Google is Demoting Mobile Un-friendly Websites – Here’s How to Avoid a Penalty


Mobile Web Design Flat Illustration

Having a mobile-friendly website has been a good idea for a long time, but now it’s mandatory. Recently, Google started notifying website owners whose sites are verified by Webmaster Tools but render poorly on mobile, saying that the site’s search engine rank will be negatively impacted.

(Some predict that the notifications are signs of a major, upcoming mobile-related algorithm update).

Unfair? Perhaps. But given that smartphone users now total 1.75 billion worldwide, Google sees itself as merely keeping up with the times. Plus, from a user’s point of view, trying to access a site that doesn’t load properly or is difficult to navigate on a smaller screen is very frustrating.

The good news is that you can maintain your page rank by following a few guidelines and best practices for mobile websites.

(And to see how mobile website design by a digital marketing agency can dramatically improve business, contact SPINX Digital today).

Here’s a checklist to ensure a mobile-friendly site:

Pass Google’s “mobile-friendly” test

Many SEOs suspect that Google now gives preferences to sites that display its “mobile friendly” label in search results. Of course, in addition to improved rank, there’s another important benefit as well. Users who see a “mobile friendly” tag are probably more likely to click on that website against its competitors.

So how do you acquire the mobile-friendly distinction? You can pass Google’s mobile test. The search engine giant evaluates your website for the following criteria:

  • Avoids software that’s not common on mobile devices, such as Flash
  • Uses text that’s readable without zooming
  • Sizes content proportionally to the screen
  • Places links a good distance apart to avoid accidental tapping

(List from SEJ)

Maintain page load speed

Page load speed has long been a factor in determining search engine result rank. A slow-loading page usually means less visibility in SERPs, and now the consequences are even more painful to businesses.

Ideally, your web pages should load in 3 seconds or less. Anything longer than that frustrates users, and according to one study, can cause some companies a 7% reduction in sales.

If you run a blog, E-Commerce store, or your site has internal search, add an index. It will help your database find information and return it to the page much faster.

Other helpful ways to increase load times include embedding less video and using only the necessary Analytics tracking codes on a page.

Now is a great time to clean up your mobile site to ensure that it’s loading as fast as it can.

Consider all screen sizes

When designing your mobile website, you want to make it as amenable to as many different types of devices as possible. A screen width of 320 pixels is a good place to start as several devices accommodate this dimension.

However, it’s not the only size. Other common screen widths include 128, 176, 240, landscape and more. Make sure your design is flexible because what renders well on one screen may look awkward and misshapen on another.

Images need to be able to scale up and down. When you turn the phone into landscape mode, the screen should adjust accordingly, no matter the size of the device.

Screen Size

(Image via

Use a visible address and phone number

Many mobile users are engaging with their devices on the go. In fact, 94% of mobile users are seeking local information, reportedly. This is why it’s imperative to include your area business details in bold, easy-to-see font located in an obvious location on the page.

If a user wants to find the nearest product or service around him matching his needs, he’ll either want to call or visit your nearby brick and mortar location. According to the same report, 48% of mobile users eventually call a store, and 29% make a purchase.

Online-only businesses don’t need to miss out on the mobile opportunity, however. You can simply include your local or 800 number on your mobile site.

Help people navigate

Mobile websites are great for accessing information while away from our desktop devices, but if you can’t easily find what you’re looking for, what’s the point?

In addition to simple images and copy that load fast and render on any screen size, you need to provide an easy search experience for users as well.

The best way to do this is create a search box that relies on a detailed set of filters for info on your site. E-commerce websites will especially benefit from this, as it enables mobile users to find the product that perfectly matches their needs.

Responsive or customized?

By now, hopefully we all realize that mobile websites are a must for every business. The question then becomes, do you make your desktop site responsive, or design a customized mobile site that’s totally different from the desktop experience?

The deciding factor may ultimately come down to budget, as customized sites will require more work among your developers / designers.

However, the benefits may be worth it. With a customized mobile website, you can emphasize important calls to action, increase usability and create a mobile-specific site menu, all of which will likely yield more conversions and sales.

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Sukesh Jakharia

Sukesh founded SPINX in 2005, and takes great pride in crafting custom web and mobile solutions for companies big and small.

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