What is mobile-friendliness?
Mobile friendliness is a measure of the usability of your website on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets). It has an impact both on user behaviour on your website and on your website's ranking on mobile searches. Therefore, it is important, not least for your SEO efforts, that you work with mobile optimization of your website.
The number of mobile searches (searches from smartphones and tablets) is growing steadily and there is no sign of the trend slowing down. Many Danish websites already get the majority of their traffic from mobile devices, and already in May 2015 Google reported that the number of mobile searches has overtaken the number of desktop searches on their search engine.
The figures are consistent with our own analysis Online marketing channels 2020, where we analysed the share of traffic from mobile devices (including tablets) based on 122 million visits to 62 major Danish corporate websites in different segments. Of the total traffic, mobile traffic represents 43 % (B2B websites), 63 % (e-commerce websites) and 62 % (B2C websites) respectively:
In November 2016, Google announced that in the future they will index websites based on the mobile version:"To make our results more useful, we've begun experiments to make our index mobile-first. [...] Our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site's content to rank pages from that site". Google's mobile-first indexingwas fully rolled out in July 2019.
In other words, it is the mobile version of your website that determines how the website is indexed and positioned in search results (including desktop searches). Think again! It is therefore important that you have a mobile-friendly website and that the mobile version is not a content-reduced version of the website.
According to a study by Searchmetrics, the 100 most visited US websites all have a mobile-friendly solution for mobile users. The same is true for 78 % of all other websites. If you're one of the 22 % that don't yet have a mobile-friendly website, you should get one now. You can use Google's Mobile friendliness testing to check whether Google considers your website mobile-friendly.
How to get a mobile-friendly website
You need to strike a balance in terms of creating a website that is user-friendly for both mobile and desktop users. A responsive design, i.e. a design that automatically adapts to the user's screen size, is typically a good solution and the one most people choose. It is relatively easy to develop and most website design templates you can find on the web are responsive.
Two more recent options are Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and Progressive Web Apps (PWA). However, both are very new technologies and in our view are primarily relevant for media and very large websites. Therefore, we will not touch upon them further here. A final option is to create a standalone mobile website (m.website.dk) - however, this solution has a number of technical complications for your SEO, which is why we do not normally recommend it.
You'll notice that sites like Google and Facebook aren't responsive, and that might seem paradoxical - especially when Google itself recommends a responsive website. That's because load time is crucial for Google and Facebook, which have millions of daily users. When a mobile user visits a responsive website, it also loads the desktop layout (it's embedded in the source code), which degrades load time quite a bit. This can be avoided with two independent websites.
Checklist for mobile optimisation
Do you know if your website is mobile optimised? If not, read the following checklist! A survey has previously shown that as many as 27 % of the total number of websites are not mobile optimized, which according to the study results in a traffic loss from the mobile platforms of 68%! That's 68 % of mobile traffic at risk of going to one of your competitors because they have optimised their site better than you have.
1. Check if you have "Crawl errors" and 404 errors
In Google's Search Console you can make a so-called Crawl Errors Report. Here you can see how the different Google bots (split between desktop and mobile) perform when crawling through your site. The typical problem, especially for desktop sites that redirect to a mobile site, is that something goes wrong in the redirect, resulting in a 404 error. Of course, it's always annoying for a user to hit a 404 error, but in addition, too many 404 errors can mean you drop in your rankings with Google.
2. Check your "mobile usability report"
You can use the feature "Mobile usability report" in Google Search Console to check how well your site is performing vs. mobile traffic. If you make changes based on your report, remember that Search Console doesn't always pick up the changes immediately. So if you want to see if they work, run your site through "Page speed insights" and see if you can notice a change.
A simpler tool is Google's "Mobile Friendly Test". It's easy to use, but only gives results for one page at a time - not for the whole site. If you choose to use this option anyway, start by running through your most important pages so that they are at least in place.
3. Run a "Fetch and Render" test
In Google Search Console you can find the so-called "Fetch and Render"-test. It shows you whether Google has access to all your pages. Depending on the result, you need to do the following:
- Complete: Google has access to your entire site and everything is as it should be.
- Partial: Google can't find all the content on your site. External things, like Facebook, can show up here. You can't change those, but the things that are part of your own site that Google can't access should be looked into.
- Redirected: Enter the urlto which your redirects point. Check if your site redirects as it should.
- Not found: you have entered a url that does not exist. Please try again.
- Not authorized: Google receives a 403 error message and cannot access your site. This needs to be rectified.
- DNS not found: Google could not find the url you entered. Please try again.
- Blocked: you have blocked your url so that Google's robots cannot access your site.
- Unreachable: Your site seems to be down.
- Temporarily unreachable: your site is running very slowly. This may be a general error on your site, but it may also be because you are testing too many pages at once.
- Error: indicates that an internal error has occurred in the tool.
4. Test your most important pages with the "Page speed insight tool"
Page speed insight tool is one of the best mobile tests you can run, showing its results in real time. So the results are a perfect representation of the state of your site right now, without any delays. The tool is best run on your best performing pages and should ideally give you a 100/100 score, which means Google will not find any ranking issues with your pages. mobile-friendliness of your site.
5. Check how fast your site loads
Use the tool WebPageTest.org to see how fast your site is performing. In the test, you can choose to test with both a simulated mobile access and a desktop access. John Heard recommends testing with a 3G 150 ms speed, which you set in the tool.
Of course, you should get A's in all points, but the most important for your Google ranking is "Time to first byte - TTFB". B is also acceptable, but if you score lower than that, you should investigate how to make your site load faster. Read more about speed optimization.
6. Make your own tests on different devices
Make sure you regularly run tests yourself on different devices and in different browsers. Access your site via Firefox, IE, Chrome and Safari to see if it works in all three browsers, and also access the site from different tablets and mobiles. In particular, make sure that the navigation works and that any pop-up boxes can be closed so that they don't drive users away from the site. This can be a particular problem on small screens.
7. Test your video content
For your site to work optimally on mobile platforms, make sure your site doesn't use Flash. Instead, use HTML5 or embed a service like YouTube or Vimeo. In recent years, Google has pulled sites down in rankings if they use Flash, and Google often adds a warning to search results if content uses Flash. Finally, make sure all your videos are responsive and adapt to small screens.