Starting on April 21, 2015, Expect More Mobile-Friendly Sites in Google’s Search Results

Starting on April 21, 2015, Expect More Mobile-Friendly Sites in Google’s Search Results
According to the latest comScore (@comScore) report on smartphone subscriber market share, 184 million people in the United States owned smartphones during the three months ending in January 2015, up 4% since October 2014. With the smartphone market now comprising 75.8% of the total mobile subscriber population, marketers cannot afford to ignore mobile-friendly websites.

In line with the growth of mobile, Google announced on February 26, 2015, via its Webmaster Central Blog, that it would be expanding the use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal:

Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.

To help webmasters create more mobile-friendly sites, Google recommends consulting its helpful guide to creating mobile-friendly sites. Webmasters who want to test a few pages can utilize the Mobile-Friendly Test, while webmasters who want to determine how Googlebot views their entire site can use their Webmaster Tools account “to get a full list of mobile usability issues across [their] site using the Mobile Usability Report.”

Additionally, on February 26, 2015, Google began using information from indexed apps as a factor in ranking for signed-in users who happen to have the app installed. In other words, indexed apps are more likely to be surfaced and displayed in search results following the algorithm’s rollout.

Webmasters who want to enable App Indexing for Google Search can consult this helpful guide.

Mobile Site or Responsive Web Design?

Webmasters who are scrambling to update websites that aren’t mobile-friendly before the algorithm’s rollout would have to decide between creating dedicated mobile sites or implementing responsive web design.

Each option, of course, has its pros and cons. While mobile sites can be customized specifically for mobile users, and is initially more affordable to design and launch, mobile sites also require reoccurring maintenance. Moreover, as mobile devices come in a bewildering assortment of standard resolutions, it is not particularly cost-effective to create separate versions for each resolution.

Responsive web design, on the other hand, is highly flexible as it strives to create an optimal viewing experience for users across a wide range of devices. Unlike dedicated mobile sites, only one site needs to be created and maintained. (Here are Google’s recommended configurations.)

While responsive web design requires a higher upfront investment, it can yield greater ROI as it won’t require as much future maintenance to comply with new browsers.

Are you planning to upgrade your website to make it more mobile-friendly?