Ranking factors

Google sends mobility warning to Webmasters

Make your website mobile friendly or suffer the consequences. That’s the latest signal from Google as rumour circulates within the SEO community of an impending algorithm update to tackle website mobility issues.

In mid January 2015 it was reported that Google had commenced sending mobility warnings to Web masters. We in the SEO community believe this is a shot across the bow for the Google war on non-responsive, or mobile unfriendly websites.

What is mobility?

Mobility, as it relates to websites, refers to whether a website can be viewed effectively on a mobile device.

Look at any website on your smartphone. If you can see all the content easily then it’s probably mobile friendly. It will appear to render uniquely on mobile phones and tablets. But if you have to pinch or use the tactile functionality to view the page it’s most definitely not built for mobile devices. Back in December 2014 we posted an article about user engagement as an SEO ranking factor, and it seems as though Google is now ready to pull the trigger. A recent news report from Search Engine Land supports this view.

Mobile Friendly User Experience
SERP showing mobile friendly User Experience

If you haven’t done so already you need to make your website responsive, so that it renders across all digital devices in order to give the best user experience.

As we reported in our last post, mobile search is about to overtake searches from a desktop computer. If you do a search on your mobile you will also see that Google labels each appropriate search result “mobile-friendly”. The next step will be to actually apply a penalty to non-mobile-friendly websites, and that will impact negatively on where these sites rank in (SERPs) search engine results pages.

The impact of this update could be devastating for Webmasters if they don’t act fast. Some of the most recent algorithm updates have essentially wiped entire websites from the Google index.

We don’t know how much of an impact the mobility update will have, but if your website is mobile friendly (or responsive) you have nothing to fear and everything to gain!

This is a great opportunity to update the look and feel of your website – especially if it appears dated.

Update: Jan 2017

It’s clear that this update has had a considerable affect on rankings. Websites that are not responsive have all but disappeared from the top rankings. The ‘mobile first’ philosophy is something all businesses must now embrace to achieve successful outcomes from the Internet.

Ranking factors

User Experience a key SEO ranking factor in 2015

Website owners take note. User Experience (or UX) will be one of THE key ranking factor throughout 2015. So what is it and why should we worry about it? To understand what user experience is we first need to know what it’s not.

The best way to do this is to talk about “bounce rate”. Bounce rate is the percentage of users who visit your website but don’t proceed past the landing page. This tells us that the user hasn’t found the information to engage deeper into the site. The exception to this would be if your website was designed specifically to provide all the information a user would need – for instance a directory listing. If you use a web analytics product like Google Analytics you can find out what your bounce rate is at site and page level. If your bounce rate is over 85% you’ve got problems, and need to focus your efforts on User Experience design.

What is User Experience?

User Experience (also known as UX) design is the practice of creating a website that is easy to use, and encourages the user to consume content in such a way that it achieves a desired outcome for the website owner.

Why UX is important for SEO

Mobile Friendly User Experience
SERP showing mobile friendly UX

Historically, UX has been used for conversion rate optimisation (CRO) – the process of converting website visitors to customers. But most recently there has been a lot of chatter in the SEO community about User Experience – and with good reason. If you’ve recently used your mobile to to a Google search you would have noticed that some results show if a site is “mobile friendly”.

Before 2015 comes to an end mobile will overtake desktop as the preferred device to search from. It is for this reason alone your SEO and website strategy should be focused on a mobile first philosophy.

Here’s a great blog post on Moz that gives even more insight.

There is another reason User Experience is so important from an SEO perspective.

Post search engagement

Now let’s say your webpage has managed to make it onto page one. Congratulations, great job! But you’re not finished yet. Now you have to consolidate your position to move up the rankings. But how?

We covered bounce rate earlier in this post. If a user clicks on your listing and either clicks “back” on their browser, or visits another URL immediately after, what signal do you suppose that sends to Google? Not a good one because the assumption is the user did not find what they were looking for on that webpage.

Alternatively a user may click on a search result listing and spend some time browsing the content on that page. A short time later the user then clicks deeper into the website and again spends time on that link. This signals to Google the user was satisfied with the content on the landing page.

Given these levels of engagement, which page do you think Google will favour in search position consideration?

What’s the key takeout?

High bounce rate reduces the chances on maintaining page one ranking. If your bounce rate is high you MUST focus on UX design. If you are on page two and wracking your brain to get on page one the answer is simple. Create a compelling call to action in the search listing snippet (for higher click-through), and encourage the user to engage further by providing more information beyond the landing page.