile-Friendly” to reduce user frustration when websites that aren’t mobile-friendly appear in mobile search results. To achieve the Mobile-Friendly label, GoogleBots will detect certain mobile criteria, such as avoiding incompatible software, properly sixed text, correctly sized content that adjusts to screen width, and proper link/button spacing.
Experiment for Special Treatment
With the new Mobile-Friendly label in place, Google confirmed the testing of a new mobile ranking algorithm. With the experiment, Google will test these mobile-friendly sites with other factors to work as ranking signals for the search engine. The limited A/B tests of the mobile criteria currently involve thousands of individual users. During the experiment, some users will see one set of results, while others will see a different set. The two are then compared to determine which performs best.
What Does the Future Hold?
As usual, Google isn’t releasing exact details or plans for the future, but it’s pretty safe to assume there is a big shift in store. As there’s already a penalty in place for sites that aren’t mobile-friendly, it’s only fair to say that sites that are mobile-friendly deserve some form of reward, such as an increase in ranking.
In a recent blog post, Google’s Yoshikiyo Kate and Pierre Far said, “To improve the search experience for smartphone users and address their pain points, we plan to roll out several ranking changes in the near future that address sites that are misconfigured for smartphone users.”
For web masters that still haven’t jumped on the bandwagon to promote their mobile user experience, now is the time to plunge in with both feet or you’re going to be in for a rude awakening in the nearing future.
“Google Officially Launches ‘Mobile-Friendly’ Labels in Mobile Search Results” SearchEngineLand.com